Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘thought experiments

Wednesday Links!

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* In case you missed it yesterday: the CFP for SFRA 2018 (7/1-7/4 at Marquette)!

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”  Rest in peace, Ursula K. Le Guin. The art of fiction. Fantastic.

* CFP: Petrocultures 2018 (Glasgow University).

19 Long-Lost Historical Words You Absolutely Need In Your Life.

A new study finds an alarming rise in a novel form of psychological distress. Call it “neoliberal perfectionism.”

But what if forty years of neoliberalism’s violently reiterated dogma that “there is no alternative” has left us incapable of imagining not only better worlds but also worse ones? On dulltopia.

How Twitter Hooks Up Students With Ghostwriters.

* There are some things no man was meant to know: Should vegetarians assume they can eat French fries?

* Right to work vs. the vote.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Democrat of Niles, accompanied Amer Othman Adi to immigration headquarters Tuesday morning for what they thought would be a routine meeting. Instead, Adi, 57, was jailed and told he would be held until his deportation, which was over a dispute about the validity of his first marriage to an American in 1979.

* ‘I won’t fly refugees to their deaths’: The El Al pilots resisting deportation. Same sex couple sues State Department over decision on son’s citizenship. Border patrol arrests ASU adjunct who gave food and water to immigrants. ICE deporting its own protestors.

* Stochastic terrorism watch: Man threatened to kill CNN employees.

* Autobiographia literaria.

* facebook.jpg

Tourism to U.S. under Trump is down, costing $4.6B and 40,000 jobs.

* The unpaid intern economy.

* Afghan Pedophiles Get Free Pass From U.S. Military, Report Says.”

The report, commissioned under the Obama administration, was considered so explosive that it was originally marked “Secret/ No Foreign,” with the recommendation that it remain classified until June 9, 2042. The report was finished in June 2017, but it appears to have included data only through 2016, before the Trump administration took office.

A New Jersey college fired a professor, claiming they were “immediately inundated” with complaints of “fear” after she defended a BLM event on Fox News. We sued to look at the complaints. Total number of complaints in the first 13 days: one.

* The future is not good: South Korea, gripped by suicide epidemic, criminalizes suicide-pacts.

What I’ve learned from my tally of 757 doctor suicides.

* Illustrated thought experiments.

* Nintendo headquarters, c. 1889.

* Rate My Professor and the adjunct professorate.

* Know your ethical conundrums. Free will. Scalars vs. vectors. When God closes a door, he opens a window.

And when they knew the Earth was doomed, they built a ship.

Wednesday Links!

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* Great moments in CFPs: The Journal of Dracula Studies.

There is nothing wrong with thinking concretely and practically about how we can free ourselves from social institutions that place such confining limits on the kind of society we are able to have. Because of one thing we can be certain: the present system will either be replaced or it will go on forever.

CNN’s Van Jones says Keystone pipeline only creates 35 permanent jobs.

How Colleges Flunk Mental Health.

* Tracking PhD outcomes at Penn State.

IRS Suggests ‘Reasonable’ Ways of Calculating Adjuncts’ Hours.

Marvel Body Mass Index Study Reveals Nearly 1/3 of Female Characters Are Underweight.

* College graduates are less likely to lose their jobs than workers with less education, but once they do they are actually a bit more likely than others to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed. And workers over 45 are especially likely to spend a long time unemployed.

* 80,000 March in North Carolina.

* NBC single-handedly pays for a fifth of all Olympic Games.

* When the CIA came to Iowa City.

* 3,863,484: The LEGO sublime.

* You don’t understand hipster post-irony, dad! But it’s true: I don’t understand what Fred Armisen is doing.

* Contact with the market can be hazardous to usability; nationalize Twitter.

* Adam Kotsko vs. the difference principle.

* Boromir death simulator.

* NASA now accepting applications to mine the moon.

* Globalization, man.

“Americans are apparently less skeptical of astrology than they have been at any time since 1983,” proclaims the most depressing lede of all time.

