[Paleopsych] Eshel, Joel, Paul, and Pavel--not to mention Ted and Greg
HowlBloom at aol.com
HowlBloom at aol.com
Thu Sep 1 01:59:14 UTC 2005
Pavel, Joel, Paul, and Eshel—
See if I’ve understood the following article correctly.
In this cosmos things don’t follow the sort of random spread of
probabilities Ludwig Boltzmann believed in. Instead, old patterns jump from one level
to another, showing up in new news.
To understand the size and nature of the jumps, we have to understand
something even deeper—the search strategies with which the cosmos explores what
Stuart Kaufman calls “possibility space”.
The key quote from the article below is this one: “if physicists can
adequately understand the details of this ‘exploring behaviour’, they should be
able to predict values of q from first principles”.
Now please bear with me. What I’ve been digging into for many decades is
the manner in which the cosmos feels out her possibilities—the search
strategies of nature. So have Eshel Ben-Jacob, Paul Werbos, Pavel Kurakin, and Joel
Isaacson.
Pavel and I, in our paper “Conversation (dialog) model of quantum transitions
” (arXiv.org) suggest that we may find applications all up and down the
scale of nature to one search strategy in particular, that used by a cloud of
20,000 smart particles—bees.
Power laws help us move from the human-scale to the very big. They help us
understand how patterns visible on one scale—the scale of the spiral of
water that flushes your toilet, for example, can be scaled up to hurricanes, to
vortex of the Red Spot on the surface of Jupiter, to hurricanes on Jupiter the
size of thirty earths, and to the spirals of billions of stars called
galaxies. Power laws or their equivalent also allow us to predict that if we give
the cosmos another six or seven billion years, the spirals from your toilet
will show up in swirls of multitudes of galaxies—they will show up in today’s
potato-shaped, still-embryonic galaxy clusters.
Power laws can be used in forward or reverse. In addition to going from
the small to the very big, they can help us move from the human-scale to the
very small. Power laws help us understand how the swirl in your bathtub shows
up in the swizzles of electrons twisting through a channel on a
superconductor.
On the level of life, we can see search patterns at work, search patterns in
Dennis Bray’s clusters of receptors on a cell wall, search patterns in Eshel
Ben-Jacobs multi-trillion-member bacterial colonies, search patterns in Tom
Seeley’s colonies of bees, search patterns in E.O. Wilson’s colonies of
ants, and search patterns in colonies of termites. We can see search patterns
in the motions of birds, and in the way these patterns have been modeled
mathematically in Floys (mathematically-generated flocks of carnivorous Boids—see
http://www.aridolan.com/ofiles/JavaFloys.html). We can see search patterns in
Martha Sherwood’s vampire bats, and search patterns in the areas of my
fieldwork--human cultural fads and fashions and the multi-generational search
patterns of art, religion, ideology, world-views, and science.
If search patterns are the key to understanding the factor q, if they are
the key to comprehending the magic factor that scales things up and down in
giant, discontinuous leaps, then let’s by all means take search patterns at the
scale of life and apply them like hell.
That’s exactly what Pavel Kurakin and I have done in our paper. And it’s
what I’ve done in much of my work, including in a book that’s been growing
in the Bloom computer for fifteen years-- A Universe In Search Of Herself—The
Case of the Curious Cosmos.
Now the question is this. Have I misinterpreted the material below? And
even if I’ve mangled it utterly, could an understanding of search patterns at
one scale in the cosmos echo the patterns at other levels big and small? If
the search patterns of life are reflected in the inanimate cosmos, do the
search patterns of life in turn reflect the search patterns of the particles and
processes of which they are made? And do the search patterns of an organism
reflect the search patterns of her flock, her tribe, her culture, and of the
total team of biomass?
To what extent are competing search patterns a part of the cosmic process?
Did competing search patterns only show up 3.85 billion years ago with the
advent of life (assuming that the advent of life on earth took place at the
same time as the advent of life—if there is any—elsewhere in the universe)?
