All posts for the month April, 2008

Or if you prefer; the “Three Body Language”.

Something that has cropped-up several times in recent quite separate correspondences are analogies to the Newtonian “Three-Body-Problem” and I realised these linked to some earlier things I’d blogged about.

The three-body-problem is insoluble analytically – take three or more bodies (physical objects) apply Newtons laws of motion (inlcuding gravitation) to each of them, and you find you can’t solve the resultant set of equations. Not directly anyway; numerical methods and simulation processes can take each object / object-pair progressively and iterate to an overall solution in small time-slices that ultimately predicts their motions. Of course heavenly bodies didn’t have to wait for someone to find that solution – they just got on with orbitting each other, they’re not analytical objects.

And neither are human subjects – analytical objects. Real human car drivers can cope with three or more cars on the road at once, without bumping into each other too often, they can predict and manage their motions giving and reacting to body-language. They don’t stop to solve equations of motion in order to do it. (And of course there is evidence of this from the opposite case. The Dutch road-traffic experiments, repeatedelsewhere, that show that if you take away road-traffic control signs, people have fewer accidents and drive more safely in general – because they have to use body language to negotiate interactions and passing / crossing manoevres. Conversely in places where every intersection has lights and stop signs the humans forget to use body language, trust the signs, and use their freedom from involvement in the process to make better use of their valuable time dealing with their cell-phones, offspring and breakfast, and their cars have more accidents as a result.)

The correspondences were …

One of them, in a private colleague correspondence, was a three-piece band (Drums, bass, guitar say) and how the real rhythms, attack and timings were never as objectively perfect as just two people or one / two people with a drum-machine / click-track – but were less sterile and all the better for it. A rhythm section may be “tight” but music needs that soul and emotion of humans bouncing their body language off one another. Tight like an elastic rubber-band, not tight as in bolted down.

Another, on the Inclusionality Forum, was Ted Lumley talking about “harmony seeking” fluid dynamic behaviour – in response to my “faith in love” – used a freeway driving example (!) and the Newtonian three-body-problem analogy.

And another I can’t pin down at the moment,
Not Zen driving … anyway …

More related to the earlier boiled frog, but sparked by this line of thought, is the idea that a metaphor in a parallel domain is better than an explicit statement in the real one. If a team is performing well, it’s making music, not following a plan; If musicians are playing well, they’re cooking on gas, not following a score; If you can’t stand the heat (Mr Frog), you can get out of the kitchen (boiling pot); You hum it, I’ll play it; Thereof which we cannot speak, we can’t whistle it either; If you can think of any more, you can let me know …

Post Note … Tom offered this one:

In the days of the Greeks it was thought all could be know about the behaviour of all the particles in the universe.
Then Newton Came along and three bodies was too many.
Then with Einstein relativity made two bodies too complicated a system to understand.
With quantum uncertainty it turns out that even knowing what one thing is doing is impossible.
That is progress.

Made references to the thoughful words of Dr Rowan Williams before, and this is no exception. A link provided by Sam.

Only scanned it so far, and capturing the link for now – but some interesting stuff I’m going to have to come back to. As usual, I find myself agreeing with both sides, Bono and Rowan in this instance.

PS – Also some good current postings & linkage on sustainable food economy from Sam – this is just one example (go browse) – developing from his Peak Oil interests and his aversion to supermarkets (like Tesco, which is specifically a red-herring to the underlying sustainabilty issue.)

Often referred to Charles Handy’s “boiled frog” metaphor – tell me I don’t have to explain it – and referred to it as hard-boiled already at the time I did my MBA dissertation in 1991.

Well Matt at WordPress picked-up this link that “debunks” it.

So what ? I say – metaphors don’t have to be true, just good.

(“A picture is worth ten thousand words” is a good – misunderstood – example, but people still get value from using it. Being good is better than being right.)

I&I saw The Wailers in Huntsville last night, at Crossroads – which is a great venue by the way, once it has drawn a big enough crowd to at least 1/3 fill its large yet intimate layout, which The Wailers more than did.

Aston “Family Man” Barrett is the sole survivor of the original Pete Tosh / Bunny Wailer / Burning Spear Jamaican era, solid on bass. Great treat to see Junior Marvins on guitar, and an excellent, engaging (white) front-man in Elan Atias, out of LA. All round solid 8-piece, smiles all round, doing justice to those reggae rhythms and plenty of those “songs of freedom” from the Bob Marley days. Took me back to all those sweaty 70’s ska gigs – now that’s a work-out – and a large contingent of the audience singing along to the verses as well as the choruses. It didn’t know Huntsville had Rastafari in it.

Don’t worry ’bout a t’ing,
‘Cos every little t’ing’s gonna be all right.

