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That a world-mapping should include our assumptions

Friday, May 13th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Lorenz’ butterfly : tornado :: Fukushima’s rat : earthquake? + Brussles metro attack ]
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Brussels map
Brussels metro & tramway map

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For every unintended consequence, there’s an assumption that was assumed and thus overlooked, forgotten, unfairly assigned to oblivion, amirite? Sometimes we’re fortunate, and a pattern emerges that can then be written into checklists, and repeat unintended consequences subsequently averted, if we heed the checklists, ahem.

Consider this stunning paragraph, from a Union of concerned Scientists‘ 2013 piece titled Fission Stories #133: Mayflies, and Squirrels, and Rats, …:

Fukushima Daiichi recently received worldwide media attention when another power outage once again interrupted cooling of the water in the Unit4 spent fuel pool for several hours. The culprits in 2011 were an earthquake that knocked out the normal supply of electricity to the cooling system and a tsunami that disabled the backup power source. This time, a rat was the culprit. It chewed through the insulation on an electrical cable, exposing wires that shorted out and stopped the cooling system. It was also the rat’s final meal as the event also electrocuted the guilty party.

Part of what’s so conceptually audacious here is the implicit risk equation, okay, perhaps I should call it the implicit risk approximation:

earthquake = rat

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Take the Brussels metro attack: in my less-than-graphically-ideal mapping below, the left hand column shows what was intanded by the police to be the order of events as they initiated them in response to the airport attack a little earlier:

01

while the two centered annotations in red indicate the unverified assumption that interfered with the sequence of events as intended by the police, and the right hand column shows what actually transpired.

Exceopt that the situation was wildly more complex than that — a point not germane to my argument here, but elaborated upon in today’s WaPo article, The email that was supposed to prevent the Brussels metro attack was sent to the wrong address. Which see.

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Getting back to Fukushima, the earthquake and the rat, perhaps we can now take the title of Edward Lorenz‘ remarable paper that gave us the term “butterfly effect” — Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas? — out of the realm of speculation, and into the realm of improbable yet actualized comparables, by rephrasing it thus: Predictability: Does the Bite of a Rat’s Teeth in Fukushima Have Comparable Effect to an Earthquake in Fukushima?

Oh, and just because something is predictable doesn’t mean it’s predicted — and just because something is predicted doesn’t mean the prediction will be heard or heeded.

And that’s an anticipable consequence of the way we are.

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In the matter of Quixote:

I have this quixotic wish to see a map of global dependencies — it’s something I’ve thought about ever since Don Beck told me “Y2K is like a lightning bolt: when it strikes and lights up the sky, we will see the contours of our social systems” — and I’ve talked about it here before, in eg Mapping our interdependencies and vulnerabilities [with a glance at Y2K].

It’s a windmill, agreed — a glorious windmill! — and indeed, combining all our potential assumptions about even one single Belgian metro station in the course of just one particular morning and adding them to a map — or a checklist — would be another.

Tilting at windmills, however, is one of the great games of the imagination, frowned upon by all the righteously serious among us, well-suited to poets — and having the potential to help us avoid those damned unintended consequences.

Reminders, and other signs

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the camps, theirs and ours, and nuking Mecca, with a pinch of Lynch ]
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Here are the reminders..

SPEC DQ reminders

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These DoubleQuotes arose in the context of comments by Georgetown Syria specialist Marc Lynch, better known on the web as the blogger Abu Aardvark, on a recent On the Media podcast:

The kinds of ideas that you are seeing espoused by presidential candidates right now are the sorts of things that you would have seen on obscure right-wing blogs twelve years ago, and now they’re being taken seriously on the op-ed pages. The idea that you would have a religious test for Syrian refugees to let Christians but not Muslims in, or that you would create a national registry to track Muslims, or to shut down mosques – I mean, these are radical fringe ideas, and yet they’ve insinuated themselves into the mainstream.

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Here’s the evolution of an idea, from 2005 to the present. You’ll note that the rhetoric has gained intensity (the qualification “if they nuke us” has been dropped), but in this case the earlier source (Fox) was more mainstream, and the current one (WND) way deeper into the fringe..

SPEC DQ nuke mecca

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Sources:

  • Raw Story, Trump crosses the Nazi line: Maybe Muslims should wear special ID badges
  • Raw Story, Rhode Island Republican wants Syrian refugees held in ‘centralized’ camps

  • Fox News, Tancredo: If They Nuke Us, Bomb Mecca
  • World NetDaily, Bomb Mecca off the face of the earth

  • On the Media, Lessons Unlearned
  • Sunday surprise: nunchucks and katana

    Sunday, November 15th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — weaponry in advertising and robotics — just some light weekend viewing ]
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    You may have seen these already — they go nicely together, I think, though I might be hard pressed to say why.

    and:

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    Further reading:

  • The Bruce Lee Ping Pong Video. Cool, But Not Real
  • Samurai Robot Challenges Human Sword Master
  • Sunday surprise: mathematical religion

    Sunday, November 8th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — divine geometry in Japan ]
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    The sacred nature of number should not surprise us, though it often does. Here is the Neoplatonist Proclus, as quoted in Dantzig, Number: the Language of Science, p.78:

    It is told that those who first brought out the irrationals from concealment into the open perished in shipwreck, to a man. For the unutterable and the formless must needs be concealed. And those who uncovered and touched this image of life were instantly destroyed and shall remain forever exposed to the play of the eternal waves.

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    Here are two offerings from a Buddhist shrine in Japan:

    Japanese Buddhist Offering 19.50

    and

    Japanese Buddhist Offering 19.47

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    I found them in this delightful account of the Soroban or Japanese abacus:

    The section on mathematical offerings begins around the 19.40 mark and goes to 20.18 — but the whole video is worth your attention.

    Raijin Fury

    Sunday, June 7th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — for Ibn Siqilli, Gilles Poitras and JM Berger, three friends with eyes on graphical culture, and Thomas Hegghammer, who knows the importance of such matters ]
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    Raijin 602 2

    Dr-Strangelove

    logo 602

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    Sources:

  • Tawaraya Sotatsu, Fujin-raijin-zu
  • Squidnova, Dr Strangelove
  • No governmental patch, Stellar Raijin
  • — nor should we forget “the dragon on smoke”:

  • Hokusai, The dragon on smoke escaping from Mt Fuji
  • **

    fuji-koryuu


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