Saturday, January 30, 2010

You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Howard Zinn was a hero to me. Wise, nuanced and above all else, ethical, Zinn wrote history the way it should be written, unvarnished, accurate and from a point of view imbued with a sense of fairness and justice I have never seen in any other historian's writings. His People's History of the United States is a landmark piece, showing how the US was created from the perspective of the people who actually did the building, filled with prejudice, unenlightened self interest and stupidity while at the same time, showing that the nation created was valid and had real merit. The other quality Zinn had in abundance was the fact the man wrote like an angel.

"After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Zinn published a little piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled “Compassion, Not Vengeance.” Here is the last paragraph of the piece:"

“Our security can only come by using our national wealth, not for guns, planes, and bombs, but for the health and welfare of our people, and for people suffering in other countries. Our first thoughts should be not of vengeance, but of compassion, not of violence, but of healing.”

It doesn't get any better then that.

What the Supremes' Ruling Really Means

""The strength of America," Murray Hill Inc. said, "is in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America's great corporations. We're saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you, who? If not now, when?" Murray Hill Inc. added: "It's our democracy. We bought it, we paid for it, and we're going to keep it." Murray Hill Inc., a diversifying corporation in the Washington, D.C. area, has long held an interest in politics and sees corporate candidacy as an "emerging new market."

The campaign's "designated human," Eric Hensal, will help the corporation conform to "antiquated, human only" procedures and sign the necessary voter registration and candidacy paperwork. Hensal is excited by this new opportunity: "We want to get in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store is bought by China." Murray Hill Inc. plans on filing to run in the Republican primary in Maryland's 8th Congressional District."

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” - George Orwell

The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

– Part II, Chapter IX — The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

Monday, January 25, 2010

Boogie Board

Very cool tech. No batteries, no power needed, eliminates paper, $30. Awesome and I like the name as well. Boogie Board - Rock on big boy!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Loss of Party

The impact of tech on politics cannot be denied in spite of the disastrous decision of the supremes regarding unfettered money flowing into the bloated carcass of American Politics. At long last, the long desired demise of the two party system in the US is happening because the net allows for finer grained political views than Democrat or Republican to be disseminated into the world at little or no cost, a result which causes strategists of both parties to lose sleep at night worrying about lost revenues and influence, a situation yours truly finds to be most beneficial in a political system mired in corruption and incompetence.

"A year after George W. Bush’s chopper swung away from the Capitol and disappeared from sight, voters seem to have put his presidency behind them; they’re no longer willing to blame Republicans alone for high unemployment and rising gas prices, for home foreclosures and tuition hikes. The crises that Bush bequeathed to Democrats have now officially become theirs, and the notion of a great liberal realignment seems as retro as Friendster. A string of Democratic lawmakers, largely from rural and contested states, the kind of places that were supposed to now be more hospitable to Democrats than they were before, recently decided to pursue other careers rather than risk being turned out by wrathful voters. Party leaders who had once hoped to expand their majorities in November are now showing signs of panic as they scramble to stave off the prospect of crippling losses.

Having stormed the Democratic garrison in Massachusetts, Republicans might find this turn of events amusing — if it weren’t for the fact that it has nothing to do with even a hint of a resurgence on their part. The entire story line seems awfully familiar. It was only five years ago that Karl Rove, praised in Washington as a clairvoyant, was predicting his own conservative realignment, premised on a near-biblical exodus from the Democratic Party: a decisive number of black, Latino and elderly voters, persuaded by Bush’s re-forms of Social Security and immigration, were going to abandon the Democrats and enable Republicans to rule Washington for decades to come. That hallelujah chorus lasted for the few months it took for a Republican-dominated Congress to scrap Bush’s second-term agenda, leading to one of the more astonishing political collapses in history. Historians of the last century will note that one party — the Democrats — solidly controlled Congress, with only passing interruptions, for more than six decades, through recessions and wars and other challenges. The Gingrich-Bush-era Republicans, by contrast, managed to hold onto power for only 12 years; should Democrats lose their majorities in 2012 or even 2014, let alone this year, they will have ruled Washington for even less time than that.

