Results about which You've Not Read

17 April 2022

Physics explains color in terms of frequencies — or, equivalently, in terms of wave-lengths — of light. And the colors of substances are explained in terms of what frequencies these substances absorb and what frequencies they radiate or allow to pass.

An object of some color is so because it radiates or allows to pass light of frequencies participating in that color, but absorbs all others. When the object absorbs light of other frequencies, the energy of that light is absorbed. The reason that everyday objects don't then heat-up indefinitely is that they radiate the energy as light, but in the frequencies natural to their substances, rather than simply in the frequencies that were absorbed. A blue sweater converts white light to blue light. Moreover, under stable conditions, substances radiate light in the same set of frequencies. The blue sweater stays blue.

If the Earth did not radiate back into outer-space a significant amount of the light energy in which the Earth is bathed, then it would be dramatically hotter. But, as the surface of the Earth radiates light into the atmosphere, some of that light is absorbed by the atmosphere and then radiated back towards the surface; and, as some of the light radiated by lower parts of the atmosphere is radiated upward, some of it is absorbed by higher parts of the atmosphere and then radiated downward.

What are called greenhouse gasses have their effect by absorbing light energy and then returning a share of it downward, instead of allowing it to escape into outer-space. (Actual greenhouses work by a different principle.)

The theory of anthropogenic global climate change says that release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by human activity causes significant changes to climate by increasing the amount of light energy radiated back downward, instead of being allowed to escape into outer-space.

Climate surely changes, and indeed has warmed and cooled, but that much was true before the first humans appeared, and well before humans released nearly so much of greenhouses gasses since the onset of the Industrial Age. So, if we seem to observe change now, or even warming now, then we want a means of determining whether the human contribution is significant or the change is about what it would be without us.

When the theory of anthropogenic global climate change first came into fashion, its models assumed a linear effect. That is to say that doubling the amount of a greenhouse gas would double the amount of light energy trapped, and so forth. Proper economists were naturally doubtful; we are used to marginal effects beyond some point diminishing. Indeed, the particles of a greenhouse gas would have to be arranged in some remarkable configuration in the sky to have linear effect. We could also imagine remarkable configurations in which marginal effects became immeasurably tiny. It should be no surprise that the linear models failed miserably.

As it happens, the effects of the greenhouse gasses are empirically measurable. Carbon dioxide, methane, and the other greenhouse gasses are like other chemicals, including the dye of that blue sweater that I mentioned. The greenhouse gasses don't simply radiate light energy back towards the surface of the Earth; they radiate it in characteristic frequencies. If you had the resources for strategically placed sensors, then for the last ten, twenty, or thirty years you could have measured the light energy in the relevant frequencies, and could have compared these measurements against the changing levels of the gasses — if you wanted to know.

Many of the various national states have the resources, and every reason to support such a study if its results conform to the theory of anthropogenic global climate change. But the results of a study effecting such measurements on a meaningful scale have not been reported. If that silence is because the results are being kept secret, then plainly they are inconvenient to whomever has kept them secret. If the silence is because such a study has not been undertaken, then plainly that is because the results are expected to be inconvenient.

If you're not autistic, then you recognize the significance for the theory that results have not been reported.

Somnabulism

19 February 2022

[ Three years ago, I posted a version of this entry to Facebook.]

Consciousness is largely a response to surprise. We navigate through life mostly unconscious of what we are doing, but when the unconscious mind encounters something for which it is otherwise unprepared, it invokes the conscious mind.

People are of two sorts about that. For some of them, consciousness is a happier state, and so they are constantly seeking things to make them conscious. For others, it is unpleasant, and they seek always to return to unconsciousness. Perhaps most people fall between these extremes, not always wishing to be conscious nor always unconscious.

Perversely, when people speak or write of raised consciousness, it is often just the opposite; it is the adoption of a set of formulæ that allow one to engage in less conscious thought. And, really, most people who like to style themselves as woke have found a way to sleep still more as they go through life.

