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All posts for the month November, 2002

Spiral Linking. Whilst investigating back-linking options the issue of exponentially increasing links that link to each other has been bugging me for several weeks. Some recursive web that might explode to consume all the web resources in some unstoppable nightmare – I’ve seen it happen on mail servers with automated replies anyway. This particular story featuring Moen’s Law of Bicycles (classic bad-money / good-money economics anyway BTW) is about breaking such a chain – (!) pun unintended.
[via Oblomovka, via Jorn - different Danny and Seb, not to be confused.]

[Basically if we set up a web page that automatically updates itself with links to pages that link to itself, and in the course of doing so it creates a link to a page with the same feature, where does the nonsense stop ? Scary. Just occurred to me too that this is the semantic web equivalent of a rumour based on some minor piece of misinformation getting out there - like a meme - and establishing an unfounded urban myth - metaphor, chaos, cellular automata - aaaaagggghhh!!!!.]

Given the number of figures and stats quoted by economists and economic commentators, it is refreshing to find one (Gavin Davies of the Beeb speaking on More or Less yesterday) who recognises that what matters is telling a good (convincing) story – irrespective of the figures. No economist worth his salt believes the numbers etc. He quoted a reference to a 1998 publication called The Rhetoric of Economics by Deirde McCloskey. (Pretty close to Argyris’ “Budgetary Games” “Creative Accounting” organisational behaviour stuff.)

The Memory of Water. The office chat around here is last night’s Beeb programme on Homeopathy, and several mentions of the 1984 Jacques Benvensita theory on “The Memory of Water” . The dilution levels at finite numbers of molecules of active agents per unit volume of solution makes it seem preposterous that a sample further diluted can have any amount of the active ingredient present in a physical sense. All sorts of issues with truly controllable, repeatable test conditions to prove homeopathic benefit, not to mention timescale and overlap issues with all the previous “contaminants” any part of any body of water may have been in contact since …. well, coming into existence / condensing from vapour ?

In any other light I’d have to count myself as a total sceptic on homeopathy …… however could the homeopathic property be some quantum non-locality effect of the contaminant and an emergent macro property chaotically determined by the micro component ? Perhaps worth a brief contemplation and then again perhaps not.[Homourous homeopathic antidote here.] [Many a true word here.]

…. in the BBC “Great Britons” poll. Well I’d like to have voted for an original genius thinker with an important legacy, given my current line of research, but I have to say the Brits in the top 100, all seemed a bit “derivative” of others. Our “revolution” never quite went the way of the French or the US. Is it part of the British Disease that I can’t quite hold Newton and Darwin to be the creators of important new ideas, however Newtonian and Darwinian the world Brunel operated in ?

Zen River Crossing. Nice one from Gimbo. I voted for Brunel (came 2nd) WTF ? Anyway Zen, bridges and Klogging, I couldn’t resist this one. [Quote] Interesting… I’d always thought of the Second Severn Crossing as just another suspension bridge (like the first one), but it is in fact a “cable-stayed” bridge. I think I always had a dull realisation in my mind that it was unlike other suspension bridges I’d crossed, but in that zen-like state we all drive in, I never really thought hard enough about it. *shrug* [Unquote] – Driving in a zen-like state – another one right from my “many a true word” thread.

Skilled Incompetence. Thanks to Danny for this 1995 essay on “Structured Procrastination” by John Perry. Magic. This is my main theme about information models Danny. Spot on the Argyris thread about how normal (western) culture in organisations institutionalises bad practices justified by rationalisations. I have a colleague that regularly characterises “displacement activities” when it is obvious there is something to do (some decision to be made) which is more difficult that some other more interesting tasks, and guess what ? Manana.

Wayback Machine. New Scientist article via Danny about the 100 tera-bytes of web archives. [Quote] The average life of a web page is 100 days. [Unquote] See my broken links plea below.
[Quote] And where is the Wayback archive ? physically? It’s now in three places, two in the San Francisco Bay Area and one at the new Library of Alexandria in Egypt. If you ask someone, “What do you know about the Great Library of Alexandria?” they mostly say, “Isn’t that the one that fried?” So don’t just have one copy. Take special care of collections that are really important to the definition of cultures. [Unquote] I have soft spot for the Alexandria Library since I was there when it opened to the public. Blogged a link earlier since I had in my hands (in Alexandria, but not in the library) an important first edition relating to T. E. Lawrence (one of my obsessions) which I enquired about bringing home to UK, but discovered the new library had the enlightened policy of maintaining Egypt’s legacy of published texts and forbidding export. – (link here later !).

Dismantling Walls – “Dad,” he said. “You know I said I want to be a doctor when I grow up?” “Yes, son.” “And I want to be a footballer, too?” “Yes.” “Well, now I’ve decided I want to be a martyr.” [Davos via John Robb] Don’t normally link to national politics in this blog but this is a powerful message that cannot be ignored.

All Human Life is Here. Another gem via Jorn – a Guardian review of “Sex Crimes: From Renaissance to Enlightenment” by William Naphy [Quote] Naphy’s careful study draws heavily on the official court reports from that unforgiving time and yet manages to see past them to the warm, messy human dramas that lie beneath. [Unquote]. It was ever so – “Official Reports” always disguise the mess [buzzing, booming confusion of paradox] of reality – caveat emptor according to Quinn and Cameron (see Manifesto).

Jim Naughtie on BBC’s Today this morning, interviewing some expert about the latest conclusions, that prescribing below strength spectacle lenses was actually damaging to the future eyesight of child wearers, got the answers “Yes”, “Yes, that’s right” and “Yes, exactly” to his first three questions and was left floundering momentarily like a fish (flounder ?) out of water at not needing to probe more deeply. A magic moment.

Two weeks or more since I last posted – been incredibly busy recently – but in the last couple of days of air-travel and hotels I’ve managed to catch-up on reading Eco’s Kant and the Platypus. 80% finished now. Still on-message – much good stuff in here on the sociology of knowledge and so many good reference sources cited too. Particularly also liked the Quine and Gavagai references in the “Vanville” story.

Picked-up in a conversation with an information modelling colleague a positive reference to Lakoff’s – Fire, Women and Dangerous things also cited by Eco. (Lakoff also co-author of Metaphors We Live By – what was I saying about my bibliography / reading wish list ?).

Spooky Synchronicity no 297 in a series of thousands. Read the Eco sub-chapter – The Real Story of the Platypus, just before getting off the plane, and came into the house to find David Attenborough explaing the same story of incredulity as part of his Mammals series on the Beeb.

Rene Thom Obituary. Thanks to Jorn for the Guardian link. Never quite understood the relationship between catastrophe and chaos theories, so this is useful source. Also interesting in that starting from Bourbaki school of French mathematics and a particular interest in Topology, Thom moved into philosophical biology and linguistics. Very much on the same page as Eco’s Kant and the Platypus.