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Comment author: James_Miller 27 July 2015 05:17:55PM 5 points [-]

Apparently, NASA is testing an EM Drive, a reactionless drive which to work would have to falsify the law of conservation of momentum. As good Bayesians I know that we should have a strong prior belief that the law of conservation of momentum is correct so that even if EM Drive supporters get substantial evidence we should still think that they are almost certainly wrong, especially given how common errors and fraud are in science. But, my question is how confident should we be that the law of conservation of momentum is correct? Is it, say, closer to .9999 or 1-1/10^20?

Comment author: knb 27 July 2015 07:22:10PM 3 points [-]

Shawyer has said he thinks it doesn't violate conservation of momentum because interacts with "quantum vacuum virtual plasma." I don't really find that reassuring. The current effect size is very small with no sign yet of scaling.

Comment author: pianoforte611 24 July 2015 09:29:23PM *  1 point [-]

Have any snake oil salesmen been right?

I usually immediately disregard anyone who has the following cluster of beliefs:

1: The relevant experts are wrong. 2: I have no relevant expertise in this area. 3: My product/idea/ invention is amazing in a world changing way. 4: I could prove it if only the man didn't keep me down.

Characteristic 2 is somewhat optional, but I'm not sure about it. Examples of snake oil ideas include energy healing, salt water as car fuel and people who believe in a flat earth. Ignoring 2, Ludwig Boltzmann is not an example (he did not believe that proof of atoms was being suppressed).

I think this does a good job of screening out probably dumb ideas, but are there any false positives?

Comment author: knb 25 July 2015 12:33:18AM 1 point [-]

Have any snake oil salesmen been right?

No, by definition. Snake oil is defined as "does not work."

But there are examples of denigrated alternative treatments that actually worked to some extent: acupuncture, meditation, aromatherapy etc. Low-carb diets were denigrated for a long time but they've been shown to work at least as well as other diets. Fecal transplants have a long, weird history as an alternative therapy, including things like Bedouins eating camel feces to combat certain infections. The FDA was for a long time very restrictive and skeptical about fecal transplants in spite of lots of positive evidence of their efficacy in certain infections.

1: The relevant experts are wrong. 2: I have no relevant expertise in this area. 3: My product/idea/ invention is amazing in a world changing way. 4: I could prove it if only the man didn't keep me down.

A pretty good heuristic, but it's worthwhile to have some open-minded people who investigate these things.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 20 July 2015 08:21:29AM *  0 points [-]

I have realized I don't understand the first thing about evolutionary psychology. I used to think the selfish gene of a male will want to get planted into as many wombs as possible and this our most basic drive. But actually any gene that would result in having many children but not so many great-great-grandchildren due to the "quality" of our children being low would get crowded out by the genes that do. Having 17 sons of the Mr. Bean type may not be such a big reproductive success down the road.

Since most women managed to reproduce, we can assume a winner strategy is having a large number of daughters but perhaps for sons the selfish gene may want quality and status more than quantity. Anecdotally, in more traditional societies what typically men want is not a huge army of children but a high-status male heir, a "crown prince". Arab men traditionally rename themselves after their first son, Musa's father literally renames himself to Musa's father: Abu-Musa. This sort of suggests they are less interested in quantity...

At this point I must admit I have no longer an idea what the basic biological male drive is. It is not simply unrestricted polygamy and racking up as many notches as possible. It is some sort of a sweet spot between quantity and quality, and in quality not only the genetic quality of the mother matters but also the education of the sons i.e. investing into fathering, the amount of status that can be inherited and so on? Which suggests more of a monogamous drive.

Besides to make it really complicated, while the ancestral father's genes may "assume" his daughters will be able to reproduce to full capacity, there is still a value in parenting and generally quality because if the daughter manages to catch a high quality man, an attractive man, her sons may be higher quality, more attractive guys, and thus her sons can have a higher quantity of offspring and basically the man's "be a good father of my daughter" genes win at the great-grandchildren level!

This kind of modelling actually sounds like something doable with mathemathics, something like game theory, right? We could figure out how the utility function of the selfish gene looks like game-theoretically? Was it done already?

Comment author: knb 20 July 2015 09:41:21AM 13 points [-]

I have realized I don't understand the first thing about evolutionary psychology.

If you're really curious, I recommend picking up an evolutionary psychology textbook rather than speculating/seeking feedback on speculations from non-experts. Lots of people have strong opinions about Evo Psych without actually having much real knowledge about the discipline.

Anecdotally, in more traditional societies what typically men want is not a huge army of children but a high-status male heir

I don't really believe in this anecdote; large numbers of children are definitely a point of pride in traditional cultures.

Since most women managed to reproduce, we can assume a winner strategy is having a large number of daughters

Surely you don't think daughters are more reproductively successful than sons on average?

Comment author: Lumifer 15 July 2015 04:37:09PM *  8 points [-]

I am not impressed by the opinion of this guy, mostly because he states obviously false things as if they were facts. Notably:

  • "A handful of bombs doesn’t help as long as Iran is surrounded by bombs". That is not true at all, a nuclear weapon is a highly useful deterrent, especially against conventional attacks. Ask Kim Jong-un about it.

  • "Iran would cease to exist only twenty minutes after having carried out a nuclear attack on Israel". Is there any evidence that the US stands ready to launch a nuclear attack (in 20 minutes!) against a country that would drop a nuke on Israel? Not to mention that the way Iran is likely to nuke Israel is via their Hezbollah proxy.

The whole strawman premise there seems to be that Iran wants to do some kind of nuclear-brinkmanship new Cold War with the US. This is utter nonsense, of course. Iran does want nuclear weapons, but not for launching at the US.