The lesson here for strategists in both parties isn’t simply that making self-aggrandizing predictions is a sure way to make yourself look silly (though that wouldn’t be a bad one to take away, either). It’s more that this entire concept of Rooseveltian realignment is a wishful conceit that should be retired. The realigning swing of the pendulum is almost certainly a relic of another age, never to be replicated, or at least not in our lifetimes. One reason is that politics in the television (and now Internet) age are less transactional and more ideological than they were in the long period between the Civil War and civil rights. The old question of what a party can do for you, through patronage or populist economics, has largely been eclipsed by the question of whether a party shares your convictions — about the role of government, the use of force, abortion and stem cells. It’s probably harder to build an enduring majority based on, say, gun rights than it was to do so by doling out local jobs.

Even more consequential, though, is the fast-growing swath of voters who can summon no affinity for either party. As in other aspects of modern American life, brand allegiance in politics is at an all-time low; more than a third of Americans (and more than half of all Massachusetts voters) identify themselves as independents rather than as members of the blue team or the red. The most prevalent ideology of the era seems to be not liberalism nor conservatism so much as anti-incumbency, a reflexive distrust of whoever has power and a constant rallying cry for systemic reform."

It's only a matter of time where the majority of people running for office will run as generic independents with viewpoints nuanced to real personal beliefs and not to party line, a trend seen by Brown winning as a "token" Republican yet did not utter that term on his acceptance speech. Hopefully this independent movement will make it more difficult for the monied interests to funnel cash into campaigns but I am not too sanguine about this desired effect as he who has the cash rules and the supremes made sure that edict is written in stone.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Next Revolution

The rise of the tablet computer will change everything in terms of how we deal with content. Why? Because true portability and real compute power combined with ease of use and proper form factor will transform computing into a wireless 24/7 connect space of unprecedented pervasiveness. Prior to these devices, nothing truly portable and elegant has come out save that of the smart phone.

Netbooks "kinda" work but one still has to flip out a screen and then type or use a mouse/finger pad to use the device, something not as convenient as reading a book or newspaper while sitting on the john.

With a table, if done right, fingers, stylus, keyboard or multi touch, combined with a cool interface, will enable one to interact with the system with appropriate "softness" like reading a book. If done right, everyone will want one, something Apple wants to happen big time.

As a suggestion, click on The Computing Surface to see the BRT blurb on how I would like to interact with one of these bad boys.

Addendum: I'll pass on iPad Rev 1.0 at this point in time as it doesn't have what I think is needed for this platform to be truly disruptive. Rev 2.0 might be but one never knows do one. :(.

Addendum 2: Touchco (The Computing Surface) was bought by Amazon. The battle for tablets has just begun.

This Sentence is False

This sentence is false or the Liar's Paradox is apropos when considering the Supremes and the abdication of spending limits on campaigns, a decision which, on the face of it, states "Freedom of Speech" is reestablished while in reality, the voice of the people becomes moot. When looking at this egregious act of granting more power to the rich and connected as possible catalyst, one sees eerie parallels to the French Revolution whereby the monarchy could not and would not meet the needs of the bourgeois, the same situation our struggling middle class faces today as seen by recent actions of the banks, government, lobbyists and corporations.

As stated in prior posts, here are some viable reasons for possible violence:

  1. The real depression is about to begin as we have no money, debt is going through the roof and the bear market boom, floated by tax payer money and doled out by Wall Street, is running out of steam.
  2. Outrageous perks continue to be given to the banks even though they, in combination with government, created the crash in the first place (Rubin, Graham, Reagan, Bushes, Clinton & Obama along with Summers, Geithner & Paulson among significant others).
  3. The Heath Care debacle whereby Congress enjoys single payer paid by us, for life along with salaries and perks for life (one term does the deed) while the US has none save that of Medicare (paid by us and rightfully so) for seniors.
When seen through the eyes of armed, foreclosed and jobless Joe Six Pack, who can no longer feed his family, the stage is set for violent anger to make it's ugly face known. Because of this, if I were a financial type living in Greenwich, CT or related environs, I would begin to pucker up a bit because the clock's ticking and something needs to be done to get this country moving again (Leadership from Obama would help, don't you think?) in the right direction before it's too late.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No Doubt Anymore

One of the most ancient and mysterious of creatures, the nautilus moves through the deep oceans with infinite patience and consummate slowness. Around for over 500 million years, this denizen of the deep, along with all other sea life, is now threatened by CO2, the gas produced in overabundance by man.