Sociopathic Sponsors

9 February 2022
American Sponsors of the Genocide Games: AirBnB, Coca Cola, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Visa

with permission of Common Sense with Paul Jacob

A Common Fallacy in Advocacy of Dictatorship

3 January 2022

Authoritarians and totalitarians of the political left and right, in arguing that they are not authoritarians or not totalitarians, often engage in a bait-and-switch, with little or no awareness that they are doing so. To argue that policy or programme X is justified is not somehow a contradiction of a claim that policy or programme X is authoritarian or even of a claim that policy or programme X is totalitarian At best, the authoritarians are arguing that authoritarianism is justified and the totalitarians are arguing that totalitarianism is justified but it seems that they are arguing that authoritarianism is not authoritarianism if it is justified or that totalitarianism is not totalitarianism if it is justified

Some Common Sense about Common Sense and about Common Sense

30 November 2021

I often hear or read Common sense isn't common. or, ambiguously, Common sense isn't.

The term common sense refers to variety of things believed or formerly believed to be closely related. In some cases, the term is indeed a description; in others, it is like Common Raven, which began as a description or as an attempt at a description, but names a now uncommon bird.

Consulting the SOED, I find about five definitions of common sense. Archaically, common sense refers to a supposed faculty that coördinated and united senses such as those of sight and of touch to form impressions of the world. The term may refer to ordinary or normal understanding (which must be common). Common sense may also refer to collective judgment across some group of people. Philosophers may use common sense to refer to the power by which generally accepted beliefs are formed in the absence of contemplation and of instruction. Normatively, common sense refers to reliable practical wisdom in everyday matters.

I don't use the term common sense much at all, but I occasionally use it normatively, as when I tell people that an introductory course in microeconomics will start with building-blocks of common sense but assemble them with uncommon care. Now, I suppose that I could use those very same words without normative intent, but I really am hoping that the audience will accept the blocks as themselves reliable. I cannot teach my audience everything, and I shouldn't have to teach those blocks to them.

When I use common sense normatively, the notions that I have in mind are of sound reasoning that is within the intellectual capabilities common to human beings, and of the structures of belief that result from such application. Something that would not be what I were normatively calling common sense would be unsound or outside of the possibility of common understanding. However, I'm more likely to say That should be common sense. than That seems like common sense. I'm even more likely to say That should be obvious.

I'm on the subject of common sense because various people in various groups will treat beliefs as if they are obvious to everyone who is not a fool when they are no such thing. Treating them as common sense — here using common sense normatively — is a form of implicit or explicit begging of the question; it is a violation of the rules of proper discourse. That said, most of those who treat those beliefs as common sense sincerely, thoughtlessly regard most of them as such; these people are not violating the rules willfully.

I've encountered this begging of the question by the political left, by the political right, and by political moderates. But I am at present most concerned by the misrepresentations from the left, because they have control of so much of the commanding heights of our culture. When a strong wind prevails, one leans against it, not against a wind of the past nor against a wind that may come in the distant future.

Examples of propositions that some or all of the left treat as common sense include

  • that greater economic efficiency can often be achieved by replacing markets with state administration based upon centralized collection of relevant information;
  • that material inequality is a social ill;
  • that poverty may be reduced by state-directed redistribution of wealth or of income from the affluent to those of little means;
  • that, if a school system is performing poorly, then some increase in the material resources provided to it would be sufficient to improve that performance, and that any decrease in such resources will be followed by a decline in performance.

Treating these propositions as common sense precludes consideration.

To impel consideration of all that the left distinctly takes to be common sense, we want a concise label for that group of their beliefs. We want an X such that we can say things such as This idea is X; if you're going to treat it as common sense, then you're first going to have to show that it truly is common sense. or such as This idea is X but it is not common sense; if you're going to justify it, then you're going to have to justify it on some other basis. Any label that itself begs the question, in some contrary way, will do little or nothing to promote thoughtful consideration. It will not provoke the left to think, and it will offend uncommitted members of the audience (with whom we should be principally concerned) and otherwise cause them to dismiss the argument as logomachy amongst knaves and fools. An insulting label would beg the question in an especially counter-productive way.

But the label should be used to establish a context of discourse across arguments and conversations in which context the left can no longer simply proceed with its presumptions as such or it will come to seem absurd to the audience and outmanoeuvred to itself. I don't know what the properly effective label should be.

On Term Limits

16 November 2021

In ordinary discussion of limitation on the time that a political office may be held, two points are not made directly as often as they should be.

