Thursday, April 28, 2011

So what were we going to do after attracting sentient life?

Lets say they'll try to aim for the area of greatest interest.

Perhaps an area with lots of radio waves. Like maybe downtown Los Angeles.

What happens if the United States shoots down the spacecraft with an SM-3 because it was re-entering at high speed towards LA?

I am finding isolationism more and more appealing as I think about it...

So what were we going to do if SETI found life?

It'd be like SMS, but slower.

@T = 0 (outgoing): "hey did u ever figure out [x]? we're having trouble and the future of humanity kind of depends on it lol"

@T + 150 years (outgoing): "actually nvm, we figured it out"

@T + 600 years (incoming): "no, but msg if you get it working we'd like to know"

@T + 750 years (incoming): "yeah we got it too"

@T + 750 years + 1 month (incoming): "lol"

@T + 750 years + 2 months (incoming): "good talk"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On the economics of gambling

There's a saying, the lottery is a tax on the stupid.

I have thought about this and come to a conclusion.

No, no it's not.

The underlying assumption is that you have a reasonable habit, say once a week.

The marginal happiness of having the extra $10 in your bank account is negligible, even non-existent.

But on the off shot that you win a big pay-off, that will significantly impact your happiness.

When office pools come into play, there is an even bigger psychological motivation.

Let's look at insurance, clearly E[X] is less than 100%, otherwise State Farm wouldn't be in business. But no one would tell you that insurance is a stupid tax.

That $10 is psychological insurance. That all your coworkers won't hit the $21 million and leave you all alone. Because that'd suck.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Do as I say, not as I do

Here are the first 5 random art tips off the top of my head that won't really help you draw, but may help you draw better (YMMV):

1) Don't pet your lines, lay them down with confidence and if you get it wrong, erase with confidence. Unless you're using ink; then you're fucked. In that case, I like to deal with it by changing the lighting scheme and hiding my mistakes in dark, dark shadow.

2) Static poses aren't interesting, make the pose more interesting or change up the camera angle.

3) If you copy straight off a photograph, people will know. Camera lenses foreshadow more dramatically than human eyes; know to correct for it.

4) When using paints, mixing transparent pigments will give vibrant colours and mixing opaque pigments will give you mud. This is true irrespective of the medium (e.g. cadmium yellow is opaque whether it's watercolour or oil).

5) Don't waste your time drawing anime lolis, you'll never get anywhere doing that. <_<

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is Britain retarded?

They are building 2 new Queen Elizabeth class carriers costing close to $5b, of which one will be immediately mothballed upon completion and possibly sold without ever being afforded an air wing. Because they're too expensive to operate and it's cheaper to build them than to cancel construction.

I'm so glad we don't have to deal with this kind of crap (hopefully).

Placing the HMS Prince of Wales indefinitely into "extended readiness" reserve though? How strangely appropriate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Everyone loves the new Malibu

I think everyone is retarded.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The alpha and the beta

Stats 101, just so everyone's on the same page: there are 2 types of errors.

Type-1 (alpha) error is a detection (false-rejection) error.

Type-2 (beta) error is a rejection (false-detection) error.

What does this mean for our lives?

Let's pretend there exists a social welfare program for people whose houses spontaneously combusted. In order to determine if they should be granted restitution, their situation is quantified on a scale by some means. Of course there will be people who burn their houses down to scam money and we would seek to exclude them from this system. In an ideal world, we would imagine a distribution of scammers and non-scammers on the scale as such:

Yes, prepare for a lot of bad MSPaint diagrams because I can't be assed to work with Illustrator.

So in this ideal world, it's simple. We set P as the cut-off point and exclude everyone who scores higher than P on the scale and accept everyone who scores less than P. Done!

Except no.

By central limit theorem, we would expect normal distributions of both populations centered around separate means (if this test has any amount of effectiveness):

At point Q is how the average Spontaneous Combustor shows up and point R is the average Scammer. Under the two bells are how the populations of both categories are expected to be distributed. Notice though, how they overlap! I guess you can argue that a better test would space the curves further apart, but realistically you rarely see that kind of thing in real life in any meaningful way even in stochastic processes that don't involve one set of sentient beings trying to appear like the other. What you can do, is tighten the acceptance criteria and shift P left, or relax it and shift P right.

Okay, here's where the math gets a bit sketchy with assumptions, but bear with me. You can decide if it makes sense or not (it does to me), but doesn't affect my core premises either way.

The population of Scammers is much less than the population of Spontaneous Combustors so our distributions actually look like this:

Now if P is where % alpha is equal for both hypotheses, the absolute alpha and beta for our leftmost graph is:

I might've eyeballed P too far right actually, but no matter. As you can see, because one group is larger than the other, even if we accidentally accept the same percentage of blue as we reject red, the absolute alpha is much bigger than beta.

So a huge part of social policy is really all about where we want to move P. We will never know absolutely how big each slice is because obviously if we had a foolproof way to detect it, we wouldn't be committing these errors in the first place! The question is in which direction do we want to err?

