Friday, March 23, 2007

my childhood journey into an Earth centered Cosmological mythology

So N. says that her communist Bulgarian upbringing told her that we are just accidents of evolution. but in meditation, in sitting under the stars at night she FELT this was not so...

she asks why the traditional 400 year old science paradigm told her this. why did she grow up feeling disconnected from the natural world that science described.

so i say it's not science or ....

i DID grow up connected to the natural world. my dad took me to the museum of natural history, he took me to the park, he took us out to the country the lake the woods on weekends, wher he showed me how to look under every log and stone for the little creatures growing there, he showed me the plants and the trees.. we lived in the trailer on weekends, we always had cats giving birth to kittens, i always had jars of guppies and snails and algae birthing and dying and growin, i was always under the bushes digging up plants and rocks and bugs, i was always drawing coral reefs learning about fossils i always knew that i was molecules, that i was in ecosystems, that i had a long history going back to abraham and back further to a dual inheritence of some god story and some story back through stone age people back through apes back all the way long history back to trilobytes and eurypterids back to elegant magnificent single celled critters who's delicate amazing glass models i saw at the museum that i could relate to the critters i watched staring into pond water with my friend mossimo, back to chemistry itself, i played with my chemistry set, i felt sodium thiosulfate get cold when added to water, i felt ferric ferric ammonium sulfate get warm when added to water, i watched sulfer go through its mysterious phase transitions as it was heated. i looked at stars through my telescope and learned their distances and ages and ...

this was before i ever read Stuart kauffman and brian swimm.

so how old is this tradition? at one point at stony brook i wanted to track it down. i never did. i never asked my dad where he got it.

is it a product of my autistic mind? that whenever the complex tangled human shit got to intense i would go immerse myself in finite
simple details of the natural world?

so where did i get that connection and why did N. not get it? so i claim i got it from science, from a tradition... not science, some hodge podge of european naturalists, american mountain men, american native peoples.

when i was in middle school i read McIlvain's 1001 american fungi. here was an american man riding around the country on his horse at the turn of the century (earlier?), setting up camp wherever he found a new patch of mushrooms and proceeding to dispell old european ideas about their edibility/danger and get to know them on their own. he lived off the land, he practiced science: well what WILL this mushroom do to me, let me try a tiny morsel, no that's not bad, let me try a bigger one... he communicated with the academic botanists getting the names straight, getting the classifications straight.

i partook in this with him. i tried my own mushrooms, i looked them up in his book, and keyed them out. this connected me to the land, to the mysterious mushrooms, to the tradition of naturalists, to science.

ditto i identified with Lutz, and his experiences with the insects around him in his field guide to insects. that grown men would just sit on the ground and watch the details of lives of insects not to learn how best to poison them to grow better crops (though of course many are motivated by that or more to the point, take advantage of governments that are motivated by that to fund their own scientific fascination) but merely because they were fascinating little lives in their own right.

i got to know around 150 different insects in my childhood, that i still carry the experiences of today.

i had sometimes up to 4 fishtanks in my room chock full of mini ecosystems, every conceivible group of critters in the water, i read Buchbaum's "animals without backbones", a survey of all those disparate critters. i kept frogs with me in the room as companions, i used to pet my banjo catfish, i used to play tug of war with the crayfish down the pond.

where was the science? my dad and i would repair the family car, troubleshooting, knowing which fractions of an inch corresponded to which number of millimeters to find the right socket wrench. math was something you got you hands dirty on.

i had a telescope, i went to the planetarium, i would take home little science toys, like magnets... when i was REALLY young i had a record that i would listen to explaining how molecules worked, that the properties of heat and the sound in seashells and steam was the work of molecules in the air water... rushing around... i listened to these along with my tom and jerry records.

was i told that we were evolutionary accidents?

i remember in highschool thinking that the argument about probabilities was stupid, that at each stage the complexity of the stage before it tightens the probabilities.

i think that having heard the evolutionary story so much from my earliest memories that i took it for GRANTED? maybe i grew up in a more optimistic time than N. did.

i think that i autistically, no but i was in good company on this, i found so much comfort in NONHUMAN nature that whether the grand story of evolving life came up with humans or not wasn't a BIG issue, the other critters were just as entitled to it.

did i feel lost in a vast cosmos? at what age are we talking? i think she is talking about later teens! hell, by then i had read tons of science fiction had created my own vast mythologies about life and the universe. hell, remember planetology?

