Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to

Monday, June 8, 2009

"It is what it is", fractals and other mumbo jumbo, OR, why we will always see different vision of exactly the same thing

Imagine a little ball spinning in space. It is a beautiful little ball, mostly blue, with some brown and green. It also has a clear varnish speckled with whisks of white. We will call this little spinning blue ball Earth.

Now also imagine someone shines a very bright light on Earth- we will call this light source the Sun. And just to keep our story simple- but of course we know the story is really never simple- we will also assume the Sun’s light intensity to be constant, e.g. never fluctuate.

As a little reminder to our regular readers, e.g. all six of us, we people of the science cloth have a sacred commandment in our first Talmudic book of physics known as the commandment of the first law of thermodynamics. Others popularly refer to this commandment as “the conservation of energy”.

As a second reminder, Talmudic interpretive scholars called scientists tell us the basic idea behind this this commandment is that “energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but it can neither be created nor destroyed”.

They do remind us of a little caveat: the conservation of energy is only true for closed systems.

As a third reminder, a closed system is a system with impermeable boundaries which NOTHING can either enter or escape. A closed system is a perfect garden or perfect prison so to speak- depending on ones interpretation of the same thing.

Now if you think about it, as long as the sun’s light is constant, our beautiful little ball called earth is a closed system. It is the perfect garden (or prison).

And IF the conservation of energy applies to earth, as our great scientific scholars tell us it must, then “energy can be transformed from one form to another within the little ball called earth, but it can neither be created nor destroyed.”

There can be lots of change within that little ball, but the energy in it will remain constant.

Now most people know this stuff; it is rare to get much disagreement over ideas like perpetual motion machines are impossible, etc…

What is much harder for most people to accept is the idea that such concepts have relevance to society, to social order, to evolution, to the family, to sexuality, to friendship, to cooperation, to social networks, to politics, to love, to everything- but they do.

Indeed, to many people, the idea is bizarre and unnatural and is even seen as heretical amongst many of the scientific Magesterium itself.

Yet I am a scientific scholar of our scientific Talmud, I am in search of truth. And as such, it is my job to read our most sacred Talmudic texts and see if there is undiscovered wisdom.

We shall start this journey in our next post.

But as you breathlessly wait for my next post, I would like you to consider the following issue...

If the conservation of energy is real (e.g. you have faith in our scientific Talmud) AND we are talking about a closed system (such as earth) then the conservation of energy within this closed system must also mean the conservation of risk within the same system. For if risk were not conserved, energy would not be conserved either and one could build a device where we could trade one risk for another and in the process lower our risk perpetually- creating a “perpetual risk reduction machine”. In effect we would be creating energy out of nothing. If you believe perpetual motion machines are impossible, then perpetual risk reduction machines are similarly impossible as well.

The conservation of energy ALWAYS means the conservation of risk.

Link to Part II- The Conservation of Risk


Dink said...

@ Thai,

Welcome author #4!

"What is much harder for most people to accept is the idea that such concepts have relevance to society, to social order"

I'm trying; I beg for patience with the squirrel...

"must also mean the conservation of risk within the same system"

Perhaps the author could define how he is using the term "risk". Just want to make sure I'm following correctly.

"We shall start this journey in our next post."

Can't wait!

yoyomo said...

Oh Thai of (the very well CONCEALED & DISGUISED) Talmudic Knowledge;

As long as you're dangling the bait, I'll take a little bite. Just how much of the true talmud do you pretend to know since you vehemently refuse to discuss any of its aspects?

Oh, by the way, just in case you didn't know it, the commandments are found in the Tanakh; not the talmud.

Dink said...

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! Why are you still trying to kill me????

None of pretend to know it and all of us refuse to discuss because we truly don't know anything about what you're talking about !!!! You're the only one who knows what a Tanakh is!!! I'm an atheist, God damn it!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!


SS said...

@ Thai,

Some questions,

Why is the earth a closed system if it get its energy from the sun and at variable rates at that?

Is the sun a closed system when we don't perfectly understand a) its mass; b) the hydrogen reactions; c) other aspects of its geology and chemistry;

Is the universe a closed system? - how could we possibly know the nature of the universe when we are all ready postualting as many as 11 dimensions (string theory) to account for things we can't explain like the forc of gravits 0 so push the excess force not observed into another dimension which we can't observe?