In every aspect of our social systems, Conservatives are so frightened of Type-2 errors that they cripple them to beyond usability for many people with legitimate needs for them. Whether this be something like unemployment insurance, disability insurance, or even something as fundamental to democracy as voting.

Realistically some number people in real need is going to look exactly like some number of people that aren't in whatever system you're using the quantify "need". I would argue the number of the former is much greater than the number of the latter in whatever confidence interval we're using, but for the sake of argument let's say it's 1:1.

You have 2 applicants to social welfare program x. One who is in dire need through no fault of his own and another one who is scamming for money.

You can choose to shut neither or both out. Which do you choose? Which do you think is the appropriate choice for a developed democratic society?

Either the CPC thinks that a token amount of infringement is unbearably galling that they would rather shut the door on someone who has paid into the social system in the expectation of being protected when luck turns sour or they are just looking for an excuse to Not Give a Damn.

Pathetic. Or evil. You decide.

Additional food for thought: Engineering stats begins at the CLT whereas that's about the point after the stats most math students take ends. It's almost as though they said to themselves, "whoa, we better stop now or else they might learn something useful!".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Answer me this, economists

Overmeyer got me started on this rant and now I can't stop.

These are the accepted facts:

1) The only way Western nations sustain GDP growth is through a larger workforce, this can come from children or from immigrants.

2) The most effective manner for governments to increase revenues is to grow the economy. Mind you, this doesn't necessary mean that tax cuts are always a good idea, but that is an optimization discussion to be had elsewhere.

Just one problem with this model...

It's a ponzi scheme! A literal ponzi scheme!

That's bad enough as it is, but it gets worse.

As you know, the Americans are facing a trifecta of spending problems in healthcare, defense and social security that will reach crisis levels by 2050 at this rate. These are systematic problems that all developed countries will face sooner or later.

Healthcare spending goes up because we know about more problems today, we have more complicated treatments today and we are better at keeping old people alive today. We have better quality services today than 50 years ago, but these services cost money and in combination with the other factors, we have more people using more expensive services more often.

Defense spending goes up because defense platforms get more complicated every generation, R&D costs goes up, maintenance costs go up, operating costs go up and then you don't even have a huge consumer base to spread capital costs. The opposite even, because you have the inherent inefficiencies with every country trying to maintain domestic defense production capabilities.

Social security is easy to explain, more old people living longer equals more money. This problem is most immediate in Japan because their low birthrate (even by developed standards) in conjunction with xenophobic immigration policies means they'll soon have gone from four workers sustaining every non-worker to half that. In this respect, we should be keeping an eye on how they deal with this as a lesson to the rest of us.

These are all structural problems! It's like building a skyscraper on a foundation of mud. You can try and keep building higher and propping it up with supports but eventually the entire thing is going to collapse. Euro nations have been keeping their defense budgets under control simply by buying less and less things (at this point the UK and Dutch armed forces have buckled), which is fine, but the other two things are things that constituents will absolutely not stand to cut and this puts politicians in a position where they are reluctant to make any big changes until shit actually hits fan.

And it puzzles me why people haven't been sounding the alarms decades ago. This is clearly unsustainable and, like it or not, we will see some hard choices being made in the upcoming decades.

Escalation, gentlemen?

So the 26th MEU had operating off the Kearsage in the Med for a while now.

What's interesting is that the USS Bataan (LHD-5) and HMS Albion (L14) will be heading into the region very soon carrying the 22nd MEU, troops of the Korps Mariniers and the 539 Assault Squadron of the Royal Marines.

Officially, the Bataan ARG is to relieve the Kearsage ARG and the Albion is participating in Exercise Green Alligator.

But unofficially it looks like a surge of 3 marine battalions' strength + support off the coast of Libya.


Monday, April 11, 2011


Why isn't this text displaying properly?

Control panel says I got "Gill Sans" and "Gill Sans MT" installed already.


"Gill Sans MT Pro".

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Fire sale!

Rumours are that the Dutch plan to liquidate their entire Leopard 2A6 inventory.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Monday, April 04, 2011

This show is the best

"This is the worst!"
"Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were 5th cousins"
"Okay, on a count of three, say what level of cousins we'd have to be for this to be okay...1...2...3"
"5th!"/"Unacceptable no matter what!"
"This is never going to work"
"I think we're 3rd cousins"
"Yeah...I'll see you at the reunion"

"Yo, remember when we got that email from those Nigerians that needed our help getting all that money out of Africa? We did it! Got the cheque today!"
"I would've been happy if it were just for helping the dethroned prince of Nigeria; this is great, we should treat ourselves"
"You want to go to Vegas and buy a bunch of sarcophagi?"
"Nah, I don't even use the ones I have"
"We could add someone to the entourage"
"Yo that's a good idea, what's Young Larry doing these days?"
"He's in Jay-Z's entourage"
"What about Cheese?"
"He's rolling with Ghostface Killah now"
"Studying Hotel Administration at Cornell"