Are the gaps between competing search patterns also big ones, with their own
chasms and jumps spaced out by their own mysterious q?
Biomass has been probing this planet for 3.85 billion years now, and we are
the fingers with which she feels out her possibilities. But we are also the
fingers through which social clusters of protons 13.7 billion years old feel
out their future. Is q related to the discipline of a probing strategy?
Retrieved August 31, 2005, from the World Wide Web
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/fundamentals/mg18725141.700 NewScientist.com * HOME * |NEWS *
|EXPLORE BY SUBJECT * |LAST WORD * |SUBSCRIBE * |SEARCH * |ARCHIVE * |RSS *
|JOBS Click to Print Entropy: The new order * 27 August 2005 * From New
Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues. * Mark Buchanan
CONSTANTINO TSALLIS has a single equation written on the blackboard in his office. It
looks like one of the most famous equations in physics, but look more
closely and it's a little bit different, decorated with some extra symbols and
warped into a peculiar new form. Tsallis, based at the Brazilian Centre for
Research in Physics, Rio de Janeiro, is excited to have created this new
equation. And no wonder: his unassuming arrangement of symbols has stimulated
hundreds of researchers to publish more than a thousand papers in the past decade,
describing strange patterns in fluid flows, in magnetic fields issuing from
the sun and in the subatomic debris created in particle accelerators. But
there is something even more remarkable about Tsallis's equation: it came to him
in a daydream. In 1985, in a classroom in Mexico City, Tsallis was
listening as a colleague explained something to a student. On the chalkboard they had
written a very ordinary algebraic expression, pq, representing some number p
raised to the power q In Tsallis's line of work - describing the collective
properties of large numbers of particles - the letter "p" usually stands for
probability: the probability that a particle will have a particular velocity,
say. Tsallis stared at the formula from a distance and his mind drifted off.
"There were these pqs all over the board," he recalls, "and it suddenly came
to my mind - like a flash - that with powers of probabilities one might do
some unusual but possibly quite interesting physics." The physics involved
may be more than quite interesting, however. The standard means of describing
the collective properties of large numbers of particles - known as
statistical mechanics - has been hugely successful for more than a century, but it has
also been rather limited in its scope: you can only apply it to a narrow
range of systems. Now, with an insight plucked out of thin air, Tsallis may have
changed all that. Developed in the 19th century, statistical mechanics
enabled physicists to overcome an imposing problem. Ordinary materials such as
water, iron or glass are made of myriad atoms. But since it is impossible to
calculate in perfect detail how every individual atom or molecule will move, it
seems as if it might never be possible to understand the behaviour of such
substances at the atomic level. The solution, as first suggested by the
Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, lay in giving up hope of perfect understanding
and working with probabilities instead. Boltzmann argued that knowing the
probabilities for the particles to be in any of their various possible
configurations would enable someone to work out the overall properties of the system.
Going one step further, he also made a bold and insightful guess about these
probabilities - that any of the many conceivable configurations for the
particles would be equally probable. Deeper beauty Boltzmann's idea works, and
has enabled physicists to make mathematical models of thousands of real
materials, from simple crystals to superconductors. But his work also has a deeper
beauty. For a start, it reflects the fact that many quantities in nature -
such as the velocities of molecules in a gas - follow "normal" statistics. That
is, they are closely grouped around the average value, with a "bell curve"
distribution. The theory also explains why, if left to their own devices,
systems tend to get disorganised. Boltzmann argued that any system that can be in
several different configurations is most likely to be in the more spread out
and disorganised condition. Air molecules in a box, for example, can gather
neatly in a corner, but are more likely to fill the space evenly. That's
because there are overwhelmingly more arrangements of the particles that will
produce the spread out, jumbled state than arrangements that will concentrate
the molecules in a corner. This way of thinking led to the famous notion of
entropy - a measure of the amount of disorder in a system. In its most elegant
formulation, Boltzmann's statistical mechanics, which was later developed
mathematically by the American physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs, asserts that,
under many conditions, a physical system will act so as to maximise its entropy.
