Being that he had insatiable intellectual curiosity, he voraciously tore into the internet. In his numerous internet wonderings he came across a certain blog that fascinated him and he began voicing his ideas in the comment section. People with similar curiosity began responding to his comments; the comment section became boisterous. A community was formed.
One of the members gave Thai the nickname “The Fractal Rabbit”. It pleased him greatly. He had a reputation for an obsession with fractals, hence the fractal part of the nickname. He also had a habit of letting his curiosity lead him into “rabbit holes” a la Alice in Wonderland. He would come across a new idea and dive into the internet rabbit hole with frenzied intention to learn all he could about the new subject. Therefore the rabbit part of his nickname. The rabbit part was also apt because he was FAST! He would encounter his new subject, study it ruthlessly, post his findings on the blog, and demand you consider its relationship to the universe. By the time you had started your first query into Google to try to catch up with him, he had already repeated the process with a different new exciting idea. And likely correlated the two and demanded that you consider that as well. You couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm for new ideas.
What was he searching for ultimately? I believe he wanted to make sense of the world and then fix it so people could be safe and happy. At least in the “big picture’ this seems to summarize what he was subconsciously driven by. In the more “normal daily life” perspective I think he just found it to be fun and fascinating ;)
Not being a religious guy, he couldn’t just adopt a preformed view of the world (in fact, when one blogger suggested it would be interesting to discuss the Old Testament he replied that “he’d rather stick his hand in a blender”. Tres amusant, no?). So this left him with the difficult job of crafting his own world view.
Physics. Chemistry. Evolutionary biology. Great, that set the stage of the universe and created the actors in it. The actors then did some really strange things for a couple hundred thousand years. Groups formed different systems of doing things. Politics. Economics.
Yet, there was something odd. In all these different areas he was seeing patterns. Whether driven by the laws of thermodynamics or the nature of humanity, these various systems were similar to each other in some way. He came across the concept of fractals and was entranced. This is what keeps happening!! Define the boundaries of a system, insert or remove energy, and the results are predictable. Every iteration that the system cycles will be similar to the previous and next iteration. Fractal self-similarity.
This fractal key became how he made sense of the world. So on to fixing the world to make people safe and happy. Humanity is a system like any other system. How to make it the best system it could be…..
If the members of a group were not cooperating there was a lot of misspent energy that could have been better used. If they cooperated all that energy could have been used forging ahead to a new layer of complexity (which is good- the library of a major university in 2010 is more complex than the three books some guy in a village 15 km away has in 1510). To cooperate requires rules. For people to follow rules they have to be perceived as fair. How do we determine what’s fair? How do our brains do that? Language seems critical to the process for humans. How do our brains know what language is? Down more rabbit holes!!!!
He didn’t get to finish the puzzle. I type that with terrible sadness. He was 43 years old. I’ll always wonder what he would have come up with if he had another 43 years to search and ponder. With every new scientific discovery I’ll think “Man, he would have gone ballistic on the blog over this!”. Bittersweet.
And it wouldn’t be right to not mention his life outside cyberspace. Both his mother and father had terrific adventures ( his mother was sent to Thailand by the Peace Corps so “Thai”) and were educated at UCLA which was also his alma mater. He met his wife when they were both still in school and he adored her for more than twenty years. She went with him all over while he finished medical school. He had some wild experiences working in Emergency Departments. He had four kids that he doted on tremendously. He read truckloads of fiction and non-fiction. He watched TED conferences online. He listened to NPR. His energy for learning was matched only by his energy for enjoying people.
How lucky I was to become his friend. You’ll be remembered fondly, Buddy.
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