I’ve been a WordPress blogger for almost three years, after orginally being satisfied with (Google owned) Blogger for almost five years. It was a tough decision to switch from the successful simplicity of Blogger to the sophistication of WordPress. My overt reason was that Blogger were not supporting “categories” anytime soon, and look as though they still do not – though there are some quite sophisticated themes / styles and plug-ins for Blogger too.

In fact “categories” per se was never my real aim. They are just too “hierarchical” for my needs. I really wanted “connections” and “connections that connect connections” and I have a knowledge-model in mind to do this with the PHP / MySQL capabilities – if I had the time to teach myself.

Anyway I’ve been through several upgrades with WordPress, all perfect right from the first install, with single-click upgrades through the DreamHost hosting service. BUT the most recent upgrade to 2.5 has been disappointing to say the least, just unnecessary changes in the organisation of the management tools in many cases – nuisances that one can always get used to – but also retrograde steps in functionality. No editing directly coupled to the published view, incompatibilities with subsidiary pages and commet page themes and styles; much tougher graphic (& media) publish & linking methods, no editing of comments, no searching or selecting of posts by ID-number in the edit mode. And these are just my problems – the list seems to go on if one reads the WordPress forum.

So I’m sitting here with a three-way choice.
Grin and bear it and wait (in hope) for WordPress 2.5.1
Roll-back to WordPress 2.3.3
(In both the above I can still aspire to more sophisticated knowledge-organisation apps.)
Switch back to Blogger.
(And abandon the more sophisticated modelling hopes.)

In all three cases securing the valuable content resources is paramount.
Decisions, decisions.

Listened to the Blackmore / McGrath debate on Belief in God as a Dangerous Delusion. (Mentioned earlier.)

Some observations. He talks about things being “unprovable” and of course that’s true of so many things, not just matters of religious faith, something science is very poor at recognising in its arguments in the space beyond repeatable experiments and clear logic. That is effectively my agenda here. But he uses this as a straw man argument against memes, not proving anything and no more explanatory of religious faith as it is of theism. Of course the memes shorthand can be used to explain any kinds of ideas and beliefs, including atheism. In Sue’s opening speech, she made this clear already, the significance of meme’s in this debate is the evolutionary process, competition AND co-evolution. Religion, rather than no-religion, is a predictable outcome. But meme’s are just short-hand for all the complex communications, selection and replication processes – the world doesn’t “reduce” to memes, in anybody’s arguments.  Alister says “web of ideas” and “interlocking beliefs”, Sue says “memeplex” – they agree, already. Jeez. All language is just short-hand (Sue even says it !). [Meme in action towards the end about the “72 virgins” reward … much bandied, but where did it originate ?]

He also referred to the Dawkins “Root of All Evil” programme and the “selective” parade of extremist nutters broght on to represent the “evil” and contrasted with more normal moderate faithful, and parallel this with the atheist evil arguments – eg Stalin, etc. Oh, well. Both sides use these straw-men too; Both equally guilty. This is my agenda. Will both side please stop trying to “beat” the other, and look for truth, the point (sense-making, the meaning of life, if you like), and the bases of believing it.

Intetesting that both speakers in this debate are “converts”. Alister from science to theology, Sue from parapsychology to sceptic, and Alister also refers to CS Lewis et al. That theme keeps coming up.

Sorry Alister, Harris does NOT say we must only believe things that can be positively proven to be true. His philosophy of belief is much more sophisticated than that.

Oh well. Poor debate – well typical debate – each side using rhetorical tricks to make the other appear wrong. THAT is the problem meme, as if argument is somehow not “rigorous” if it isn’t in this dialectical style of showing I’m right whilst you’re wrong.

Hooray – one synthetic audience comment / question – about the “both 95% right” position, this is not an either/or question. Though the question, was framed with a “real but less personal” god in both sides – so it fell on largely deaf ears – 20/80 in the audience. The point here is not God but faith – bases of belief and value. Most people still want an either / or answer … that damn meme again.

Anyway, they eventually get to the point – what is evidential ? what is real ? what bases do you believe these things, science as well as theistic. The either / or notion closes off the “open” position. As Sue (the most open-minded person I know, apart from me, obviously) says in response to this suggestion – the polarisation is part of the fun and process of “debate” – BUT DO NOT APPLY THIS THINKING TO REAL LIFE.

Actually Sue’s behaviour in the debate, shows well that this is not simple objective logical dialectic. She several times points out it’s easier to have the debate when she can “see” who she is responding to. This is about human interaction.

Sounds like Alister McGrath’s writing might be worth reading. (I’ve already read all of Sue’s).

News story today about an eruption of Nevado de Huila 240km SW of Bogota, causing concerns in Colombia.

And this is why. Lahars – rivers of broken rock and meltwater, like concrete flowing at 10’s of m/s (!) – were still up to 5 m deep 100km away (!) from the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz – sweeping 23,000 people to their deaths in the village of Armero. (Wikipedia is good on vulcanology.)