Opponents of term limits should not contrast the outcomes expected to obtain under term limits with those imagined to result under an idealized representative government. Ostensibly representative government is regularly not very representative; many participants in the political process — including individual voters — work actively to subvert the extent to which it is representative; and it can never be close to being perfectly representative. Illustrating the first of these points, note how often most voters feel compelled to select a least detestable candidate amongst a field of knaves and of fools, and note that major programmes opposed by a majority of voters are adopted by legislatures. Illustrating the second point, note people who vote in open primaries of the party they disfavor, hoping to effect selection of a weaker candidate for that party. To understand the third point, consider what would be required to select representatives whose preferences operationally mirrored those of the more general public.

Term limits change the incentive system for political officials and for would-be political officials. They can no longer make life-time careers in holding one office. If meaningful term-limits became the norm across all elected offices, it would no longer be practical for the typical elected official to make a life-time career of holding a series of elected offices. Those who held office would be less beholden to political machines and cartels, they would have less to sell, they would have to be proficient at more than office-seeking. More of them would be more representative than now, albeït still quite imperfectly so.

Illusory Mites

27 October 2021

In the past several years, I have had occasional episodes of a false sense-perception that tiny insects or insect-like creatures are crawling on me. The technical term for such experience is formication, loosely adapted from formicate, which means crawl like an ant (from the Latin formica, meaning ant), though in my case the sense-perception is that of being crawled upon by something such as fleas or mites.

I use the term sense-perception because, in my case, an underlying sensation is real; the falsity is in how that sensation is unconsciously interpretted. The sensation is actually produced by an allergic reaction. My skin is allergic to many things in my present environment. I don't know what all of these allergens are, but normally I can keep my discomfort and other symptoms at a low level by avoiding detergents and scented cleaning products. However, sometimes a threshold is exceeded, perhaps by something I recognize, perhaps not, and one consequence might be sensations so much like those of having tiny bugs crawling on me that my unconscious mind signals that just that is happening. None-the-less, when I can see some of the areas in question, no creatures (other than myself) are visible. Further, the inferred creatures don't make any progress; it is as if they are crawling-in-place. And, finally, wounds are not later discoverable on these sites. (As it happens, an episode can be triggered by an actual insect bite, but then further wounds are not found.)

Being rational in how I consciously interpret the sense-perception doesn't seem to cause it to change. That's probably because, for most of my life, when I felt as if creatures were crawling on me, it was because I had creatures crawling on me. Years of neural networking would have to be revised for my brain not first to think that bugs were crawling on me. And a practical adaptation would account for the possibility, when the sensation were felt, that bugs were crawling on me and warranted a swift response.

If I were less rational or didn't have other awareness of my allergies, it would be natural for me to conclude that, while I could not see tiny creatures, they must never-the-less be crawling on my skin or perhaps just below its surface. Let's add to such inclinations that most of those who would deny that these creatures were crawling on-or-under my skin would themselves get matters fundamentally wrong. In particular, failing to distinguish the raw sensation from the sense-perception, most people would deny the reality of the former, not only in their protestations but in their attempts to locate the dysfunction. It wouldn't be all in my head.

On the Practical Uselessness of Minimax Prescriptions

25 October 2021

[I posted the following as an entry to Facebook two years ago.]

In game theory, there's a proposal that, in selecting amongst options, a player should choose that option with the least-bad worst case. So, for example, if the worst that could happen if you go to the bistro is that they get your order wrong, while the worst that could happen if you go to the bar is that you get knifed, then you should go the bistro.

Such a strategy is usually called minimax. (I think that it should have been called maximin, and indeed some people call it that, but they're very much bucking convention.)

The proposal seems plausible, especially when measures of probabilities are unknown (so that expected values cannot be calculated). But I think that notions of probabilities as measures inform and thus disinform the apparent reasonableness of minimax strategy.

When one conceptualizes probability as a measure, it is all too easy to think that all events with probability measure 0 might as well be treated as impossible. But they're not quite the same thing if one has to deal with infinitely many possible cases; some precisely specified possibilities would each have to have a probability measure of 0.

Possible events with truly horrible consequences can have a probability measure of zero, and will be disregarded if one treats that probability as equivalent to impossibility.

And, in the absence of actual measures of probability, then from the habit of treating events with very low measures of probability as if impossible can slide into the practice of more generally disregarding events that have low probability rank.

In a textbook game of poker or of dice or whatever, the worst possible outcome in the model is most often a loss of funds. In a real-world game of poker or of dice or whatever, the worst possible outcome is something far more dire, and hard to identify; we can think of awful possibilities, and then think of something still worse. Puffy may get angry, and shoot us; or he may shoot not only us but in his rage go shoot our loved ones as well.

Suicide Mission

13 October 2021

[I posted the following as an entry to Facebook six years ago.]

Every now and then, one of my Facebook Friends posts or comments to a posting about someone who has lost his battle with depression.

I recently saw one of those postings, and visited the page of the person who was said to have lost the battle. I saw his some of his final posts, and some of his pictures. And, yeah, he was battling with depression. If I'd know him, I would have told him to stop.

I don't mean that I would have told him to go somewhere and die. I mean that depression is not to be fought. I very much doubt that a depressive personality can ever be anything else; but I am absolutely certain that fighting it is not how to deal with it.

People who try to fight depression either are always fighting it or have lost to it. They compound the depression with a sense that there is something unacceptable about themselves, which can only be overcome by a fight. If they don't have that much fight in themselves, then they don't accept themselves; their lives hang on their belief in their ability to fight depression, to somehow refuse to be depressives.

It looks an awful lot like an unrecognized internalization of some of the things that the depressive was told as a child, by those who were failing that child, and who in many cases had taught and were teaching the perverted life-lessons that had made the child a depressive.

Depression is to be explained, to be understood, and to be put in context. There is no guarantee that life will then be livable, but at least one doesn't have to die upon losing a fight.

A Narrative to Come

6 October 2021

The mainstream narrative about SARS-CoV-2 has itself mutated many times, but it seems headed towards a crisis from which it will not recognizably survive. I believe that, as progressives try to get out from under their own responsibility for that narrative and for the homicidal and otherwise inhumane effects of the policies developed and defended by it, they will ascribe principal blame to what they will call Big Pharma, and they will insist that the lesson to be drawn is that the power of the state must be extended — to control more thoroughly the development and allocation of medical treatment, to prevent commercial interests (in general) from influencing supposedly scientific research by selective funding, and to prevent commercial interests from influencing state policy.

Some large pharmaceutical firms have played a decidedly unhealthy rôle in the response of important institutions to SARS-CoV-2. At this stage, I would be less surprised to discover that some of the persons at these firms have been guilty of crimes against humanity than that they were simply bunglers. But, when someone says Big Pharma (with or without capitalization), I don't know that he or she refers to just these firms. Nor, for that matter, am I sure that only large firms have been a cause of the problem, though I am quite sure that not all firms are responsible.

Some people had or have been primed to blame what they call Big Pharma from very early into the pandemic, if not indeed from the outset. Until recently, most of the political left wrote and spoke of Big Pharma as an enemy, demanding such things as quicker expiration of drug patents, monopsonistic bargaining by the state to drive-down drug prices, or overt price ceilings. The first time that I encountered the expression Big Pharma was in AD 2000, when Albert Arnold (Al) Gore jr used it as he made attacks on the pharmaceutical industry a key feature of his Presidential campaign. And people not on the political left had been increasingly worried about the pharmaceutical industry as they saw social perverts such as William Henry (Bill) Gates III develop an interest and involvement in pharmaceuticals as part of a broader vision to remake mankind.

But I think that it is far more reasonable to see the firms, large and small, pharmaceutical or otherwise, that have behaved problematically or downright evilly concerning SARS-CoV-2 not as masterminds but as amongst the many mercenaries and whores.

In any case, the changes that I predict that progressives will demand would in practice mean that medicine would be further socialized and made bureaucratic, that the selective funding of the state would be almost the sole determinant of prevalent, ostensibly scientific conclusions, and that those in the non-commercial commanding heights of society would have still greater control over the political process. Each of these changes would deepen the the fundamental problems that we observe connected to the present mainstream narrative and to state policy concerning SARS-CoV-2. The left should not be tolerated in some further attempt to suppress dissent and deviation.