"Principal investigator Robert Byrne, a USF seawater physical chemistry professor, said the study leaves no doubt that growing CO2 levels in the atmosphere are exerting major impacts on the world’s oceans.

“If this happens in a piece of ocean as big as a whole ocean basin, then this is a global phenomenon,” Byrne said.

Adding carbon dioxide to seawater makes it more acidic, and each year the world’s oceans absorb about one-third of the atmospheric CO2 produced by human activities...

The results verify earlier model projections that the oceans are becoming more acidic because of the uptake of carbon dioxide released as a result of fossil fuel burning, said Richard Feely, a member of the research team and chief scientist of the cruise and NOAA researcher from the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

The implications for sea life and the world’s food web are serious, Byrne said. When seawater becomes more acidic, lower concentrations of carbonate result. Because the protective shells of sea organisms are made of calcium and carbonate, more acidic waters make it more difficult for many organisms to make their shells and thrive. .

Over the next millennium, the global oceans are expected to absorb approximately 90 percent of the CO2 emitted to the atmosphere, says Christopher Sabine, chief scientist for the first leg of the cruise.

"It is now established from models that there is a strong possibility that dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean surface will double over its pre-industrial value by the middle of this century, with accompanying surface ocean pH decreases that are greater than those experienced during the transition from ice ages to warm ages," Sabine said. "The uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide by the ocean changes the chemistry of the oceans and can potentially have significant impacts on the biological systems in the upper oceans."

“Estimates of future atmospheric and oceanic CO2 concentrations, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenarios and general circulation models, indicate that by the middle of this century atmospheric CO2 levels could reach more than 500 ppm, and near the end of the century they could be over 800 ppm. Current levels are near 390 ppm, and preindustrial levels were near 280 ppm," Feely said.

Corresponding models for the oceans indicate that surface water pH would drop approximately 0.4 pH units, and the carbonate ion concentration would decrease almost 50 percent by the end of the century. This surface ocean pH would be lower than it has been for more than 20 million years.

Byrne and many other scientists expect that even if substantial reductions are made in the pace at which humans produce carbon dioxide, ocean acidification will continue for hundreds of years to come. "

James Lovelock's' dire prediction looms.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Limits of Knowledge

Just finished a terrific book about Alan Turing and Kurt Godel titled A Madman Dreams of Turning Machines by Janna Levin, a work, acting as catalyst, encourages one to think about computability, incompleteness and uncertainty, three concepts defined by Turing, Godel and Werner Heisenberg, which, in every way imaginable, has changed man's view of reality forever.

Alan Turing, the seminal genius who rightfully can be called the father of computing and Artificial Intelligence, articulated the premise of computability via the Universal Turing Machine, the predecessor to all things digital and AI.

Kurt Godel, the sly, paranoid logician, formally proved truth and provability forever reside in different domains...

"The proof of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem is so simple, and so sneaky, that it is almost embarassing to relate. His basic procedure is as follows:

As for Werner Heisenberg, his Uncertainty Principle proves that man's ability to truly see all aspects of reality will remain beyond his reach until the end of time.

"In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that certain pairs of physical properties, like position and momentum, cannot both be known to arbitrary precision. That is, the more precisely one property is known, the less precisely the other can be known. This statement has been interpreted in two different ways. According to Heisenberg its meaning is that it is impossible to determine simultaneously both the position and velocity of an electron or any other particle with any great degree of accuracy or certainty."

"One must know one's limitations." - Dirty Harry

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lips on a Pig

Really intelligent commentary on why business types should never be involved with tech by MurryC.

"Checked into Amazon to buy a couple of new books for my eReader. Lo and behold, here's what I find for my book of choice: mass market paperback (the physical object that costs money to make, stock and ship) @ $10.17

the Kindle version (that has no production costs at all and almost none for distribution) @ $9.99

A differential cost of $0.18??!! Wait, it gets better. I can buy a new version (hardback) for $6.71! (granted, not from Amazon, but still...)

I thought the record companies were the stupidest folks I'd seen, but at least they had the excuse of going first.

Don't know if the blame ought to land on Amazon or the publisher, but regardless this is not a rational business model. Rather, the triumph of quarterly earnings quotas that comes with subservience to the toxic combination of large media companies and 28-year old Wall Street MBAs telling you what revenue you ought to make...then slagging you if you don't. A great way to destroy any planning horizon longer than 90 days.

