The wrongness singularity

The blogosphere has been having its fun with this little bit of instant punditry from Glenn Reynolds:

Of course, if we seized the Saudi and Iranian oil fields and ran the pumps full speed, oil prices would plummet, dictators would be broke, and poor nations would benefit from cheap energy. But we’d be called imperialist oppressors, then.

Far be it from me to add anything to the trenchant political analysis already available. But as a Physics Blog, we feel it’s our duty here to point out the exciting scientific consequences that our more humanistical friends have thus far missed: the possibility that Prof. Reynolds has discovered a new state of wrongness.

You see, wrongness is a fermionic property. That is to say, a statement is either wrong or it is not wrong; you can’t pile on the wrongness to make a condensate of wrong. By the conventional rules, n declarative statements can be wrong at most n times. By the Pauli exclusion principle, you just can’t be more wrong than that!

I count four declarative statements in Instapundit’s two sentences. (“… prices would plummet,” “dictators would be broke,” “poor nations would benefit,” “we’d be called imperialist oppressors.”) Now let’s count how many time he is wrong.

  • prices would plummet — No, they wouldn’t. As it turns out, the Saudi and Iranian oil fields are running at very close to full capacity; any increase would be at most a perturbation.
  • dictators would be broke — Not sure which dictators we’re talking about here — the ones we just deposed? In fact, dictators have shown a remarkable ability to not be broke even in countries without vast stores of oil wealth.
  • poor nations would benefit — Because it’s really the poor countries that guzzle oil? This one baffles me.
  • we’d be called imperialist oppressors — Now, in a strict sense this is not wrong. We would be called that. Because invading sovereign countries in order to take over their natural resources is more or less the definition of imperialist oppression. However, Reynolds’ implication is clearly that we should not be called imperialist oppressors, that it would somehow be unfair. Which is crazy. So can we count that as wrong? Yes!

So indeed we count four instances of wrongness in only four declarative statements — Fermi degeneracy! No more wrongness should be possible.

But as Tim Lambert points out, Instapundit managed to be wrong yet another time, by begging a question and then getting the wrong answer!

  • The subjunctive clause opening the first sentence cleverly slides from invading Saudi Arabia and Iran to running pumps at full speed. Actually not something that would happen in the reality-based world! As Tim says, “Yeah, because that’s pretty much the way it worked out in Iraq.”

So in fact, Reynolds has managed to fit five units of wrongness into only four declarative statements! This is the hackular equivalent of crossing the Chandrasekhar Limit, at which point your blog cannot help but collapse in on itself. It is unknown at this point whether the resulting end state will be an intermediate neutron-blog phase, or whether the collapse will proceed all the way to a singularity surrounded by a black hole event horizon. We may have to wait for the neutrino signal to be sure.

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107 Responses to The wrongness singularity

  1. Jim says:

    Sean get three points for a great post!

  2. Robert the Red says:

    Perhaps there is an intermediate ‘strange matter’ collapsed state.

    On second thought, he’s already there.

  3. anon says:

    Wrongness is fermionic? Wouldn’t that mean two wrongs make a right?

  4. Ralph Hartley says:

    I’m fairly sure that wrongness is not fermionic.

    Many years ago, I saw some of my own work described in a semi-popular publication (which I will not name).

    One sentance in particular was striking in that it was wrong in at least ten ways, and was only ten words long.

    My co-author (their source) sometimes used language in a rather confusing way, so it may not have been completly their fault, but I don’t think I could have written a sentance like that without a lot of work.

    I don’t know what the true limit on wrongness density is, but using combinatorics it may be astronomical.

  5. Cynthia says:

    Speaking with extreme sarcasm, perhaps we can actually make Black Hole Complimentarity work on this warped argument.

  6. George Musser says:

    When millions of people make the same mistake, the only word that suffices to explain them is boson.

  7. jfaberuiuc says:

    Wait, can’t you have multiple wrong states overlapping so long as you spin them differently? Can Tony Snow or someone of his ilk be called in for an expert opinion on that?

  8. Belizean says:

    Reynold’s statement is, of course, in stark contrast to the meticulously researched, well-reasoned, sober commentary — utterly lacking in hyperbole — that is to be found at The Daily Kos.

  9. Bruce says:

    Thanks for crafting a particularly enjoyable blog post sure to be the highlight of my day :-).

  10. Cygnus says:

    Sean, unlike Fermi-Dirac or Bose-Einstein, you could hog the entire limelight for describing the statistics of the wrongons, and have something called the Sean distribution, for the statistics of wrongness of statements.

    Hurry up, I can smell a Theoretical Physics igNoble somehwere there!

    May I propose something like:

    f = frac{1}{ e^{ frac{epsilon – mu}{kT} } + i }

    Where |f|^2 is the degree of wrongness, and kT is the ambient stupidity, epsilon is the smartness of the person making the statement, and mu is a stupidity potential owing o the nature of the topic under discussion.

  11. Eugene says:

    Damn. I always thought wrongess is a classical property.