* The sheep look up: The Sixth Mass Extinction Event. The Sixth Mass Extinction Event. 105 Winter Olympians Call for Climate Action. Another water disaster in West Virginia. The Fossil Fuel Industry Just Had a Really, Really Bad Day.

* Change we can believe in: Why Dragonlance should be the next fantasy film franchise.

* Duke’s Own™ Mitch Fraas in the New York Times, tracking libraries looted by Nazis.

* And rest in peace, Shirley Temple and Stuart Hall.

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Sunday Morning Links

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* What if a rainstorm dropped all of its water in a single giant drop? I love everything Randall has been doing on What If?, but I’m especially fond of What would the world be like if the land masses were spread out the same way as now – only rotated by an angle of 90 degrees?

* Say “digital humanities” one more goddamn time.

To be blunt, I want to give grad students permission to intelligently bullshit their way through questions about DH just as they would any other question.

Salman Rushdie vs. science fiction.

* Research demonstrates the word “illegals” is dehumanizing.

The term “illegal immigrants” was used in the study specifically to “test the extent to which respondents would use or avoid the phrase.” Study participants were exposed to negative and positive media frames and messages in the news on TV, radio and print as well as in entertainment media. According to the study, non-Latinos no matter what the media format, think that Latinos and “illegal immigrants” are one and the same. There was a higher percentage of people who agreed that Latinos are “illegal immigrants” when exposed to negative frames, but even when exposed to good messages, people still held on to that view. Additionally “over 30 percent of respondents believed a majority of Latinos (50 percent or greater) were undocumented. And in terms of how language matters, “while 49 percent of respondents offer ‘cold’ rating of undocumented, 58 percent rate “illegal aliens” coldly.

* Inside Paul Allen’s Quest To Reverse Engineer The Brain.

* Life as the wife of a Ponzi schemer.

Why The Jetsons Still Matters.

* Do You Have a Poor Sense of Smell? Congrats, You Are a Psychopath.

* And I did my part: Long Term Grade Inflation by Institution.

Thursday!

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* Let’s Talk about Debt: The Real World Economy versus the Grad School Economy. The Catch 22 of Grad School Economics. Debt & Regret. The Golden Handcuffs of Employment (aka “Public Service”).

* Also making the rounds: The Real Reason I Dropped Out of a PhD Program. This story is very sad, and a large part of what makes it sad extends beyond academia specifically to the failure of the social safety net more generally.

Sarah Lawrence, With Guns: Teaching English at West Point.

* The decisive objection to the quest for original meaning, even when the quest is conducted in good faith, is that judicial historiography rarely dispels ambiguity. Judges are not competent historians. Even real historiography is frequently indeterminate, as real historians acknowledge. To put to a judge a question that he cannot answer is to evoke “motivated thinking,” the form of cognitive delusion that consists of credulously accepting the evidence that supports a preconception and of peremptorily rejecting the evidence that contradicts it. Posner v. Scalia.

* Taibbi v. Bain Capital.

Now your troubled firm – let’s say you make tricycles in Alabama – has been taken over by a bunch of slick Wall Street dudes who kicked in as little as five percent as a down payment. So in addition to whatever problems you had before, Tricycle Inc. now owes Goldman or Citigroup $350 million. With all that new debt service to pay, the company’s bottom line is suddenly untenable: You almost have to start firing people immediately just to get your costs down to a manageable level…

Also in Rolling Stone: The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney.

* What It’s Like for a Deaf Person to Hear Music for the First Time.

And we all know the rules:

Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses (e.g. FDR’s polio) remain.

The presidents are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the [1] Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.

Each president has been given one standard-issue [2] Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife [3] presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the presidents have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.

There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.

FDR has been outfitted with a [4] Bound Plus H-Frame Power Wheelchair, and can travel at a maximum speed of around 11.5 MPH. The wheelchair has been customized so that he is holding his knife with his dominant hand. This is to compensate for his almost certain and immediate defeat in the face of an overwhelming disadvantage.
Each president will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.

Thursday Night Links

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* Sabotage accomplished: S&P warns there’s a 50 percent chance it will downgrade US credit rating within 3 months. This is really, really bad.