And yet Boltzmann and Gibbs's statistical mechanics doesn't explain
everything: a great swathe of nature eludes its grasp entirely. Boltzmann's guess
about equal probabilities only works for systems that have settled down to
equilibrium, enjoying, for example, the same temperature throughout. The theory
fails in any system where destabilising external sources of energy are at work,
such as the haphazard motion of turbulent fluids or the fluctuating energies
of cosmic rays. These systems don't follow normal statistics, but another
pattern instead. If you repeatedly measure the difference in fluid velocity at
two distinct points in a turbulent fluid, for instance, the probability of
finding a particular velocity difference is roughly proportional to the amount
of that difference raised to the power of some exponent. This pattern is
known as a "power law", and such patterns turn up in many other areas of
physics, from the distribution of energies of cosmic rays to the fluctuations of
river levels or wind speeds over a desert. Because ordinary statistical
mechanics doesn't explain power laws, their atomic-level origins remain largely
mysterious, which is why many physicists find Tsallis's mathematics so enticing.
In Mexico City, coming out of his reverie, Tsallis wrote up some notes on his
idea, and soon came to a formula that looked something like the standard
formula for the Boltzmann-Gibbs entropy - but with a subtle difference. If he
set q to 1 in the formula - so that pq became the probability p - the new
formula reduced to the old one. But if q was not equal to 1, it made the formula
produce something else. This led Tsallis to a new definition of entropy. He
called it q entropy. Back then, Tsallis had no idea what q might actually
signify, but the way this new entropy worked mathematically suggested he might
be on to something. In particular, the power-law pattern tumbles out of the
theory quite naturally. Over the past decade, researchers have shown that
Tsallis's mathematics seem to describe power-law behaviour accurately in a wide
range of phenomena, from fluid turbulence to the debris created in the
collisions of high-energy particles. But while the idea of maximising q entropy seems
to work empirically, allowing people to fit their data to power-law curves
and come up with a value of q for individual systems, it has also landed
Tsallis in some hot water. The new mathematics seems to work, yet no one knows what
the q entropy really represents, or why any physical system should maximise
it. Degrees of chaos And for this reason, many physicists remain sceptical,
or worse. "I have to say that I don't buy it at all," says physicist Cosma
Shalizi of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who criticises the
mathematical foundations of Tsallis's approach. As he points out, the usual
Boltzmann procedure for maximising the entropy in statistical mechanics assumes a
fixed value for the average energy of a system, a natural idea. But to make
things work out within the Tsallis framework, researchers have to fix the value
of another quantity - a "generalised" energy - that has no clear physical
interpretation. "I have yet to encounter anyone," says Shalizi, "who can
explain why this should be natural." To his critics, Tsallis's success is little
more than sleight of hand: the equation may simply provide a convenient way
to generate power laws, which researchers can then fit to data by choosing the
right value of q "My impression," says Guido Caldarelli of La Sapienza
University in Rome, "is that the method really just fits data by adjusting a
parameter. I'm not yet convinced there's new physics here." Physicist Peter
Grassberger of the University of Wuppertal in Germany goes further. "It is all
nonsense," he says. "It has led to no new predictions, nor is it based on
rational arguments." The problem is that most work applying Tsallis's ideas has
simply chosen a value of q to make the theory fit empirical data, without
tying q to the real dynamics of the system in any deeper way: there's nothing to
show why these dynamics depart from Boltzmann's picture of equal
probabilities. Tsallis, who is now at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, acknowledges
this is a limitation, but suggests that a more fundamental explanation is
already on its way. Power laws, he argues, should tend to arise in "weakly
chaotic" systems. In this kind of system, small perturbations might not be
enough to alter the arrangement of molecules. As a result, the system won't
"explore" all possible configurations over time. In a properly chaotic system, on
the other hand, even tiny perturbations will keep sending the system into new
configurations, allowing it to explore all its states as required for
Boltzmann statistics. Tsallis argues that if physicists can adequately understand