Short answer, if this continues I stop buying, even if the product is attractive. Too bad Amazon doesn't have the balls of Apple to break the busted business models of dinosaur conglomerates. (Can you tell I'm pissed off? Oh, as a counter-example the NYTimes has the good sense to charge less for a Reader subscription than the cost of buying the physical object--at least for now. Let's hope some other 28-year old MBA at a consulting company doesn't get the ear of the C-suite and screws that pooch.)"

The disconnect of tech to business never ends, (this also applies to politics and finance as well) a subject to be discussed in depth by yours truly and the esteemed MurryC in Everything's Alive, Part II.

28th Amendment

Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States ".

In fact, this amendment should not be required because its dictate should automatically apply as members of Congress are US Citizens, thus they must, in fact, obey the laws they pass. Simply unreal but then again, nothing surprises me when it comes to politics and the exclusionary practices conducted by these so called representatives of the American People.

End of rant, must control myself from really venting. I feel like Dr. Strangelove and the uncooperative hand that rises up whenever the good doctor wishes to make a point. :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stupidity Bomb

"Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy.

Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list.

“Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.”

Michael Winston Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled.

The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried."

Paying stupid people minimum wage to do security at an airport is akin to giving a suicide bomber first class seats on Flight 44 to NYC, don't you think? Question 2, why isn't the idiot who frisked Mikey not fired?

Things to ponder in the land of the uniformed and slothful, where tech becomes a weapon wielded by the incompetent against the innocent.

Doing the Right Thing

"He who controls the present, controls the past, he who controls the past, controls the future." - George Orwell

Google's decision to remove censorship on search engine results in China coupled with it's threat to abandon a huge market there takes guts and integrity, something not often seen in big business. Also, it's a huge wake up call in terms of why no government should EVER be allowed to control the web in any fashion as the net is the last bastion of freedom man has.

"First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers."

After reading this, I am struck by the fact most politicians have little idea of just how smart the people who run the net are. The other interesting fact is: complex systems are fragile and easily broken especially when you have intelligent people doing the breaking. China could learn about this inconvenient truth in the near future if it continues to do the kind of crap they are doing because if their web environment is rendered isolated from the rest of the world, business will plummet there, a reality which could spark a revolution, something the leaders of China dread above all else in trying to move their country into super power status while maintaining dictatorial control over its citizens.

"Most of the bright people don't work for you -- no matter who you are." - Bill Joy


"Peoples Daily, citing a Cabinet official's comments in November, said companies must help the government keep the Internet safe and fight online pornography and cyberattacks.

Web companies must abide by "propaganda discipline," the official, Wang Chen, was quoted as saying. "Companies have to concretely increase the ability of Internet media to guide public opinion in order to uphold Internet safety."

Also Thursday, a law professor and human rights lawyer, Teng Biao, wrote on his blog that someone broke into his Gmail account and forwarded e-mail to another account. Teng said he did not know whether he was one of two Chinese activists mentioned by Google as hacking targets.

"Google leaving China makes people sad, but accepting censorship to stay in China and abandoning its `Don't Be Evil' principles is more than just sad," Teng wrote.

Another Beijing human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, says his Gmail account was hacked in November and important materials taken, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group announced. Jiang has represented Tibetan activists and advised people with AIDS who are seeking government help.

Outside the Google offices, some visitors poured small glasses of liquor, a Chinese funeral ritual.

One man left a copy of Peoples Daily, which he said represented the tightly controlled state media that China's public would be left with if Google pulls out and censorship continues.

"Google is the true hero in this silent city," said a note left outside the building in the capital's Haidian technology district. Referring to the government Web filter, popularly known as the "Great Firewall," another note said, "The tallest walls cannot divide people's sentiments. Google: Bye, let's meet on the other side of the wall."

Let the battle begin.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fragility Explained

In indirect fashion, Bucky Katt shows the inherent fragility of complex systems, something man needs to understand before developing seemingly simple tech (bioengineered/processed food, salmon farming, dams, etc., etc., etc) able to impact the environment in unforeseen ways.

Blowback is the operative term here.

Any questions? :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Emergent Properties

Back in 2007, BRT discussed the fantastic theoretical properties of E8, a mathematical object possessing 248 dimensions, the most complex entity ever conceived by man, a construct never thought to exist in nature, but in actuality, it does...