  12. efp says:

    I think this is indicative of superwrongitivity, where two wrongs effectively bind into a boson state, allowing an arbitrary number to occupy the same sentence. (An interesting side effect is that lines of logic are excluded from its interior, so absurd conclusions may be levitated on it.) I think we should call it “Reynolds-pairing.”

  13. Torbjörn Larsson says:

    Not to spoil a fantastic post but I think that if the cost of a commodity lowers all benefits. The wrongness could be that it isn’t only poor nations that benefit.

    The proposed analogy explains a lot. I note that before the collapse a blog may be observed to generate a degeneracy pressure that swamps the normal. The web neutrino signal would be light-weight and interact weakly with normal blogs.

  14. Tom Renbarger says:

    I got a kick out of the implication that Reynolds’s blog is presently supported by wrongness degeneracy. 🙂

  15. Uncle Al says:

    1) Thermonuke Arabian military and population centers.
    2) Take the oil.

    Politics is economics’ crinoline. War is too important to reside in the hands of inept civilians – especially those with a room temperature IQ who currently answer to the phrase “Mr. President.” If Patton had marched on the USSR, if MacArthur had marched on Korea and China, the world would be a much better place and have achieved it much sooner at much lower costs, both economic and human.

    It is never a wrong act to ablate your enemy, 11 September 2001 as example. What overall sum has Muslim terrorism invested? What counter sum has the US egregiously inefficiently, ineptly, and corruptly wasted driving bungs into the broad ends of funnels?

    A freebie for terrorists: Have volunteers simultaneously get caught at O’Hare, Dulles, LAX, Kennedy… with a pound of semtex snugged in their rectums and a detonating lanyard hanging out their browneyes. That will paralyze all US air travel short of SFO departure. (In the more likely event that even mooning Homeland Severity does not pique their Official interest, fly the friendly skies and pull the lanyards. Win win.)

  16. Arun says:

    Sean, you forgot your atheism. There are wrongness condensates that meet in church every Sunday.

    In any case, the Saudis have many hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the US; seizing their oil fields will not cause them to go broke.

  17. spyder says:

    Thanks Sean. This is quite well done, and funny as well. You will discover, when you finally move to SoCal, that states of wrongness are always challenged on the roads and highways by more wrongness. You cannot, for example, solve a wrong turn off the 210 or 118 simply by making a correct one. You need to make other ones that create ample opportunities to further the wrongness. Not so unlike this thread, that leads Uncle Al to further the wrongs by suggesting certain outcomes for which there are clearly no correct rationales. Much like driving in SoCal.

  18. Brad says:

    Of course, in this case, the collapse to a black hole will not need to radiate any information.

  19. Elliot says:

    Here is something else wrong which unfortunately may cause a wrongness recalculation.

    “If we seized the oil fields”….

    My guess is that the Iranians at a minimum would light the fields on fire before letting us take them over. So this statement also contains some hidden wrongness as well”

    But relax everyone… over time Hawking radiation will return the wrongness from the singularity leaking back into an accessible state.


  20. Johan Richter says:

    Falling oil prices would presumably help poor countries. Even if they do not use much oil now they could expand their consumption with lower prices.

  21. Miguelito says:

    Running the pumps at full speed in Saudi Arabia would be disastrous.

    Right now, in the Ghawar field of Saudi Arabia (the world’s largest oil field) amongst others, it requires 7 barrels of water pumped back into the reservoir (to keep reservoir pressures high) to recover 5 barrels of oil. Furthermore, water recoveries from the Ghawar field are above 50%. This is typical of very mature fields.

    These fields need to be heavily managed to remain productive. If you start pumping wildly from them, they will water out before their time and no more oil can be recovered.

    Thus, when he says “if we seized the Saudi and Iranian oil fields and ran the pumps full speed, oil prices would plummet…”, he may be right in the very short term, however, he is completely wrong in the long term because it will lead to a premature decrease in world oil supply.

  22. hack says:

    Give that man a Nobel Prize in Physics!

    And you thought Republicans were against science!

  23. Jake says:

    Yet another example of “real” scientists claiming to have discovered something that symantecists have known for decades or longer.

    The fifth state of wrongness you list there is of the class “presupposition failure.” Your earlier statements about wrongness are just, well, wrong.

  24. compass says:

    Very funny. However:

    Chandrasekhar’s Limit suggests that a neutron star or black hole forms when a solar mass of 1.44 times or greater that of our own sun collapses from lack of fuel.

    So, assuming Sol to be normative, (1.0 solar masses) what is the linguisitic equivalent? 1.0 actual errors per possible errors would seem to be a reasonable norm. If Reynolds is making errors at a 5/4 ratio, that equates to a decimal of 1.25, which does not exceed Chandrasekhar’s limit.

    So, in the end, we don’t have a neutron star or black hole. . .only a nova followed by a brown dwarf.

  25. clvrmnky says:

    Yet another example of “real” scientists claiming to have discovered something that symantecists have known for decades or longer.

    I challenge you to find one of these elusive “symantecists”. Even if they are as clever and gentle as you say, we have no physical evidence of their existence.