so, steeped in tora, science fiction, evolution, cosmology, native american mythology... i had no trouble finding mythic stuctures to place me in this cosmos. in 7th grade while contemplating the essentially metabolic nature of grasshopper lives, i cooked up this idea of planetology: that molecules had the desire to enter into more complex relationships, wider ranges of mixing... i saw the whole evolution of life on Earth and up to man with his earth mixing technologies and one day travel to other planets to spread life, as a property of the very particles of the universe, physics. my ideas, i later found out were not in line with modern physics, yet they carried me. and to this day, following those ideas of why do molecular systems, planetary systems lead to more complex order, i learned about far from equilibrium dissapative systems, that yes order does come from the laws of physics and mathematics.

don't forget all the math and computer science and cellular automata i studied. i was doing math puzzles forever. already even without a universe, mathematics itself, geometry itself, gives order for free. i knew this.

so there you had it. by seventh grade i had created my own mythology which i believed joined me to history, Earth, science, Cosmology... i never had trouble feeling connected with the universe. science never got a chance to alienate me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

foundation to the human journey

what is it to be human? IS there an answer to this question? there has been a birthing crowd of humans going back generation by generation back to the first inklings of redox reactions on sunny muds or boiling seavents. can we say at what POINT in history they were human? no. can we tell how much longer we will be human? no. is an idiot savant human? is an infant human? is an old woman suffering from alzheimer's; memory unhinged, human? is a baby born without a brain human? are siamese twins joined at the hip one or two humans? can we tell when someone is a male or a female? is a zygote human? is an embryo human? can we know each other at all?

but oddly with this mosaic of genes in a mosaic of humans on Earth TODAY there does seem to be a statistical norm, most males are male most females are female, most children surviving infancy are not joined to the hip and have their organs, their sanity intact, and spend most of their lives in human society, approximating some norm of humanity.

is to be a human a statistical concept?

why are there only ONE species of human alive today? how much of our humanity do we share with chimps, dogs, dolphins, elephants, all of life?

is the human mental experience outrageously qulitatively different than that of chimps dogs dolphins elephants...?

(i can't even ask these questions the WAY i am asking them without being in the tradition of science)

so what's the statistical norm of humanity today?

living eukaryote metazoan vertebrate mammal primate ape human each of these imparts an onion layer of quality to the human experience. or... is our basic oxidation reduction fatty chemistry at our core or is it our experience of being lost in this tangled labyrinth of 20billion neurons at our core?

we are ephemeral dances played on the congealing and expiring chemistries of Earth breath. How many molecules does it take to dance one of us living creatures? even the simplest among us, a bacteria takes about 100billion molecules to dance it in half a dozen levels of hierarchy in a couple thousand different reactions. so we are VERY far from the basic properties of physical law; quantum behavior, wave particle duality, elactromagnetic forces. we already start out as abstracted from the physics that is our ground. so we are not objects, we are dynamical mathematical dances being played on... we are ephemeral, taking part in a long journey of evolution of the forms of this dance. genetically even we are not individuals. yet we cohere. it is an odd mix. science does not yet have a good handle on how this maelstrom of chemical cycles coheres. There is alot of math involved.

Life is danced on 100s of billions or more dancing molecules, and life has been dancing LONG. 3.6billion years, almost as long as this Earth has been cool enough to have us. the dance steps take place a billion times a second. a billion billion dance steps danced by a million billion billion dancers. Organized. with physical law way way down below. and mathematics. that's the stage we were born into. there may be more stages...

we are momentary coming together places of breath in the grand cycles of Earth breathing. what one critter exhales another inhales, what one critter puts together into it's body another will take apart. therefore life eats life to live.

we are creative, each of us can be the place where new form is invented, the beginnings of a clan of new creatures that can spread accross the Earth and change it. On the flip side we are also vulnerable to horrific physiological failure, not even making it past being a zygote. basically we are the experimental thougths of this evolving journey of life on Earth.

our coherence is vulnerable.

we belong to LOOOONG family lines. lineages of grandmother after grandmother after grandmother.... a BILLION generations long. these populations weave in and out of that long history spliting, sometimes joining, The space of forms we can explore is is unimaginable. our exponential growth allows us to explore this space very thoroughly, reaching all sorts of odd corners of it. But much more forms are possible than can fit on this finite Earth, so 99.99% of our possible selves become EXTINCT along the way.