* One of the stranger features of the debt ceiling debate is the fact that Republican intransigence is the only thing saving us all from Obama’s neoliberalism. Ezra Klein tries to lay out the thinking, such as it is. And Matt Yglesias hopes the whole thing really is kabuki theater:

It’s generally wise to assume that the White House isn’t blind to that obvious potential political problem. Part of what they’re thinking is that a 2011 agreement to long-term spending cuts is the best way to avoid the need to reduce spending during the election season. How’s that? Well, it’s because the fiscal consolidation plans being discussed are for trillions of dollars worth of cuts over a 10-year horizon. Since you’ve got that horizon, it’s not strictly necessary for any of them to come between September 2011 and November 2012.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid continues his tireless life’s work stabbing his party in the back.

* What do we lose if we default?

* On the lighter side: the FBI has announced it will investigate NewsCorp. for alleged 9/11 hacking.

* Fall science fiction TV premiere dates.

* And Fox’s Eric Bolling can’t remember a single terrorist attack on U.S. soil between 2000 and 2008. This man is paid a salary to be a pundit.

‘Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality’

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The only fan fiction I’ve ever recommended, and perhaps even read at all: “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality,” loosely organized around an alternate universe version of the J.K. Rowling novels in which (among other things) Harry’s adoptive parents were not the repulsive Dursleys but instead an rationalist Oxford scientist. The piece is written in accordance with the author’s self-established principles of fan fiction:

The First Law of Fanfiction states that every change which strengthens the protagonists requires a corresponding worsening of their challenges. Or in plainer language: You can’t make Frodo a Jedi without giving Sauron the Death Star. Read any book on writing ever and it will tell you that stories are about conflict; a hero too strong for their conflict is no longer in tense, heart-pounding difficulty. For example, Dark!Dumbledore and Dark!Harry both permit a Harry strengthened over canon – the first by turning one of Harry’s canon!allies against him, and the second by turning Harry against his canon!allies. The most spectacular application of this principle that I’ve seen is Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time, in which Harry has gained all the knowledge of ancient Atlantis and has been through literally hundreds of Peggy Sue cycles in which he learns every possible twist of fate… and Voldemort, who unfortunately got to Atlantis first, has still won every time. The Mary Sue is not defined by her power, but by her lack of an even more powerful opponent. I mention this (1) so that you know I know it and (2) because the First Law of Fanfiction ought to be in a giant banner on every fanfiction site. The most fatal temptation of fanfiction writing is to think of how much easier some character’s life would be if they were a ninja. We are naturally inclined to think up ways to solve our characters’ problems for them, but must learn instead to make their lives more difficult.

The Rule of Rationalist Fiction states that rationality is not magic; being rational does not require magical potential or royal bloodlines or even amazing gadgets, and the principles of rationality work for understandable reasons.A rationalist!hero should excel by thinking – moreover, thinking in understandable patterns that readers can, in principle, adopt for themselves. As opposed to the hero just being a born “genius” who comes up with amazing gadgets through an opaque discovery process, or who pulls off incredibly complicated gambits that would fail miserably if the reader tried something similar in real life.

I found this strange and slightly wonderful mess (where else?) at TV Tropes, which points out that it’s a self-conscious Author Tract for self-educated AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky, who seems to take Bayes’s theorem as something like religion.

Of course “HPatMoR” is definitely not for everyone—I can only imagine what Alex will say if he takes the bait and clicks the link—but it displays that precise nerdly obsessiveness I find I just can’t resist. When a fan-fic writers imagines his souped-up Voldemort turning the outbound Pioneer 11 spacecraft into one of his many Horcuxes—well, look, I’m not made of stone.

I should also say this link is roughly the complete opposite of “breaking news”—the ongoing project is nearly a year old.

Studying Maths

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In a country in which people only want boys every family continues to have children until they have a boy. If they have a girl, they have another child. If they have a boy, they stop. What is the proportion of boys to girls in the country?

I more or less spent my day taking every possible position on every possible variation on this question. Is there any way I can get my Sunday back?

Written by gerrycanavan

January 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm