Wednesday, June 08, 2016
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Saturday, May 07, 2016
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
P.S. Why does that paper talk of "+1 eigenfunctions"? What's wrong with "fixed point"?
Thursday, April 07, 2016
Imagine that "everybody wins" mathematically, i.e., it is proven there are elegant mathematical models consistent with observation and unifying all of fundamental physics, including an asymptotically safe gravity model, a string theory model, loop quantum gravity model, maybe other models I don't want to take the time to mention, and maybe even an "unquantizing" model like in the link. Which theory will win the parsimony contest? Since parsimony is not the same as mathematical elegance or beauty, I'm not confident that the most parsimonious theory will also become most popular.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Normative question: Should not the Condorcet winner (if one exists) be the actual winner? (This isn't special pleading; I didn't vote for Rubio in Texas.) Why not let voters somehow rank candidates on their ballots?
Friday, February 26, 2016
I see these problems all too often in my job. I also recently saw how even the student organizations at my university are over-regulated. This blog post was provoked by Section 51.9361 of Subchapter Z of Chapter 51 of Subtitle A of Title 3 of the Texas Education Code.
For another anecdote, I've done a bit of mentoring of future middle-school and high-school math teachers. Once they start their training at the local public schools, they are unanimously dismayed by the emphasis they see given to preparing the students for state-mandated exams. (Home schooling in Texas, on the other hand, is hardly regulated at all. I highly recommend it.)
I have an abstract, general desire for smaller governments, but I expect defense, law enforcement, infrastructure, education, and research to be extensively funded by governments (but perhaps not directly provided by governments) from now until the end of the world. Therefore, quoting Robin Hanson,
This view suggests that being pro- or anti-regulation isn’t the same as being pro- or anti-government, and it suggests a possible left-right deal: reduce regulation in both private and public sectors. Have more trust in private competition to deal with the problems we leave to the private sphere, and in smart well-trained civil servants to deal with the problems we leave to the public sphere. And have less trust in lawyers, judges and rule-specialists of all sorts to fix our problems with more rules.
Monday, February 15, 2016
On the other hand, cosmic inflation I still consider quite mysterious.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Sunday, February 07, 2016
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Monday, December 07, 2015
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Monday, July 20, 2015
Friday, July 17, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015
Saturday, May 09, 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
It would nice to explain why the cosmological constant is what it is. Yet, no one tries to explain why the earth's orbital radius is what is beyond saying that it needs to be roughly what it is to support life. Where does this analogy break down? We have observed many other, apparently lifeless solar systems; it is possible but improbable that we might someday find indirect evidence for a bubble beyond our own in the cosmic microwave background.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
[W]hen highly educated folks making six figures still can’t afford to live in your city (and it takes over an hour’s commute to get to downtown from slightly more affordable areas), you simply don’t have the conditions to grow a knowledge economy....
Entire downtown neighbourhoods and chunks of the west side are growingly becoming ghost towns as permanent residents are replaced with investors who don’t occupy their units....
A massive capital injection from abroad makes Vancouverites feel wealthy, while the city is in no real terms wealthier. Talented people continue to leave and with them the future of our city.
Monday, March 23, 2015
For example, imagine a radical 100% tax on all personal wealth over $1M that is not charitably donated. Food is cheap, millions of people in the world are hungry, and there's a lot concentrated personal wealth we could throw at the problem. There exist Bill Gates, several other billionaires, and many millionaires. Yet, if all of Gates' wealth is redirected toward immediately feeding the hungry, where do all the bags of grain come from? The Gates mansion does not have that much food in it. The bags of grain come from a combination of many people and animals eating less grain and of farmers producing more grain (and of more people working on farms instead of elsewhere, and of more raw materials being used to build farm equipment, fertilizer, pesticides, and the like, instead of other things, and of more fuel, water, and electricity being used by farms, and...)
Generally speaking, taxes do not take away real resources from wealthy people, except to the extent that it reduces wealthy people's consumption of goods and services. What matters is consumption. Moreover, personal wealth taxes can be evaded by creating a corporation structured so that you tightly control it and "investing" your personal wealth in this corporation. If the government also heavily taxes corporate wealth, then (along with many other crazy changes) almost everything will end owned by "non-profits" that pay their executives fat salaries and "re-invest" most of their remaining net income in things like comfort, prestige, and power. Exhibit A is all the money universities and hospitals pour into their campus buildings and grounds.