hence what exists at any particular moment are bands of organisms isolated by long histories of extinctions between them. the members of each band related to each other, the bands different from each other, seperated by extinction. Coming along for the ride with us are more than 2million different species of life on this planet today. so ignorant are we that we don't even know if it's 2million or 200million. the incredible range of the ways to be alive, most of us are ignorant of. We can relate to dogs, parrots, turtles, Cichlids(fish that take care of their kids in families) as pets. these are all vertebrates. vertebrates are just ONE of over a 100 basic different clans of living creatures. the creativity is immense.

are species coherent? this is currently a mystery, the verdict is out. it appears that many are somewhat coherent, each remaining stable for only a few million years out of the hundreds of millions of years of play, then they transform, split into many or disappear.

our branch of living creatures (the chordates) appearing more than 100million generations ago hit upon the idea of individuals that can be born and that can birth distinct individuals and that can die, unlike many squishy sea creatures and plants that are more amorphous masses of many headed many fissioning siamese twinning connected lives.

so we are born, we give birth, are blood is easily spilt, we die.

then we became vertebrates. birth, some childcare, eating, killing, being killed, social groups, communication, sensuality, mating, raising kids, death.

then we became primates. complex ecosystems, social groups, intensely visual, vocal, jungle dwellers. again, we are large. If the simplest life, a bacteria is dance of a 100billion molecules abstracting it, distancing it from that level of reality, then we are a coordinated confederation of 100billion bacteria abstracting us, distancing us from the basic gut level of how life works... by now we mostly live in our mental world... perhaps already forgetting that we are ephemeral dances on Earthbreath. perhaps already most vertebrates think of themselves as THINGS.

then, quickly, we became human. the climate wobbled abit, chased us around, we danced with it, left the forest, swelled our tangled neuron nets to 20billion, in order to cope? childhood lengthened, bacame risky, husbands became useful, we ate more flesh. we learned rhythm. we learned winding narrative. we became Homo aggressivusteamplayerus capable of banding together into some of the largest frighteningly coordinated hoards on Earth. we bagan to leave our mark...

we discovered communal ecstatic states.

all of a sudden each of us woke up alone under the skydome the skullvault of such a labyrinth that every time we use it to contemplate itself, it's limits expands ever further from itself. We invented all manner of frightening and mesmerising infinities...

along the way... well, primates were never as diverse as ungulates (hooved animals) or rodents or even bats... they never really left the tropics. the apes... not a very big clan at all, a rather risky experiment. for awhile, a few million years we experimented ourselves. there were perhaps a few different kinds of us in africa and asia at the same time, for awhile we were not too dissimilar from our other ape relatives. not certain if any of us noticed.

but by the time we became Homo aggressivusteamplayerus, we tolerated no one. whether they fell by the wayside or whether we murdered or ate them, our relatives started to dissappear. all hominids are now gone. and the other 5 ape species are loosing ground rapidly. we tolerate no one who is different. we tolerate no one who reminds us of our animal past?

so we are basically alone. not quite. we soon enough took up with wolves, horses, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, hogs... but really alone. the wolves turned dogs are the best chance we have of an animal companion to remind us from whence we came, perhaps to teach us some sanity? have we made dogs more insane than they've kept us sane?

to be continued.

possibly with:
eve eats the cerebrum fruit

where new ideas can evolve

weaning ourselves from this mind

initial cosmic rebellion against flesh

Sunday, March 11, 2007


-then she said
when i long for real communion with the Divine, does she long for me too?

i want to believe that she does, but i find it difficult, with 6.5 billion other people in the world, and endless galaxies spreading through space.

-so i said
without us the divine pops into existence like a fractal dust of miracles, countless sparkles and antisparkles throughout the universe. constantly anihilating each other back out of existence. she yearns for us to catch the sparks of herselves before they go and give birth with them into worlds.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

well, the blog is getting stuffed!

it's got a table of contents. soon i will turn it all into a bonafide website and put some order to it. it might even begin to make sense.

summary of universe ain't grey

hotcold summary

i think the point is:

Why couldn't Earth just be a random mash of evenly dispersed neutrons, protons and electrons? See, the universe goes through cycles. Matter flows through these cycles of alternate cooling and heating.

See, the universe starts out ultimately compact with only energy at a very high temperature. Then it expands and cools, and as it does so protons and electrons condense out. But now it is too cool for the nuclear forging to take place to stick these protons together and form the wealth of elements we got. But then gravity kicks in and pulls protons together and heats them up again. They jostle around and bang into each other and stick together to form the 96 different distinct nuclei that our Earth is made of.

So the star blows up and spews all its new made elements into the clouds of space and as they cool, they can no longer fuse, so we get the wonderful mix of DISTINCT atoms that make up earth.

