zenpundit.com » science

Archive for the ‘science’ Category

A SITREP in four DoubleQuotes, holding the fifth for now

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — our substitute fifth today being a fine quote from a review of two books about analyzing humor, coming to us from down under ]
.

The purpose of this post it to present four facets of the present moment so as to leave a fifth perspective uncluttered for a later post..:

**

DQ #1: Complexity squared:

Presenting two papers which sum up the huge diversity of definitions which complexity and terrorism respectively are prone to:

It’s hard to say, exactly what terrorism is, but it’s no easier to define complexity- and when you think of the pair of them intersecting, the result is along the lines of complexity squared..

Sources:

:

  • Seth Lloyd, Measures of Complexity: a non–exhaustive list
  • Alex Schmid, The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism
  • Further, here’s a striking quote here from Alex Schmid:

    A description how [the Academic Consensus Definition] was arrived at can be found on pp. 39 – 98 of Alex P. Schmid (Ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. London and New York: Routledge, 2011. The same volume also contains 260 other definitions compiled by Joseph J. Easson and Alex P. Schmid on pp. 99 – 200.

    and a complexity analogy with electromagnetism from Seth Lloyd:

    An historical analog to the problem of measuring complexity is the problem of describing electromagnetism before Maxwell’s equations. In the case of electromagnetism, quantities such as electric and magnetic forces that arose in different experimental contexts were originally regarded as fundamentally different. Eventually it became clear that electricity and magnetism were in fact closely related aspects of the same fundamental quantity, the electromagnetic field. Similarly, contemporary researchers in architecture, biology, computer science, dynamical systems, engineering, finance, game theory, etc., have defined different measures of complexity for each field. Because these researchers were asking the same questions about the complexity of their different subjects of research, however, the answers that they came up with for how to measure complexity bear a considerable similarity to each other.

    Complexity, illustrated:

    Nothing in that image of waves lapping and overlapping on a shoreline could not in theory be explained in terms of von Kármán‘s equation for the “shedding” of vortices in a vortex street — but the breaking of waves across the coast of California –mathematicians can name the laws involved, but accurately describe the details over the last four decades from an Diego to Eureka? Waves bouncing off a fractal coastline?

    Ahem, it’s complex. Though I suppose Ali Minai might inform me it’s not so much complex as complicated.

    Consider, then, the complexity, complicated nature, or wickedness of the problem of definition in our two cases..

    **

    DQ #2: Yet another Uncertainty Principle:

    I’d been thinking about the timeline of black swan takeoffs, thinking we might know roughly what the next five years could bring, but far out, farther out.. who knows? With this President, however, I’m forced to say Peter Baker is closer to the mark here than I’ve been thus far.

    Time to adjust to the flappings of black wings…

    Sources & quotes..

    Both are quotes I overheard on MSNBC a couple of days ago, but didn’t have anything to hand with which to note program or time.

    **

    Dq #3: Cap’n’caps:

    To cap it off, you have to admit the feeling is clear..

    Here we see two kinds of explosive — the cap represents an explosive attitude, the caps the explosive power of 9mm rounds.

    Let me put it this way: the sense of the two ads is twofold — security and threat, and the threat may make some of us insecure.

    **

    And to end on a lighter note, laughing at the way one bureaucracy can disagree with another..
    DQ #4: Nature rejects, Nobel awards:

    It is with intense satisfaction that observers note the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine this year was awarded to Sir Peter Ratcliffe, for work that Nature, arguably the world’s top science journal, had earlier rejected.

    Note also that HM the Queen was ahead of the Nobrl committee, having given Peter Ratcliffe a knighthood in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

    But then Nobel Prizes are belated recognitions of what has long been obvious..

    **

    Okay, I’m holding the fifth DQ for its own post — but here to compensate is another entry in our budding encyclopedia of ouroboroi, this one from Ben Juers at the Sydney Review of Books, Stepping on Rakes:Terry Eagleton’s Humourand Peter Timms’ Silliness:

    ‘If you want to raise a laugh it is unwise to joke and dissect your joke at the same time’, Eagleton writes in the introduction, ‘but there are not many comedians who come up with a theoretical inquiry into their wisecracks at the very moment they are delivering them.’ No sooner had I scrawled ‘um, Stewart Lee?!’ unreadably in the margins than Eagleton butted in: ‘There are, to be sure, exceptions, such as the brilliantly original comedian Stewart Lee, who deconstructs his own comedy as he goes along and analyses the audience’s response to it.’