Don't we know only that we re incapable of knowing or ultimate knowledge?

Given that only theoretical systems are closed how can one postulate teh 2nd law of thermodynamics beyond a highly contained theoretical enclosure.

I don't see it.


yoyomo said...


#1 My final comment to you on this topic is on the prior thread.

#2 I'm not the one who brought up the talmud, Thai did. How come you you didn't go ape-shit on him?

#3 The Tanakh is the Hebrew name for the Old Testament (Teachings [Torah or pentateuch], Prophets, Writings [proverbs,psalms])


You and I can discuss this on your Food post.

yoyomo said...

This article demonstrates some of what I've been talking about.

Debra said...

Thai, I will rather dryly point out to you that throwing in pseudo Jewish references to your body of knowledge is rather inappropriate. I myself have "studied" Judaism as a lay person, and with a few extremely competent people who themselves have delved deeply into these texts. The texts are truly so mind boggling that yoyo will tell you that some of Judaism's finest rabbis went bonkers adressing these exceedingly abstract subjects, and that, in general, too much abstraction CAN INDEED send you to the loony farm. Promise.
I do not think that it is nice to BAIT yoyo on this subject. Even in "fun". (Note quotation marks...)
I think that you know next to nothing about Judaism, Thai. Even if you are Jewish. (You may be, you may NOT be...)
It's funny, I pulled out my copy of "What, ME my brother's keeper", a book by French rabbis Armand Abecassis and Josy Eisenberg, and one of the quotes that leapt up at me from the page was the observation that fighting over a PLACE is ALSO fighting over the TRUTH. Being right.
And this one for ALL of us on this blog, you too yoyo.
Being right is a PASSION.
It is the deadliest passion that exists.
It is THE passion that creates wars.
It is a passion that keeps us from seeing our brother's face, and makes us see his IDEAS first.
No idea is worth my brother's face.
Do you all understand this ?

yoyomo said...

I'd like to see what their come back for this could possibly be:

"The town’s young couples face increasing difficulties building homes after much of Sakhnin’s land was turned over to Misgav’s jurisdiction.

Sakhnin officials point out that its 25,000 inhabitants have only one-twentieth of the land available to the 20,000 residents of Misgav’s 30 communities. An appeal by Sakhnin that it be awarded some of Misgav’s land was rejected by a boundary commission in 2005.

Misgav promotes itself, in the words of its website, as a model of “ethnic pluralism” because it includes 5,000 Bedouin.

However, critics note that Misgav’s Bedouin live in a handful of separate communities deprived of the land available to the Jewish communities.

The Bedouin inhabitants are generally denied basic services such as water and electricity, as well as schools and medical clinics. In one, Arab al Naim, the inhabitants are forced to live in tin shacks because permanent structures are demolished by the state."

Debra said...

Yoyo, I think that it would be more appropriate if we had these discussions outside of this blog. I am not sure what you are trying to convince people of here. But I do know that the regulars are getting impatient. And I can understand that. This subject is inflammatory.

For my piano performance, it went really well. Somebody even asked me if I was a professional. That made me feel good, as you can imagine...

yoyomo said...

Denial and double standards piss me off so I keep posting shining examples of same, and it's from Ha`aretz, so SS can't accuse me of being a member of THE SS.

yoyomo said...

More and more Jews are having these arguments about the legitimacy of zionism; I don't see why the locals here are so piss-in-your-pants frozen w/fear over matters of public record.

SS said...

@ Dink

I think we should ban Yoyomo's comments from the site. He is obviously sick so I hate to do this but humoring him or discussing with him has only aided him in foisting his sickness on us. I think it is time to go and I would ban all his comments for his uncivil behavior.


Cottonbloggin said...

This'll be my one and only comment on the zionism issue. A) this issue goes both ways, and the palestinians are just as much to blame as the zionists:

PLO Boy Scouts of Beiruit

It's a creepy video, and one worth watching. Then, on the flip side of the coin, there's this from a former zionist explaining how and where Israel is to blame:

Demolition in Israel

Both of these are videos from the VBS archives, and if anyone finds themselves with some free time, I would suggest perusing their other videos (though they changed their viewer, and things aren't grouped well anymore). The one where they hunt two headed boar in a village near chernoble is interesting. So is the one where they buy a small nuclear warhead from an businessman in Bulgaria. And... the one where they film Pakistani children making BULLETS in CAVES is knock your socks off!