Strange things occurred when the experimenters applied a powerful 5.5-Tesla magnetic field perpendicular to the direction of these electron "magnets". Patterns appeared spontaneously in the electron spins in the chains – in a simplified example with three electrons, the spins could read up-up-down or down-up-down, among other possibilities. Each distinct pattern has a different energy associated with it.

The ratio of these different energy levels showed that the electron spins were ordering themselves according to mathematical relationships in E8 symmetry.

Complex symmetry

Alexander Zamolodchikov, currently at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, pointed out in 1989 that the theoretically predicted energies of such systems match expectations from E8 symmetry.

But the underlying reason why is still mysterious. Robert Konik of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, who was not involved in the experiment, says the fact that such a simple system – essentially consisting of one-dimensional chains of magnets – should display such complex symmetry is surprising.

"Just sort of looking at the system, you wouldn't necessarily expect it to occur," he told New Scientist. It is "remarkable" to see this rather exotic piece of mathematics appear in the real world, he adds.

When looking at this emergence of something totally unexpected, one is struck by how common this actually is in nature, particularly when examining chaos and how complexity comes forth from simple actions like the moon orbiting the earth (Strange Attractors/Henon Curve)

or the impact of initial conditions on events like financial markets or changes in the weather. (butterfly effect).

Because of this, it's obvious Black Swans or unexpected events of great impact occur without question, a concept that should be taught to students of all ages to better prepare them to deal with the vagaries of the real world. For proper edification of same, here are a few examples of why black swans rule:

  • 2008 financial crash
  • The Great Depression of 1929
  • 9/11
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Theory of Relativity
  • Penicillin
  • Tsunami of 2004
  • Katrina
  • Bach
  • Alexander the Great
  • Avatar
  • "W"
  • Obama
  • Shakespeare
  • Etc., etc., etc.
"And the beat goes on." - The Whispers

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Call to Action

My good friend Marty's an artful instigator as he often tells me, "Being an observer is not acceptable, being present is", a state of mind I find difficult to achieve but then again, I am not nearly as proficient, as Marty is, in the art of Zen and how best to use it to achieve harmony with one's reality but I'll give it a shot in being present while discussing how we can impact society in beneficial ways.

In the two years writing BRT, I've learned a great deal about reality, perception, art and creativity. At the same time, I've learned that morality is something personal and essential if we are to survive as a viable species on, in Carl Sagan's words, "this Pale Blue Dot, the only home we have ever known. "

Taking action to change the world centers on, IMHO, these common sense actions we all can do with just a little bit of effort.
  • Demand Excellence - To become good at anything requires sacrifice
  • Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish - Stewart Brand's motto
  • Have Passion - Without it, nothing of consequence ever gets done
  • Exercise Mental Discipline - Rigorous thinking at high level requires effort
  • Take Risks - Creativity requires it
  • Have Courage - Stating what you believe in takes guts
  • Be Curious - It's the only way to grow
  • Be Non Judgemental - Close mindedness simply doesn't work in today's connected world
  • Be Relational - Nothing works in isolation
  • Network With Others - We are social animals, be one
  • Question Everything - Einstein's mantra to becoming informed
  • Learn Economics - Especially on how money is created. The facts will blow you away
  • Admit Ignorance - The smartest people have no problem saying "I don't know."
  • Share - That how the Net works
  • Be Flexible - Chaos rules, black swans are everywhere. To think otherwise is folly
  • Be Lucky - Attitude plays a very big part on this number
  • Be Positive - No one wants to be around a downer
  • Don't Quit - It's easy to punt and let others manage your life
  • Read - Absolute necessity to becoming educated
  • Learn About Tech - It's pervasive 24/7. Ignore it at your peril
  • Be Connected - It starts with people and extends to the Net
  • Learn About Science - Science & research drives tech, period
  • Be Ethical - Without it, civilizations break down
  • Learn to Say No - This give one power when properly applied
  • Learn to Say Yes - This give one power when properly applied
  • Improvise - Jazz, science and art are founded on it, so is play
  • Write - It's hard at first but, as Picasso said, practice makes better
  • Steal (in a good way) - Picasso's motto: "good artists create, great artist steal"
  • Adapt - Change rules, work with it, not against it
  • Laugh - It's good for the soul
  • Cry - That works too
  • Be Amazed - Reality is all that and more
  • Take Responsibility - Something not done enough in today's troubled world
  • Become Educated - Admitting ignorance is ok, doing nothing about it, isn't
  • Don't be Afraid of Making Mistakes - It's how one learns
  • Beginner's Mind - Keeps one young
  • Letting Go - Zen is the best way to describe it
  • Contribute - It's how things get done
  • Vote - it's a start
  • Demand Data Transparency in Governance & Finance - It's the only way democracy can work
  • Organize - There's power in numbers
  • Help Each Other - One cannot do it alone
  • Play - Kids do it all the time, why not adults
  • Day Dream - Imagination depends on it & the brain requires it
  • Don't Try, Do - Marty's & Yoda's mantra
  • Get Going - Enough talk, do