    Talk about self-referential! Let me count the ways..

    Clearly I need to watch me some Stewart Lee.

    Cascading effects of critical transitions

    Monday, September 9th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — for Ali Minai and Mike Sellers, my complexity maven friends ]
    .

    Complexity at intersections and overlaps.

    My intuition catches this from memories of Carmel and Big Sur, and my general snese of waves crashing on waves –and with a little searching, I find my instinct beautifully expressed in this detail from Henrique Pinto‘s gorgeous Rocks & waves @ Big Sur #4, CA:

    The approach from science-side delivers this:

    The authors said their paper, published in the journal Science, highlights how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises.

    Unwelcome surprises, unanticipated consequences, unknown unknowns, what’s the odds?

    From the article page:

    Cascading effects of regime shifts

    The potential for regime shifts and critical transitions in ecological and Earth systems, particularly in a changing climate, has received considerable attention. However, the possibility of interactions between such shifts is poorly understood. Rocha et al. used network analysis to explore whether critical transitions in ecosystems can be coupled with each other, even when far apart (see the Perspective by Scheffer and van Nes). They report different types of potential cascading effects, including domino effects and hidden feedbacks, that can be prevalent in different systems. Such cascading effects can couple the dynamics of regime shifts in distant places, which suggests that the interactions between transitions should be borne in mind in future forecasts.

    I’ve been saying this, notably here, and thinking it for quite a while longer: in particular, I’d imagine a lot of waves of climate migration will founder on the rocks of nationalism and religion..

    In honor of the SuperBowl, which I as a Brit know nothing about

    Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — the curious language and precise scientific timing of tomorrow’s game ]
    .

    The curious language of the Superbowl:

    Memorable Trick Plays of Super Bowls Past

    Sometimes trick plays are all about players’ resourcefulness—what they’re willing to do with what they’ve got. Last year, at Super Bowl LII, Nick Foles, the Eagles’ backup quarterback, who has become known for his fighting spirit and mystifyingly magic touch, called and executed perhaps the most famous trick play in recent history, “The Philly Special,” which is actually a combination of three lesser trick plays: a snap to the running back, a pitch to the tight end, and a pass to the quarterback. In 2006, at Super Bowl XL, the Steelers pulled off a similarly discombobulating series of tricks-within-a-trick, a fake double-reverse pass that ended with a forty-three-yard touchdown pass by Antwaan Randle El, the receiver with the golden arm.

    Other trick plays come from coaches with no-guts-no-glory attitudes, who approach games as if they are leading the Spartans into battle. In 2010, at Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints’ coach, Sean Payton, successfully called the first ever onside kick to be attempted before the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl game (a play he nicknamed The Ambush).

    There’s a video on the New Yorker page those paras are taken from, but I’m not going to steal it — if you’re into [American] football, you should go watch it there, and read the whole piece while you’re at it!

    Eh?

    Somewhere else, I saw a reference to “throwing the hook and ladder” — would anyone care to translate? That’s the most troublesome of the phrases I’ve seen, but “snap to the running back, a pitch to the tight end, and a pass to the quarterback” (above) comes close — what’s the difference between a “snap”, a “pitch”, and a “pass”? — and a “double-reverse pass” (above, likewise) — what’s that? Do two reverses make a straightforward? If not, why not?

    Oh, and then a friend mentioned “flea flickers” and “quarterback sneaks”. Language is a terrific sport!

    **

    The precise scientific timing of the Superbowl:

    For nerds who may wonder, turning aside from the upcoming game to my twitter feed, there’s this:

    What Time Is the Super Bowl?

    6:30 p.m. is the time the Super Bowl will start in Atlanta. Most of us are not in Atlanta. So for us, the game will start later than that. You need the time for the images to be captured by the cameras, be broadcasted to air or cable, be captured by my TV screen, leave my TV screen, get to my eyes (not to mention the time my brain needs to process and decode the images). You may say this is fast — of course this is fast. But it takes some time nevertheless, and I am a physicist, I need precision. For most of us, the game will actually start some time later than the kickoff in Atlanta.

    **

    Popcorn?

    GBG: another form of associative linkage

    Friday, January 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — a meander to ponder, wonder, wander, a maze to amaze, or as CS Peirce might say, a muse to amuse, an amuse-bouche ]
    .

