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January 30th, 2017

02:40 pm: Religion or Politics?
What is the difference between a religious denomination and a political party?

Both start from a certain ideology (political or religious) - a world view which defines "Right" and "Wrong", and then proceed to delineate an appropriate behavior.

One might think that religions are grandfathered - they existed before the democratic process while parties came about to represent different factions. However, a cursory glance at history finds political parties long before democracy became mainstream. Of course, political parties were often defined in religious terms (e.g., Catholics vs Protestants).

Another possibility is "permanence" - one might think that a person is more committed to a religion than to a political ideology. Nope - "Paris is well worth a Mass" is just one example.

Yet another potential difference is "secularity" - political parties are supposed to be founded on a rational secular ideology. This has to be discarded on both sides - there are plenty of openly religious parties (both in word and deed) and "secular" parties which have all the accoutrements of a religion (CPSU had holy scriptures, infallible prophets, sacred rituals &c).

We could say that political parties are directed outside (towards affecting the society) while religions insider (changing the individual). However, this seems to be a cosmetic difference (fundamentalist Christians are opposed to abortion rights and "tax-and-spend" liberals give less to charities).

Some ideologies claim a basis in science (e.g., scientology and marxism). However, in practice, all of them reject contradicting evidence (cf. Confirmation bias).

So, what is the difference between a religious denomination and a political party?

November 13th, 2016

10:59 am: US Elections, Electoral votes, Democracy &c
Multi-person game theory introduces a concept of Shapley value which quantifies that contribution of each person having several votes to the outcome of an election.
It is equal to the probability that the election will be decided by this person.

  1. everyone of the n voters has the same number of votes. then everyone has the same Shapley value (1/n)

  2. two persons, one has 2 votes, the other has 1. Shapley value for the first is 1, for the second is 0

  3. three persons, one has 1.9999 votes, the others have 1 each. Shapley value is 1/3 for each of them

In the United States presidential election, each state elects several electors, whose number equals to the sum of senators (2) and representatives (1+). This means that smaller states have more electors per capita. However, their Shapley value per capita is smaller than that of the larger states (this a non-obvious result of a computer simulation). This means that larger states have a larger impact on the outcome of an election.

Is this democratic? It depends, of course, on the definition of "democracy"; US, like most other countries are not direct democracies but rather republics.

Does it make sense to use the electoral college these days? It depends, of course, what you want to accomplish.
However, one should bear in mind that the sports tournament is won by the team that won the most games, not the one whose total score is the highest.
Another point to contemplate is that deciding the presidential election by popular vote only will completely disenfranchise the rural areas.

October 10th, 2016

09:46 am: Safe Areas & Microaggression as a recipe for intellectual degradation
Intellectual growth occurs when a paradigm shift is forced by a cognitive dissonance.
This is not necessarily a pleasant experience, but a necessary one.
The notion of a "Microaggression" and the defense from it provided by "Safe Areas" shields those who hide behind them from unpleasant truths, thus stunting intellectual development.

This is akin to children raised in antiseptic environments growing up allergic to many common substances.

November 13th, 2015

09:24 am: "Bad money drives out good"
The Gresham's law has two non-monetary examples:
  1. Anti-Jewish bias at the best Soviet universities admissions led to filtering out the best non-Jewish students too (according to Gelfand)

  2. Soviet purges hit the better people more (e.g., Shtern vs. Zhukov and Korolev vs. Kostikov)

October 3rd, 2014

08:17 am: Good morning children!
My name is Bill Gates, and I am your new math teacher.
Today we are counting to 10:
1, 2, 3, 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10.

September 16th, 2014

08:09 am: Geometric mean
A human cell contains ~10^14 atoms; a human body contains ~ 10^14 (human) cells (plus ~10^15 symbiotic bacteria in the intestines).
Earth is ~2*10^8 larger (linearly) than an apple; an apple is ~2*10^8 larger than an atom.
Diameter of an atom is ~10^4 diameter of its nucleus; distance from the Sun to the Kuiper cliff is ~10^4 Sun's radius.


Now, if you think about it, you can produce an inexhaustible stream of such "wow" facts.
E.g., take the total human population: ~7 billion. Take the smallest country: Pitcairn islands with 56 people. The geometric average is ~600k people. So, the world is 10,000 times as big as Montenegro, which is 10,000 as populous as Pitcairn islands. Wow!

September 10th, 2014

08:24 am: Диалог с преподавателем истории КПСС:
- Иван Иванович, а почему Маркса конспектировать проще, чем Ленина?
- Голубчик, но ведь Маркса переводили...

То ли в гебне идиоты, то ли время уже было вегетарианское...

September 5th, 2014

10:09 am: How to reduce motor vehicle deaths?
30+k people die on the American roads every year.
Most accidents happen when one of more cars change lanes.
Why do they change lanes? To pass each other!
10 years ago I was in Italy (famous for its crazy drivers but having 30% smaller traffic deaths than the US) and I was stunned by the stress-free "autostrada" driving. There are just two lanes, both quite busy. The right lane has speed 90km/h (~55 mph), the left lane - 120 km/h (~75 mph). When there are 3 lanes, the speeds are, I think, 90/110/130. Speed limit is, I think, 90 km/h. No jerk tries to drive slowly in the left lane slower than "accepted". The impression is that slowing down traffic by driving in the "wrong lane" is punished by death.
How about we try the same thing?
Instead of going crazy about speed, make sure that people respect each other.
Punish severely driving in the wrong lane, defined as being passed on the right!

August 29th, 2014

04:26 pm: An Information Theoretic Approach to Partying
Moderate Drinking and Partying increases the number of possible outcomes (e.g., the set of places where you will find yourself in the morning) and evens out their probabilities, thus increasing the entropy.
However, excess drinking collapses the space of possible outcomes to the trivial one (you will find yourself in the local morgue) thus reducing the entropy to zero.
Therefore there must be the optimal amount of drinking which maximizes the entropy, i.e., makes your life most interesting.

Now, how would we go about establishing that optimal amount for each circumstance?

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