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Golden Mean

The Golden Mean - in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratio... not only is perceived as a standard bearer of beauty for over 2400 years but also, through the use of Fibnacci Numbers, has enabled man to learn how nature works in elegant ways. (arrangement of leaves on trees, shell spirals, rabbit propagation :) & sunflower whorls as well as studies into chaos and the dimensions of the monolith in 2001 etc., etc.)

If that was not enough, it appears 1.618 lives in the quantum world as well.

"On the atomic scale particles do not behave as we know it in the macro-atomic world. New properties emerge which are the result of an effect known as the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. In order to study these nanoscale quantum effects the researchers have focused on the magnetic material cobalt niobate. It consists of linked magnetic atoms, which form chains just like a very thin bar magnet, but only one atom wide and are a useful model for describing ferromagnetism on the nanoscale in solid state matter.

When applying a magnetic field at right angles to an aligned spin the magnetic chain will transform into a new state called quantum critical, which can be thought of as a quantum version of a fractal pattern. Prof. Alan Tennant, the leader of the Berlin group, explains "The system reaches a quantum uncertain - or a Schrödinger cat state. This is what we did in our experiments with cobalt niobate. We have tuned the system exactly in order to turn it quantum critical."

By tuning the system and artificially introducing more quantum uncertainty the researchers observed that the chain of atoms acts like a nanoscale guitar string. Dr. Radu Coldea from Oxford University, who is the principal author of the paper and drove the international project from its inception a decade ago until the present, explains: "Here the tension comes from the interaction between spins causing them to magnetically resonate. For these interactions we found a series (scale) of resonant notes: The first two notes show a perfect relationship with each other. Their frequencies (pitch) are in the ratio of 1.618…, which is the golden ratio famous from art and architecture." Radu Coldea is convinced that this is no coincidence. "It reflects a beautiful property of the quantum system - a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material", he explains."

"Beauty is not caused. It is." - Emily Dickinson

Pretzel Logic

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Trinity: I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing... why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You're looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
Neo: What is the Matrix?
Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.

I quote this after chancing upon the Shadow Elite, a book that describes those who "really" run the world and the impact they are having on civilization. Chilling, non-conspiratorial and succinct, Janine R. Wedel's writing reminds me of The Matrix, something evanescent, mysterious and subtlety powerful.

"In today's messy world, trust is elusive. People we once held up as experts for their credentials can no longer be trusted to be impartial. Many public figures and "experts" of all stripes -- left, right, or center -- perform overlapping roles without fully disclosing them. While they purport to operate in the public interest, these "flexians" structure their roles and involvements to serve their own agendas. Their true loyalties and agendas are not fully revealed or easily detected. Practicing what has been called an "evolving door," they move beyond the revolving door of the past.

These players are a logical product of the way that governing and society have been reconstituted in recent decades (eased by such trends as the explosion of consulting and other private entities performing government functions, the boom of government advisory boards, the global fragmentation of authority wrought by the end of the Cold War, and the embrace of what Stephen Colbert has dubbed "truthiness"). Meanwhile, other parts of society and culture, like our
monitoring and accountability systems, have not kept up. Thus, while ostensibly serving the public interest, these players can also serve their own. And how would we even know?"

In many ways, this disconnect between "governance" and power reminds me of the lack of understanding most people have about tech and the net, two constructs changing society in ways which extend beyond our ability to fully comprehend, much less manage at a meaningful level. While reading this important book, I realize just how vitally important freedom of information truly is and how the lack of same is allowing the "select few" to "manage" the world without our consent, something very disturbing to say the least. To remain uninformed and passive no longer works as we move beyond the world of the 'aughts.

"Civilization in its present form hasn't got long." - James Lovelock