    Here’s a quick, long run-down of my HipBone games, where they came from, and where they’ll be going if book and online game plans come together.

    My various HipBone and related games are intended as playable variants on Hermann Hesse‘s great Glass Bead Game (GBG for short).

    You remember this?

    As I said before:

    I don’t know how Theodor von Kármán came by his Vortex Street, and I’ve spent a decade in Pasadena wandering its streets and even picked up his four volume works — signed — at a CalTech book sale — but if he had the Van Gogh painting in the back of his mind, there’s the beginning, the seed of an awesome leap.

    And you might say van Gogh made a mighty leap, pre-intuiting the von Kármán pattern in the night sky..

    This DoubleQuote is my favorite move in the game that has obsessed me for the last thirty or so years, the Glass Bead Game as described in Hermann Hesse in his Nobel-winning novel of the same name.

    Linking arts and sciences as it does, I see it as a move at the nave roof-apex of what Hesse describes as the “hundred-gated cathedral of mind”.

    The essence of a move in Hesse‘s game is associative linkage.

    **

    I’m using this post as something of a primer on my game thinking, before proposing a recent instance of a type of associative leap / example of a game move.

    **

    There are many fairly basic types of associative linkage that provide the connextive tissue between the items in an ontology:

  • this is the same as that
  • this causes that
  • this is the opposite of that
  • this symbolices that
  • this is above that
  • this is inside that
  • this is the parent of that
  • this follows that
  • this governs that
  • this proves that
  • **

    Getting more complex and multi-layered, John Robb once posted:

    Some philosophical thinking:

  • Human knowledge, at an elemental level, can be described as a “transformation” of data.
  • Complex ideas are built using layers of “transformations” with each layer feeding into the next (think pyramid)
  • We teach these transformations at home and at school to our children.
  • We communicate by sharing transformations.
  • Questions We Need to Answer in the Age of Cognitive Machines:

  • How many transformations would it take to model all human knowledge?
  • How deep (how many layers of transformation is human knowledge) is human knowledge? Both on average or at its deepest point?
  • How broad is human knowledge (non-dependent transformations)?
  • How fast is the number of transformations increasing and how fast is it propagating across the human network?
  • **

    From a process orientation, it’s pretty clear that the fundamental way in which most associative leaps occur to human minds takes the form:

  • this reminds me of that
  • — and that holds true even of conspicuous creative leaps not just out of the box but into the unknown — as when Yutaka Taniyama proposed his hypothesis that there exists a correspondence between elliptic curves and modular forms in 1955. Andrew Wiles eventually proved the linkage in what is now known as the Modularity theorem, as the key part of his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1993 [don’t ask me to explain, I’m not a mathematician]

    **

    Creative leaps are in general the basis of much “opening of fields” both in the arts and sciences, as described by Arthur Koestler in his Act of Creation:

    and elaborated by Douglas Hofstadter in eg his Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies and Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, and at a depth of penetration equivalent to Robb’s questions above, by Fauconnier and Turner in The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending And The Mind’s Hidden Complexities..

    **

    Level on level, the structure of a gothic cathedral is arch building on arch (forgive my Spanish):

    Erwin Panofky‘s masterwork, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, argues for a common mental structure explaining the simultaneous occurrence of Gothic cathedral architecture and the scholastic argumentation characteristic of Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas..

    **

    The music of Hesse’s cathedral?

    All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number.

    And the game’s ultimate destination – besides the creation of an overarching synthesis uniting sciences and arts, great leaps of discovery and profound flights of imagination?

    Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a truly meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.

    In the coincidence of opposites — the buttressed left side of the cathedral’s gothic arch leaning into, against and with the buttressed right side, culminating in the high vaulting that characterizes the nave — transcendence of the physical in the spiritual..

    **

    An aside:

    Okay, very quickly, one associative link that jumped out at one poster recently after the Democratic response to Trump’s resolute desk address was the similarity between Schumer and Pelosi‘s stilted appearance, standing shoulder to shoulder at a single podium [left], and — returning to our theme of gothic as in a fugue — the celebrated painting titled American Gothic [composite, right] —

    That’s a “haha!” (comedic, laughter) rather than an “aha!” (creative, excitement) or “aah!” (tragedic, tears) explosion, to return to Arthur Koestler’s notion of bisociation and its various types and expressions.

    But that’s just fun, and will quickly become dated.. that’s an aside.