Comment author: knb 16 July 2015 01:18:27AM -1 points [-]

Iran would cease to exist only twenty minutes after having carried out a nuclear attack on Israel". Is there any evidence that the US stands ready to launch a nuclear attack (in 20 minutes!) against a country that would drop a nuke on Israel? Not to mention that the way Iran is likely to nuke Israel is via their Hezbollah proxy.

Israel has its own very sophisticated nuclear arsenal. US participation would not be needed.

Comment author: Lumifer 16 July 2015 12:55:33AM 7 points [-]

What discussion is possible if "anyone acquainted with the facts... should come to the same conclusion" and people disagreeing with you "really are in [their] own delusional universe"?

Comment author: knb 16 July 2015 01:13:48AM -1 points [-]

That comment was simply mirroring what you said to polymathwannabe; that they must be in a different universe to disagree with you. You still have only provided lazy snark rather than substance.

Comment author: Lumifer 16 July 2015 12:12:40AM 6 points [-]

Why, thank you for such a devastatingly convincing argument. However I wasn't trying to discuss Iran with you -- that seems to be pretty useless-- I was just pointing out that your assertion that "anyone acquainted with the facts... should come to the same conclusion" is false.

In fact, such an assertion is very common for people who are not capable of imagining how anyone could possibly hold a different view. On LW such people are called mind-killed.

Comment author: knb 16 July 2015 12:49:58AM -1 points [-]

You didn't cite any evidence before declaring that polymathwannabe was wrong. You aren't actually engaging the discussion at all.

Comment author: Lumifer 15 July 2015 07:20:41PM 1 point [-]

Sigh. OK, we live in different universes. I wish you luck in yours.

Comment author: knb 16 July 2015 12:04:32AM -1 points [-]

You really are in your own delusional universe if you think the revolution had nothing to do with removing the foreign-imposed dictator.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 15 July 2015 03:08:41PM *  13 points [-]

This is a bit of a suspicious summary to me, because it sounds exactly like the summary from the angle of a highly educated, perhaps pol sci grad left-leaning highly critical American. Is it really likely that average guy in Iran really has the same perspective? Or their leaders? You simply don't seem to be making any effort to simulate their minds.

To give you one example of the lack of simulation here: too long memory. Mossadegh, really? 1953? That is what some guy born in 1970 or 80 will riot about? You have to be half a historian and full of a high-brown person to care what happened in 1953. For comparison, for most people who shot Kennedy and why is ancient history and that was 10 years later, in a country with far better collective memory than Iran (more books published, more media made etc.) If it turns out today the Russkies did it somehow, how many Americans will get angry? My prediction: not many.

Comment author: knb 15 July 2015 11:23:49PM *  2 points [-]

This is a bit of a suspicious summary to me, because it sounds exactly like the summary from the angle of a highly educated, perhaps pol sci grad left-leaning highly critical American.

I'm actually more of a conservative than liberal but I think anyone acquainted with the facts and making a good-faith effort not to see Iranians as Evil Mutants should come to the same conclusions. The US media essentially never mentions these facts and even when they do they treat each as an isolated incident rather than part of a consistent pattern which explains the attitude many Iranians have toward the US. I learned these things from being active in the US antiwar movement for the last 10 years or so.

To give you one example of the lack of simulation here: too long memory. Mossadegh, really? 1953? That is what some guy born in 1970 or 80 will riot about?

First of all they aren't rioting; they're protesting. It would be one thing if the US had acknowledged the wrongness of this action and apologized for it. To the best of my knowledge this has never happened. And don't forget that the Shah was imposed by the US and reigned until 1979! That isn't exactly ancient history. There are many people presently alive who fully remember the Iran-Iraq war and the Shah's dictatorship.

If it turns out today the Russkies did it somehow, how many Americans will get angry? My prediction: not many.

That's very different. The government wasn't replaced when JFK died; his vice president (who largely continued his policies) was made president. Very little changed for most Americans. Furthermore the Soviet Union no longer exists, whereas the US government continues to behave in a very similar, heavy handed way in the Middle East as it did in the 1950s. The difference is instead of dictatorships, the US tends to create anarchy and long-term civil war.

Comment author: James_Miller 15 July 2015 12:26:57AM 4 points [-]

Iranian leaders regularly chant "Death to America" and yet the United States seems to be on course to letting Iran acquire atomic weapons even though we currently have the capacity to destroy Iran's military and industrial capacity at a tiny cost to ourselves.

Comment author: knb 15 July 2015 02:11:34AM *  2 points [-]

Iranians chant "death to America" because of America's past abuses, such as overthrowing the democratic government of Mohammad Mosaddegh to install the dictatorship of the Shah of Iran and supporting Saddam Hussein's bloody war of aggression against Iran (hundreds of thousands of Iranians died.) This included direct support for Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programs. It's ridiculous to frame this as Iranian "mad dogs" vs. innocent Americans. They have every reason to fear foreign aggression. For example, this and this.

Attacking Iran again would simply be continuing the pattern of violent aggression the US has established in the Middle East for decades.

In response to comment by knb on Crazy Ideas Thread
Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 08 July 2015 11:00:33AM 10 points [-]

I think you vastly underestimate the power of nationalism. Greece is especially vulnerable to nationalism due to a glorious ancient past and really long Ottoman occupation. Still I think any government who accepted that would be toppled by nationalists.

Comment author: knb 09 July 2015 04:56:27AM 9 points [-]

I think you vastly underestimate the power of nationalism.

No, that's why I posted it in the Crazy Ideas Thread instead of the Obviously Workable Ideas thread.

Still, if the austerity gets bad enough and the price is right, Greeks might go for it anyway, as long as the buyer isn't Turkey or Germany.

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