Entertaining stuff, but here's the thing: there's any number of important issues one can get fired up over, and I don't begrudge anyone their passions (how could I-- I'm cyber che, right?). But, when one finds something they're SOOO passionate about, they almost have a responsibility to THEMSELF to stop talking about it and take action.

**I must reaffirm my commitment to non-violence here so that my words aren't in any way misinterpreted**

So, the reason I write this is to remind yoyo (and any of us) that if we are truly passionate about something, and desirous of enacting change, then there must come a point where the words stop and the action begins. Yo, I might suggest looking up the former zionist in the second link, and seriously consider packing up and moving to Israel to help him in his very legitimate struggle. I believe you might find it fulfilling.

My passions lead me to fight different battles however.

yoyomo said...

"...uncivil behavior."

Specific examples (instead of sweeping generalizations) would be appreciated so that I may address their validity (or lack thereof) or do you favor the rendition-to-Gitmo approach.

Cottonbloggin said...


The underlying issue in your post is thought provoking-- the impossibility of lowering our risk perpetually-- but I think you're gonna find that piggybacking on the first law of thermodynamics will actually HURT your argument rather than help it.

So, I can go so far as to agree that RISK can be changed from one form to another (as was evidenced by the alphabet soup strategy employed by our financial institutions), BUT... and think about this deeply because I haven't yet... I'm pretty sure risk CAN be created.

Imagine a time BEFORE the introduction of the atomic bomb. Did the RISK of nuclear war exist at such a point in Time? or did humanity create the RISK of nuclear war at the exact instant they/we first dreamed up nuclear weapons?

I THINK that humans CAN create risk... though... I would say that once created, that risk must necessarily exist eternally. It's kinda like opening pandora's box. Whatever is unleashed can't be put back in. It must instead be dealt with. or

Risk can not be destroyed, it can only be mitigated.

yoyomo said...

"...something they're SOOO passionate about, they almost have a responsibility to THEMSELF to stop talking about it and take action."

The first clause of the fourteenth amendment and anti-imperialism are my passionate attachment and anything other than talking and letter writing stands a good chance of getting you arrested so spreading the word will have to suffice. Once enough people know the facts, the politics will take care of itself.

"consider packing up and moving to Israel"

I live in and pay my taxes to the US of A and I will concern myself with what affects it and how it affects it. Once the US disengages itself from unwelcome foreign entanglements the rest of the world will sort itself out according to the natural order on the ground.

Thai said...

I see we need to get agreement on the basics first...

SS- re: "Why is the earth a closed system if it get its energy from the sun and at variable rates at that?"

Technically the earth is not a closed system. If it were, we would not have the Moon- once part of the earth before we were hit by a large asteroid. Nor would the dinosaurs be extinct.

But it is fair to say the earth is MOSTLY a closed system.

And "yes" the intensity of the sun's rays have variability. This is actually one of the strongest "anti" human mitigated climate change arguments out there.

In fact, it is believed that Earth has been a frozen ice ball at various times in its history- the oceans were literally frozen to the bottom.

In fact, Archaea (the third form of life) probably saved us all from extinction (if you ever remember reading anything about extremeophiles)

BUT IT IS REASONABLE TO SAY that changes in the sun's intensity occur slowly and for the purposes of this lesson, we can assume the sun's rays constant.

Also, re:

1. "Don't we know only that we are incapable of knowing or ultimate knowledge?" - Yes, I couldn;t agree more (indeed this point will come up in later postings on this subject, but it does not change my model and the lesson I am trying to show).

2. "Is the universe a closed system? - how could we possibly know the nature of the universe when we are all ready postualting as many as 11 dimensions"

Actually, this too is not necessary to get into for the purposes of this posting as we are only talking about earth.

But I might suggest you are confusing the idea of dimension as at least I commonly understand it to be used. Please understand that you can have an infinite number of dimensions and still have a closed system.

As for whether or not the universe is closed system?

This has actually been debated by physicists/chemists for over 100+ years.

link 1

link 2.

The answer of course is "we don't know", and once discussions degenerate into topics like Hawkings radiation and the evaporation times of black holes, etc... I am way out of my league.

But I can say this: if the universe is not a closed system (and it may well be), everything you hold important is absolutely meaningless, of that I am quite sure.

