Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 99

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

More guns do not stop more crimes, evidence shows. Who would have thought?

Debates on whether science is broken, unbelievably, don’t fit in tweets.

Compassion, empathy, and flapdoodle.

Our illusory sense of agency has a deeply important social purpose. (Except it’s not entirely illusory.)

A number of cogent reasons why the libertarian “taxes are theft” argument is sheer nonsense.

Texting and Twitter make this a golden age for the written word. (Nah, not really.)

Someone has strong (negative) opinions about the latest book by Alain de Botton.


Please notice that the duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for). This applies to both the suggested readings and the regular posts. Thanks!

115 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 99

  1. SocraticGadfly

    And I remember that name now. The alleged Gnu Atheist, junior division, who converted to Catholicism a couple of years ago. At the time, I doubted whether she ever actually was atheist in the first place, at least at any deep level.

    What have you continued to say about the “self,” Massimo?


  2. synred

    My limited understanding of latice QCD is that while it violates Lorentz invariance at a finite lattice spacing, it is recovered when you extrapolate the results to zero spacing.

    This presumably means that if the spacing is small enough in our universe, we might not notice the violations.

    There’s also quantized space-time, e.g.,

    Loop quantum gravity was the first major theory to postulate that spacetime must be quantized [5]. … Snyder’s method of quantization has the ap- pealing characteristic that it is Lorentz invariant, meaning it is invariant under boosts and rotations. Most models of quantized space-time are not Lorentz invariant

    That Snyder is my uncle Hartland.

    ‘Snyder-space’ is Lorentz invariant. It’s not the basis of lattice QCD which is not Lorentz invariant.


  3. brodix

    Add it to the long list of problems which do not appear directly solvable.

    Maybe there are other, indirect avenues to change the dynamic, reduce the pressure, alter the points of view, etc.


  4. synred

    Explanation: In MythBusters season five, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman proved that shooting fish in a barrel is a whole lot easier than finding the original source of that adage. Even the author of the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms — a veritable prince of proverbs — didn’t know who or where it came from.
    But despite the mysterious source, the saying is spot on. In fact, Jamie and Adam demonstrated that you don’t even have to be a good shot to take out a barrel of fish with single bullet.
    When Jamie fired a shotgun into a barrel stocked with 30 plastic fish suspended at varying depths, he struck only three of them, for a 10 percent hit rate. That stat may not be impressive, but the after effects of the shotgun shell in the water will compensate for any missed targets.
    Fish are extremely sensitive to the slightest water pressure change thanks to a specialized organ they have called the lateral line, which detects water displacement, force and direction. When a bullet moving faster than the speed of sound strikes the water, it forms a high-pressure acoustic shockwave in front of it. The MythBusters calculated that a 9-millimeter gunshot delivers around 100 g-force units of pressure into the barrel.
    Similar to how a loud noise can injure a person’s ear drum, such an intense pressure fluctuation from the ballistic shockwave would rupture the fishes’ blood vessels and mortally wound them, proving that you don’t even have to shoot a single fish to kill a barrel full of them.

    –Would the gunz lobby could be so easily dealt with ….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. synred

    Also, those simulating us might have a quantum computer

    I’m not sure, but as far as I’ve been able to make out a qm computer can’t do anything a normal one can’t — it can just to them faster by being very parallel … however, I don’t understand ’em well enough to be sure…


  6. Alan White

    An update on my gun-letter in the MJS today. Yep, dumb lefty extremists do exist–one called my landline to leave an expletive-drenched message thinking my “modest proposal” was a literal call for a 2nd amendment entitlement right. A cautionary note: speaking up in public venues places you in real danger. That guy was angry, even if at the wrong guy.


  7. Robin Herbert

    As I understand it if Shor’s Algorithm was impossible (rather than just very difficult) to implement, there would have to be something very wrong with our current understanding of physics.


  8. Robin Herbert

    Also, if someone claims that we cannot be a simulation because such-and-such is not computable, you would have to demonstrate that the computation was also not fakeable.

    If Jack says “X cannot be computed in non polynomial time” and Jill says “Yes it can, I just computed it”, how does Jack show that Jill’s answer is not the right answer without seeing the code?

    Jill’s calculation could just spit out a random number in the right ballpark, but how would Jack know it if he can’t compute what the value should have been?

    So we could say for any X that cannot be computed, then maybe the simulators didn’t compute it, they just put in some random values in the right ballpark and we have no way of telling the difference.


  9. Robin Herbert

    Someone might say that if this was the case then we could put in random values and make the same predictions, but the simulators can start with the prediction and work backwards so that the random values they put in make the correct predictions so that if we just tried some random values the predictions wouldn’t work.

    For example I could fake a quantum computer running Shor’s Algorithm if I knew in advance the prime factors that it would find.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. synred

    In some sense, it’s no surprise that this would happen when you’re trying to simulate quantum mechanics, which of course is all about generalizing the rules of probability in a way that involves negative and even complex numbers! The surprise, rather, is that QMC lets you avoid the sign problem as often as it does.)

    I don’t get this. It quite true that in QM amplitudes are complex and can be real (positive or negative) and imaginary. But probabilities are always positive, i.e., the absolute value of the amplitude squared. and between 0 and 1. If it’s not you made a mistake.

    I tried looking back at some of the literature, but it didn’t help. They talk about the ‘well known sign-problem’, but apparently so well known to the authors that they don’t tell how to find bout what it is.


  11. brodix

    I would also point out, if I recall correctly, that Baltimore had a gun buy back program about 25 years ago and basically paid good money for a lot of junk guns.


  12. SocraticGadfly

    Robin, I think I’d disagree w/points 1-3. As for the issue of non-computer simulations? Sure, they remain open. That said, that’s just another version of Aristotle’s first cause worries.


  13. brodix

    And if anyone thinks I’m taking a pro gun position, they are wrong. My daughter and only child worked social programs in inter city Baltimore for her four years at Hopkins and had a fair number of stories, dealing with the culture, from bullets through windows in houses she was in, to being first at a homicide and calling it in. Now she is doing Teach for America in Memphis and it sounds equally wild.
    The basic fact is that guns are a symptom of much deeper problems and gun regulation is a cure all for the left, like lower taxes are a cure all for the right.


  14. brodix

    If someone has gun control legislation as part of some larger program to solve the economic and social wounds in this country and society, they have my vote, but if it is just some dog whistle to get votes and they are otherwise going to kiss up to the big banks and other big money interests, that are asset stripping the larger community, leaving people with the sense that they have to take the law and the economy into their own hands, then it is just bs, topped with a dollop of sanctimony.


  15. synred

    a>n expletive-drenched message thinking my “modest proposal” was a literal call

    I wonder if Jonathan Swift had the same problem … </;-_)


  16. synred

    Plus you probably wouldn’t buy up all the guns

    I don’t think the Australians bought up all guns — just assault rifles if I remember correctly.

    The still ‘waltz Matilda’ …

    Liked by 1 person

  17. synred

    So we could say for any X that cannot be computed, then maybe the simulators didn’t compute it, they just put in some random values in the right ballpark and we have no way of telling the difference.

    …and there could be, generally there are, approximations that might be good enough.


  18. SocraticGadfly

    Brodix, it’s called the Economic Renormalization Act. Richer libertarians with the right touch of piousness put poorer white libertarians wannabes and, of course, the “othered” into a renormalized economic while gunz become the new cryptocurrency. Like all the other ERAs, I’m sure Schlafly’s working on it!


  19. Robin Herbert

    We could use the “Ssm the crooked lab rechnician” test.

    Sam has embezzled the equipment budget and is now faking the results using empty instrument pandls connected to an Arduino and a computer.

    Assuming Sam can use demarcation rules to prevent anyone from peering inside hus equipment, is there any way from the data alone that would enable the scientists to catch him out?

    That is to ssy, can the scientists look at some data snd say “this was definitely computed, it didn’t happen for real”. Or “this data could not possibly have been faked by Sam because it couldn’t have been computed”.

    The problem is that if the scientists had a calculation which showed what a real system ought to be doing, Sam would have access to the same calculation to make sure the data was doing just that.


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