As folks like Scott Sumner keep saying, let us tax consumption alone. Replacing all income taxes with a value-added tax (VAT) does this. Less radically (for the US), instead of taxing personal and corporate income as we do now, the Internal Revenue Service could tax personal income minus personal savings. Your capital gains, dividends, and interest income should not be taxed, but your negative savings, i.e., net withdrawals from their savings/brokerage/etc accounts should be taxed.
Morally speaking, if a rich man lives a modest lifestyle, why should he be more than modestly taxed? How is his net worth, his labor income, or his capital income morally relevant? If someday the rich man exercises his option to live lavishly, only then tax him lavishly.
From another angle, why tax my dividends at one rate and my wages at another? Tax $1K income saved at 0%, regardless of where it come from. Tax a person's Nth $1K of annual consumption spending at a progressive rate r(N). Yes, there will still be tax deductions and tax credits that complicating things, but equalizing tax rates across income sources is still a nontrivial simplification.
If my personal consumption includes lavish job perks from my employer (which might be myself), then how are these taxed? The Right Way to solve this problem is stop taxing income and go pure VAT. The inferior but less radical solution is a corporate/self-employed consumption tax with complicated rules, but no more complicated than the current income tax rules for corporations and the self-employed.
The Achilles heel of taxing income minus savings is imputed rent. If I own a house and live in it, that is consumption, but it is not obvious how valuable that consumption is. In effect, I am both landlord and tenant, paying myself some unknown rent. Is the IRS going to estimate and tax every home owner's imputed rent? The "estimate" part isn't a show-stopper; it wouldn't be any more difficult than what property tax assessors already do. The howler is the "tax" part, which would effectively be a federal home property tax. Again, the Right Way is a VAT. A bit closer to political reality would be the policy of just not taxing imputed rents and maybe not taxing housing rent of any kind.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Vikings, for example, invaded England starting in the eighth century and married into the society. Children in England, hearing their fathers’ “broken” Old English in a time when schooling was limited to elites and there was no media, grew up speaking that kind of English, and the result was what I am writing now. Old English bristled with three genders, five cases and the same sort of complex grammar that makes modern German so difficult for us, but after the Vikings, it morphed into modern English, one of the few languages in Europe that doesn’t assign gender to inanimate objects. Mandarin, Persian, Indonesian and other languages went through similar processes and are therefore much less “cluttered” than a normal language is.The article predicts a 90% loss of spoken language diversity and an decrease in spoken language complexity over the next hundred years.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Sunday, December 28, 2014
For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
"Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else." Thus said no less than Erwin Schrödinger. I do not think such philosophical generalities entail theism, but I think they reject reductionist materialism. Perhaps I lack imagination, but I think purely physical descriptions of the brain, however tightly they manage correlate the neural to the mental, never will satisfactorily explain how or why there is anything mental for the neural to correlate to in the first place.
I am aware of two categories of potentially satisfying accounts of this correlation. The first is the dualist appeal to a mystical enforcement of a correlation between a noetic realm and a material realm that are otherwise causally separated. The second category holds that there exist, roughly speaking, laws of consciousness that complement the laws of physics.
In the former category, the particles/waves that make up a human brain have a physical form suitable for being bound to a mind, but the brain is mindless without supernatural intervention. In the latter category, each elementary particle of the physical universe, or perhaps I should say the wavefunction of the universe, is already endowed with mental or pre-mental properties that naturally assemble into a consciousness when, for example, a human brain develops.
In the former category, the birth of a new consciousness is supernatural; in the latter category, it is quite natural. In the former category, postmortem consciousness is unsurprising: if a soul can be chained to a body, then it presumably can be unchained. In the latter category, postmortem consciousness would require a postmortem physical body or some kind of substitute "body." In the former category, whether "higher" animals have minds is a mystery; in the latter category, they very probably do. Both categories are compatible with theism and both categories are compatible with atheism.