SS, can you please just let me know if you understand my basic point?

@Cotton- think about it again. It is all about thermodynamics. How does it hurt???

And what I don't follow you on is that disagree but then you agree????

Don't just think about risk from just the point of view of a human, think of it from the point of view of EVERY species on this planet or the planet itself.

It is our old friend the theory of relativity only this time applied to risk and an infinite number of relative perspectives.

So "yes", you can increase your risk, but then you lower someone (or something) else's risk in the process.

Eat too much junk food and you personally might just become food yourself for the bacteria underground who will eat your body when it is rotting in its coffin. Or you might become plant food in the form of CO2 as plants soak up the CO2 released from your body after cremation.

You increase your risk, you lower theirs.

"Mitigating risk" is another way of saying "shifting risk", nothing more.

From the point of view of the system, risk will never be increased nor decreased, it will just be "moved around".

Thai said...

And Deb, congrats on the piano performance!

Debra said...

Thai, I have a problem with transferring physical science models to areas like human psychology for example.
I see this as one of the major problems that has led to mathematical economic theories that discount human psychology.
The risk transfer idea, isn't that a little... SOPHIST ? At some point in time on the chain, you can ALWAYS point to something to say that it has offset the initial behavior. But is this relevant ?
And as a shrink, I am mostly interested in human and animal behavior, not in physical science...

Thai said...

I completely agree with your point that it can be a little misleading telling a story from a beginning, is there ever really beginning?

I will too will diverge to remind everyone about a basic law of information science which goes something like: "in order to make information useful, we make it wrong."

But recognition of ideas like this take us even further down the path to nihilism.

And while we could also get to the same nihilistic place with the conservation of energy, I actually was hoping to share a creator's model with you. I was hoping to help you see and understand the universal patterns by which almost all things we know and understand exist, and I mean all things: love, friendship, society, evolution, the brain, psychology, religion, friendship, nature, etc...

Should I go on or is this boring?

Thai said...

And Deb, I would be careful how much you discount.

We will be getting to human behavior soon.

The data is overwhelming that the singularity is coming, for good and for bad.

SS said...


Sorry, you did answer most of my questions satisfactorily but I still don't understand how the earth can be treated as a closed system when it is receiving energy every day, variable or not. And if it is not a closed system than the 2nd law of thermodynamics would not hold I presume?



yoyomo said...

Actually it's pretty simple. The Earth recieves (roughly speaking; discounting solar/cloud cover variability) the same amount of energy everyday that it loses. Functionally, that is the same thing as a closed system with no energy going in/out.

Debra said...

I'm sorry to be so stuffy, Thai.
I have a hard time understanding you.
Some of this may be due to that really rock bottom issue of the difference of the sexes.
Men and women are not the same.
They don't think the same way. I don't think so, at any rate.
One of the reasons that I have a hard time understanding you is that I have prejudices.
And it takes me an enormous amount of energy and reflexion to make sense of what you're saying, because you say it in a way that is very foreign to me.
Please understand me : this is NOT a criticism of you. It is an observation about why I react the way I do. And like just about everybody, when I have a hard time understanding, I get bored, among other things.
I suppose that it comes down to this, Thai :
I'm really more interested in you as a PERSON than I am interested in your ideas.
I think that you as a person are probably much more interesting than your ideas.
I suppose that is somewhat a woman's point of view on things.
But then, I'm not apologizing for being a woman.

Yoyo, I love you and because I love you I am going to suggest a little correction...
Who can quote the old "i before e except after c" in full for me ? I've been out of the country for too long, and I've forgotten it.
Anybody feel like giving me a hand ?

Thai said...

SS, Yo is absolutely correct. If the energy entering earth's system was not leaving at the same rate, the earth would quickly heat up and global warming would become a truly major issue.

Steady state, where things enter and leave at the same rate is "functionally" the same thing as a closed system, even if it is not truly closed.

Does this make sense?

Deb, completely fine. We all obviously have our own personal interests and I am not in the least offended that you find mine rather boring.

I just like erector sets, it the way my mind is built.

yoyomo said...

Thanks Debra,
I forgot to proof read, my money comment is at FarmMkt.

Debra said...

