[Paleopsych] fads and atoms

HowlBloom at aol.com HowlBloom at aol.com
Sat May 7 00:14:09 UTC 2005

The  following article hits the motherlode when it comes to our past 
discussions of  Ur patterns, iteration, and fracticality.  Ur patterns are those that 
show up on multiple levels of emergence,  patterns that make anthropomorphism 
a reasonable way of doing science, patterns  that explain why a metaphor can 
capture in its word-picture the underlying  structure of a whirlwind, a 
brain-spin, or a culture-shift. 
Here’s how a pattern in the molecules of magnets repeats  itself in the mass 
moodswings of human beings.  Howard 
etrieved May 6, 2005, from the World Wide Web  
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624984.200 HOME |NEWS  |EXPLORE BY SUBJECT |LAST WORD 
|SUBSCRIBE |SEARCH |ARCHIVE |RSS |JOBS  Click to PrintOne law rules dedicated  
followers of fashion 06 May 2005  Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition  Mark 
Buchanan  FADS, fashions and dramatic shifts in  public opinion all appear to 
follow a physical law: one of the laws of  magnetism.  Quentin Michard of  the 
School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry in Paris and Jean-Philippe  Bouchaud 
of the Atomic Energy Commission in Saclay, France, were trying to  explain 
three social trends: plummeting European birth rates in the late 20th  century, 
the rapid adoption of cellphones in Europe in the 1990s and the way  people 
clapping at a concert suddenly stop doing so. In each case, they  theorised, 
individuals not only have their own preferences, but also tend to  imitate 
others.  "Imitation  is deeply rooted in biology as a survival strategy," says 
Bouchaud. In  particular, people frequently copy others who they think know 
something they  don't.  To model the  consequences of imitation, the researchers 
turned to the physics of magnets. An  applied magnetic field will coerce the spins 
of atoms in a magnetic material to  point in a certain direction. And often 
an atom's spin direction pushes the  spins of neighbouring atoms to point in a 
similar direction. And even if an  applied field changes direction slowly, the 
spins sometimes flip all together  and quite abruptly.  The  physicists 
modified the model such that the atoms represented people and the  direction of the 
spin indicated a person's behaviour, and used it to predict  shifts in public 
opinion.  In  the case of cellphones, for example, it is clear that as more 
people realised  how useful they were, and as their price dropped, more people 
would buy them.  But how quickly the trend took off depended on how strongly 
people influenced  each other. The magnetic model predicts that when people 
have a strong  tendency to imitate others, shifts in behaviour will be faster, 
and there may  even be discontinuous jumps, with many people adopting cellphones 
virtually  overnight.  More  specifically, the model suggests that the rate 
of opinion change accelerates in  a mathematically predictable way, with ever 
greater numbers of people  changing their minds as the population nears the 
point of maximum change.  Michard and Bouchaud checked this prediction against 
their model and found that  the trends in birth rates and cellphone usage in 
European nations conformed  quite accurately to this pattern. The same was true 
of the rate at which  clapping died away in concerts.  Close this window  
Printed on  Sat May 07 01:01:50 BST 2005  
Howard Bloom
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A  Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of 
History and Global Brain: The Evolution  of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 
21st Century
Visiting Scholar-Graduate  Psychology Department, New York University; Core 
Faculty Member, The Graduate  Institute
Founder:  International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic 
of Evolution  Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The 
Big Bang Tango  Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American 
Association for the  Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, 
Academy of Political  Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International 
Society for Human  Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; 
executive editor -- New  Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology  Project, see: 
for two chapters from 
The Lucifer  Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, 
see  www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of  Mass Mind from the Big 
Bang to the 21st Century, see  www.howardbloom.net

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