    **

    A new category of linkage:

    More seriously, I’d like to suggest that one faascinating type of linkage, close kin to “this is similar to that” is the category of mistake:

  • this is, has been, or can be mistaken for that
  • My example here is the weird sonic effect that seems to have physically hurt American diplomats and other embassy employees in Cuba, and confused national security analysts —

    That headline was taken from an article dated December 12, 2018, less than a month ago at time of writing. Doctors called in to examine embassy workers were flummoxed:

    The patients complained of intense ear pain, hearing loss, headaches, dizziness and difficulty with balance, as well as increased anxiety and irritability, doctors found, but who or what caused the damage is still unknown.

    From The Atlantic:

    Various parties argued that the strange noise was the result of a sonic weapon, a microwave attack, or malfunctioning eavesdropping equipment.

    And back to ABC:

    “The possible sources and the medical findings we have here do not have a quick or easy solution,” said Dr. Carey Balaban, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who contributed to the study. “I wish someone could tell us that right now. I wish we’d have that.”

    Damn commie Cubans!

    The thing is, otolaryngologists and high-tech security experts were the wrong people to solve the problem. Whenentomologists listened to a recording of the sound, they recognizedd it —

    as the mating call of Anurogryllus celerinictus, the Indies short-tailed cricket.

  • the cricket’s call has been mistaken for a devious commie attack on American diplomats
  • **

    Very briefly, then, to wrap up, since the idea is to link one concept to another, I use graphs as my game boards, assigning the concepts (images, quotes, clips &c) to numbered positions (nodes) on the boards, with the lines between them (edges) representing their associative links, which can be spelled out in however much detail a given game requires:.

    top left, the standard WaterBird board; top right, a board from the Sembl game as played on iPads in the National Museum of Australia; lower left, the Doublequote board, for direct comparison of two concepts / images; lower right, the Said Symphony board, for us in “aymphonic” games.

    The idea of conceptual graphs precedes Margaret Masterman by centuries:

    Left, the Sephirotic Tree of classical Kabbalah; middle: Oronce Fine’s diagram of the elements and humors; right: a medieval Trinitarian diagram

    And as a grace note — my two now ancient pages on Masterman, Boole and that Trinitarian diagram are still a quiet delight for scholars of conceptual graphs and the like. Masterman really was an unsung genius, and her curious and vastlky erudite paper Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis proves it..

    I wonder when AlphaZero will be playing a game like this:

  • HipBone, What sacred games shall we have to invent
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: fourteen

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — this one, on sacrament, symbol and such, winds up being an intro to #15, not yet written ]
    .

    My last post On the felicities of graph-based game-board design drew forth a stunning tweeted response from JustKnecht, friend and fellow explorer or Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and the magic of ideas behind it:

    **

    That’s a fascinating graphical DoubleQuote, at first glance, so I dug into the two images, the left hand one coming from a Sembl post of mine in this series, On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers.

    It’s the one on the right, however, that opened doors for me — one door being the article by Gentner and Jeziorski, the other being Richard Boyd‘s article that follows it in Andrew Ortony (ed), Metaphor and Thought, 2nd ed, CUP (1993):

  • Gentner & Jeziorski, The shift from metaphor to analogy in Western science
  • Richard Boyd, Metaphor and Theory Change: What is ‘Metaphor’ a Metaphor for?
  • Notice, incidentally, the beautiful ouroboros in Boyd‘s title!

    Okay, that’s my Christmas reading.

    **

    It seems I’m way behind, and it’s time maybe for the HipBone Games to enter the slipstream of Philosophy as she is practiced these days.

    But first, and to put the good folks of Elizabeth Anscombe‘s discipline off the scent, there’s the question of Sacrament to consider. Sacrament, along with Entropy, is something Gregory Bateson instructed his medical students to comprehend if they are to be civilized in their discourse as future doctors and psychiatrists. In the first paragraph of the Introduction to his Mind and Nature, Bateson writes:

    Even grown-up persons with children of their own cannot give a reasonable account of concepts such as entropy, sacrament, syntax, number, quantity, pattern, linear relation, name, class, relevance, energy, redundancy, force, probability, parts, whole, information, tautology, homology, mass (either Newtonian or Christian), explanation, description, rule of dimensions, logical type, metaphor, topology, and so on. What are butterflies? What are starfish? What are beauty and ugliness?

    Note that the concept of “sacrament” occupies a place of honor second only to “entropy” in Bateson’s listing.

    **

    Sacrament?

    Sacrament?What does that have to do with the philosophy (and graphical rendering) of metaphor?

    First, here’s a quick look at the notion of Sacrament, from the Introduction: Mapping Theologies of Sacraments (pp. 1-12) of Justin Holcomb and David Johnson’s Christian Theologies of the Sacraments: A Comparative Introduction:

    In the prologue of the Gospel According to John the apostle writes about the incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (1:16). One of the means by which Christians believe we receive the grace of God in Christ is the sacraments. But what are the sacraments? As many Christians know, Augustine of Hippo succinctly defined a sacrament as being “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.”

    The central sacrament of Christianity is the Eucharist, instituted by Christ with the words — pointing to the bread about to be broken and shared, in a complex that includes his coming crucifixion, and the institution of the Church as his continuing body or presence on earth — This is my Body.

    The Catholic view:

    The doctrine that Christ’s real presence is thus to be found in the communion wafer consecrated with the remembrance of those words at Mass is that of Transubstantiation — a contested doctrine to be sure. And the contest is viewed theologically as being between metaphor and simile.

    Thus, as I have noted before, Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism writes:

    The animal and vegetable worlds are identified with each other, and with the divine and human worlds as well, in the Christian doctrine of transubstantiation, in which the essential human forms of the vegetable world, food and drink, the harvest and the vintage, the bread and the wine, are the body and blood of the Lamb who is also Man and God, and in whose body we exist as in a city or temple. Here again the orthodox doctrine insists on metaphor as against simile, and here again the conception of substance illustrates the struggles of logic to digest the metaphor.

    The Reformed view:

    Simply put, the Reformed view, contra Frye, considers the Words of Institution as simile, see Literary Devices in the scripture [Caution: this link auto-downloads a Word doc]:

    A metaphor is an abridged simile

    — ie, Matthew 26.26 is to be understood as meaning not “this is my Body” but “This is like my Body”..

    Thus Daniel Featley DD in his Transubstantiation Exploded (1638) writes:

    If in this sentence “This is my Body,” the meaning be “this Bread is my Body,” the speech cannot be proper, but must of necessity be figurative or tropical.

    But in this sentence, “This is my Body,” the meaning is, “This Bread is my Body.“

    Ergo this speech cannot be proper, but must of necessity be figurative and tropical; and if so, down falls Transubstantiation built upon it, and carnal presence built upon Transubstantiation, and the oblation and adoration of the Host built upon the carnal presence.

    That’s a whole lot of toppling of the Catholic edifice, all predicated on a reading of Christ’s words as simile, not metaphor.

    Here “simile” seems to mean figurative rather than literal — where the Catholic view, as we have seen, aka “metaphor”, posits literal real presence in the form of a (transcendent) inward and spiritual grace..

    **

    A by-gone Queen of the Sciences

    How does this theology of metaphor fare today? Theology, my own discipline at Oxford, sadly seems a by-gone Queen of the Sciences. Thus William Grassie writes:

    Our medieval ancestors understood theology to be the queen of the sciences. Her twin sister Sophia — the Greek word for “wisdom” — was also venerated in the discipline of philosophy. It was hard to tell the two beauties apart, but together they once ruled the many domains of human knowledge.

    Theology departments today, however, are increasingly irrelevant backwaters in the modern university, engaged in seemingly solipsistic debates.

    Ouch.

    Just for the record, while we’re slipping a theological understanding of metaphor into our thinking on the topic, should also consider Coleridge on symbol:

    Now an allegory is but a translation of abstract notions into a picture-language, which is itself nothing but an abstraction from objects of the senses; the principal being more worthless even than its phantom proxy, both alike unsubstantial, and the former shapeless to boot. On the other hand a symbol … is chaacterized by a translucence of the special in the individual, or of the general in the special, or of the universal in the general; above all by the translucence of the eternal through and in the temporal. It always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that unity of which it is the representative.

    **

    In the spirit of Hermann Hesse‘s Nobel-winning Glass Bead Game — and if you can’t abide the arts and humanities, then of EO Wilson‘s concept of consilience — these notions of sacrament, metaphor and symbol should be entered into the philosophical and scientific thought-stream on metaphor and its graphical representation, IMO, YMMV, &c.

    In case you missed all that.

    And so to the present readings, Boyd and Gentner & Jeziorski..

    **

    **

    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eleven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: thirteen

  • Switch to our mobile site