Thai, I sneaked a quick peek at the Wikipedia link that you attached on technological singularity.
My God, the exponential value of the sheer bullshit on that page takes my breath away.
I have been dealing with this kind of phenomenon for years, and you must too : the incredible ease with which seemingly intelligent people are bitten by a jargon bug and they go... insane with their unfounded, and unfoundable speculation.
Kind of like delusional thinking. But no-one ever hints that these guys MIGHT be bonkers, you know ?
So much easier to accuse the poor sod who says he's Jesus of being bonkers. So much more... comfortable for all involved.
A quick look at this "model" shows that it is founded on the idea of permagrowth. And we have Hell to thank for his insightful criticism of permagrowth.

Thai said...

No, you are confusing terms.

The idea behind the singularity is not permagrowth at all.

In fact, it is really the reverse- massive productivity improvements permitting "real" growth to occur much much faster.

Deb, reading your comments I sometimes sense you get some of these terms confused.

Just to remind you of terms, "permagrowth" is also sometimes referred to as "debt fueled growth", and is to be distinguished from productivity derived growth.

Permagrowth occurs as the result of a credit cycle, which is as old a phenomena as humans have been in societies.

Perhaps the following imaginary example might illustrate what permagrowth is a little better:

(and if you already understand this, please accept my apologies).

Imagine an economy of 3 people:

Thai- a lazy slug who likes to party and hang out in cafes and is always trying to take advantage of other people, especially his brother Bob.

Bob- Thai's hard working brother who owns a car dealership.

Sue- the hard working owner of a coffee shop.

Supposing Thai is hard up but he really wants a coffee. He asks Bob to lend him $5 and begrudgingly Bob agrees.

Thai spends the $5 at Sue's coffee shop.

Now Sue knows nothing about Bob's loan (gift?) to Thai. But she can count and she does notice as she looks at her books that coffee sales are doing very well and on this accurate observation decides to purchase a new car.

Bob is also no dummy, and he starts to notice that car sales are doing well.

Of course Bob does not make the connection the reason car sales are doing well is simply because he loaned $5 to Thai who gave it to Sue who gave it to Bob.

Thai is still lazy, and wants another coffee so he goes back to Bob to borrow yet another $5.

Normally Bob would say "no", as he knows the chances of getting paid back $10 from Thai are very slim and he is not that rich. But Bob also has a soft spot for his brother and has noticed that car sales are doing well so he thinks he can afford to not get paid back.

So Bob loans Thai another $5.

And sure enough, Sue again notices coffee sales are up and soon thereafter Bob notices car sales grow yet again.

Sadly no one sees the connection that it all started from a loan between Bob and Thai.

This is what we call "permagrowth" and it is very very different from a growth which occurs because Sue figures out how to produce/sell coffee at a lower price (like outsourcing it to Chinese coffee merchants, etc...).

... Although, as a top student you may have already spotted the connection to my posting on the conservation of energy and risk but I am don't want to get too far ahead with future postings yet.

Anyway, the singularity would create a productivity led boom which is different from permagrowth.

yoyomo said...

I agree with Debra, you and Dink (sorry my bushy tailed friend) are delusional when it comes to sci-fi technology. The energy and resources no longer exist and there will never be time travel, space travel and (pretty soon) no more air travel.

Debra said...

Thank you Thai, I obviously did NOT understand what permagrowth meant.
I thought it meant like...
I was unaware of any connection to debt.
I will wait to hit you with my comment on Vaucanson (sci-fi technology from the 18th century) for a while, as I have been shamelessly monopolising the posts.
Yoyo, please play nice, you just ALMOST got banned...

yoyomo said...

Whether growth involves debt or not, it is just as unsustainable. Resources consumed deplete just as quickly whether paid for with debt or savings. Sci-fi fans are the most delusional people I know when it comes to what the future will be like.

I went to the 1964 World's Fair when it came to Queens and today's world looks nothing like what they said it would look like in 2000. I thought they were exagerrating the prospects for progress back then and now I think they were just pulling it out of their ass. The Age of Optimism has been killed by the Bitch of Reality.

Greenie said...


You have no clue, what you are talking about. How can energy be conserved, when sun is pouring energy into the earth nonstop?

Here is what is going on - energy is pouring into earth, a part of it is getting lost, the remaining part is getting absorbed by earth in chemical form. That energy is the source of constantly increasing complexity in earthly systems over time. Absorbed energy from sun results in disorder being converted into order within earth.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits