Showing posts from 2022

The uselessness of polls and unsupported tanks

I had the dubious pleasure of reading this article by Nate Silver on Fivethirtyeight in which he tried to muster a lukewarm argument against critics of poll-based electoral predictions. Reading it, I got the feeling that it was an attempted response to recent arguments by various observers about the growing irrelevance of Silver, his poll algorithms (which have been more miss than hit since the 2016 election) and of the uselessness today of landline-based political polls.  Arguments like this: And this: Looking back, Fivethirtyeight’s response was as laughable as their  final prediction for the Senate in the US 2022 mid-terms  - and probably their  final prediction for the House .  Indeed, Fivethirtyeight’s 2022 predictions have been almost as useless as their  predictions for a Clinton win in 2016 . It makes me think of how the use of tanks in warfare has changed since WW2 - especially their use without infantry support  in an era of guided missiles (javelins, NLAWS, Panzerfausts etc

Message in a bottle: is the Fermi Paradox just a matter of time?

The Fermi Paradox is the conflict between the lack of clear, obvious evidence for extraterrestrial life and various high estimates for their existence. Numerous hypotheses have been offered to explain this paradox. I’m left wondering whether we aren’t just missing the obvious. What if we and other sentient, sufficiently advanced, life forms simply exist in time spans that never overlap? Consider: how long has humanity had the capacity to generate any significant radio signals? 100 years? And how long have we been capable of finding radio signals of a similar kind in the cosmos? Half of that? Our species has existed 1-3 million years and civilisation has only formed in the last 6-10 thousand. How long does a species last once it develops technology of the spacefaring kind?  Every indication suggests that our civilisation does not have all that much longer to run in relative terms. It could well end in the next 50-100 years - be it from nuclear war, uncontrollable pandemics or (more cert

The need to dispel propaganda rather than dismiss it

 Q+A host Stan Grant asked a young pro-Russian audience member to leave the studio after he made claims regarding the Azov Battalion. It’s a shame he did this without giving the young man and the rest of the audience a few myth-busting facts. Yes, the far-right “Azov Battalion” in Ukraine does exist. However it comprises only 900-2500 individuals - i.e. less than 1% of forces fighting the Russian invasion .  The Azov Battalion is a far-right paramilitary organisation. It has its parallel in various Russian and Belarusian fascist, anti-Semitic organisations (e.g. the “ Russian National Unity ” paramilitary movement). These far-right terrorist groups are all reprehensible - but hardly representative of any country in the so-called “ Russkiy Mir ” (the Azov movement’s political wing gained only   2.3% of the vote in the 2019 Ukrainian elections - not enough for a single seat).  So while Putin’s reference to “Nazis” has some basis in fact (in Eastern Ukraine, Russian separatists have f