the details of this "exploring behaviour", they should be able to predict
values of q from first principles. In particular, he proposes, some as yet
unknown single parameter - closely akin to q - should describe the degree of chaos
in any system. Working out its value by studying a system's basic dynamics
would then let physicists predict the value of q that then emerges in its
statistics. Other theoretical work seems to support this possibility. For
example, in a paper soon to appear in Physical Review E, physicist Alberto Robledo
of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City has examined
several classic models that physicists have used to explore the phenomenon of
chaos. What makes these models useful is that they can be tuned to be more or
less chaotic - and so used to explore the transition from one kind of
behaviour to another. Using these model systems, Robledo has been able to carry out
Tsallis's prescription, deriving a value of q just from studying the
system's fundamental dynamics. That value of q then reproduces intricate power-law
properties for these systems at the threshold of chaos. "This work shows that
q can be deduced from first principles," Tsallis says. While Robledo has
tackled theoretical issues, other researchers have made the same point with real
observations. In a paper just published, Leonard Burlaga and Adolfo Vinas at
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, study
fluctuations in the properties of the solar wind - the stream of charged particles that
flows outward from the sun - and show that they conform to Tsallis's ideas.
They have found that the dynamics of the solar wind, as seen in changes in its
velocity and magnetic field strength, display weak chaos of the type
envisioned by Tsallis. Burlaga and Vinas have also found that the fluctuations of
the magnetic field follow power laws that fit Tsallis's framework with q set to
1.75 (Physica A, vol 356, p 275). The chance that a more comprehensive
formulation of Tsallis's q entropy might eventually be found intrigues physicist
Ezequiel Cohen of the Rockefeller University in New York City. "I think a good
part of the establishment takes an unfair position towards Tsallis's work,"
he says. "The critique that all he does is 'curve fitting' is, in my opinion,
misplaced." Cohen has also started building his own work on Tsallis's
foundations. Two years ago, with Christian Beck of Queen Mary, University of
London, he proposed an idea known as "superstatistics" that would incorporate the
statistics of both Boltzmann and Tsallis within a larger framework. In this
work they revisited the limitation of Boltzmann's statistical mechanics.
Boltzmann's models cannot cope with any system in which external forces churn up
differences such as variations in temperature. A particle moving through
such a system would experience many temperatures for short periods and its
fluctuations would reflect an average of the ordinary Boltzmann statistics for all
those different temperatures. Cohen and Beck showed that such averaged
statistics, emerging out of the messy non-uniformity of real systems, take the
very same form as Tsallis statistics, and lead to power laws. In one striking
example, Beck showed how the distribution of the energies of cosmic rays could
emerge from random fluctuations in the temperature of the hot matter where
they were originally created. Cohen thinks that, if nothing else, Tsallis's
powers of probabilities have served to reawaken physicists to fundamental
questions they have never quite answered. After all Boltzmann's idea, though
successful, was also based on a guess; Albert Einstein disliked Boltzmann's
arbitrary assumption of "equal probabilities" and insisted that a proper theory of
matter had to rest on a deep understanding of the real dynamics of
particles. That understanding still eludes us, but Tsallis may have taken us closer.
It is possible that, in his mysterious q entropy, Tsallis has discovered a
kind of entropy just as useful as Boltzmann's and especially suited to the
real-world systems in which the traditional theory fails. "Tsallis made the first
attempt to go beyond Boltzmann," says Cohen. The door is now open for others
to follow. Close this window Printed on Thu Sep 01 01:17:25 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
Recent Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University;
Core Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
www.howardbloom.net
www.bigbangtango.net
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: Institute for
Accelerating Change ; executive editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see:
www.paleopsych.org
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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