Now they cool even more and no longer make up a plasma and electrons can once again settle back in place around nuclei and make atoms. But too cool, and they will never be able to join and make interesting arrangements. So again they may settle into the local equilibrium well unless we heat them up a little so they get some activation energy and they can form new bonds and finally settle into the molecules with the lowest potential energy.

Still, our immediate response to this Earth with its 14 different kinds of elements would be, that if you cobbled 14 different colored clays together in a big gob and mixed it, you would get a boring grey gob of clay. but we aren't dealing with dumb clay. This universe is not created by a distinction making god-artist out of dumb clay.


then you have a mash of molecules and ions interacting, does it all get homogenous? no, energy flow through the system creates more heterogenaity so that the minerals are not mixed. gravity gradients separate things out dense, solid, ocean, atmoshphere.. convections cells, biological cells, organisms.

it's an ode to why the universe is not grey.

He flew to Her

-so Lisa said to me
He flew to Her. Through the spheres He passed. And though each sphere he passed, yet in each He remained. From each sphere He took its nature and yet, the integrity of the Fullness He retained. Between each sphere He remained, and yet He continued His journey. Joining the worlds was a heavenly bridge, whose beauty would light the way for all who could see. It is a living bridge of beauty, for it is of Him. And yet, He continued.

He reached unto Her and though He entered time, His flight had taken no time at all. He reached unto Her, and at Her visage, He, who had viewed the splendor of all the heavens, was awed by the glory and the grace of She of the Infinite Shimmering Pearls. Her sweetness came from Her all-encompassing heart: The Charming Heart of the heavens and earth alike. A tear, a brilliant jewel of light, caressed His cheek and fell. And She of no eye, reached with the Grace She never lost, and cradled His tear in a hand that lovelier could not be; for in Her infinite compassion She could let no tear fall of such a One as He. And She touched the tear to where Her eyes should be, and She of the no eye, once again could see.

He paused, and looking at the dazed faces around Him, said. "This was the story told to man by the angels ages and ages ago. It is a story of old. It is a story of now. It is a story unto the end of time."

-and I said
like this?

a massive deep hot blue sun sinking into her own heaviness... pressing pressing pressing till she's heavy enough inside, enough pressure and heat to give birth to new elements from the primordial hydrogen. doing the alchemist's trick of transmuting hydrogen into the life giving elements of carbon and oxygen and beyond all the way up to iron. all this from hydrogen gas.

her massive belly pulsates as she spins. and when enough hydrogen burns into the life giving elements she shines, she spews forth light and heat. and this spewing forth of light and heat pushes out against her sinking heaviness and she balances: a heavy living breathing star of seething gas, big enough to devour half our solar system.

but she ain't infinite. she burns hard, she lives hard and she lives fast. one day she burns the last ounce of her hydrogen fuel, she burns everything to iron and there the burning stops.

without the spewing out of light and heat to match the pressure in of her heaviness, the heaviness prevails, and she collapses in on herself. quickly. the sides of her belly implode on themselves so hard so massive and so fast that she explodes, she bursts her self apart into clouds of the life giving elements she's cooked for us. supernova.

these life giving elements scatter across the heavens and give life to new planets, whilst her spinning heart compacted from her implosion remains. a spinning heart the size of the earth but spinning 30 times a second! the magnetic fields rush past the clouds so fast they make them glow.

enjoy her life giving elements and sky jewels. give thanks.

-and she said
yes, her spinning heart remains.


['he flew to her' with permission from...
The Testament of John
translated and edited by Rosamonde Miller
copyright 1983

image from NASA Hubble images:
the wiki

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

zero one laws in random graphs.

if you have an ensemble of M sets of N vertices each, each with the probability of an edges between vertices being p, then for each property of a graph, i.e. a cycle exists, a completely connected graph exists, no nonconnected component exists... a certain proportion q, of the ensemble will have that property.

now as we let M go to infinity and p go from 0 to 1 smoothly the function q(p) will approach a step function at some probability p for each property. This takes VERY high level math to prove, but can we simulate it?

can we relate this to the behavior of a SINGLE very large graph? i.e. with on the order of 10^23 vertices, or cellular scale, 10^12 vertices, but with edges rearranging 10^10 times/sec so in the order of a few seconds this graph wanders through the space of the ensemble...

so if we just think of the transition from liquid to solid where the probability of a bond is proportional to temperature or basically the definition of temperature is the probability of a bond.. then as we raise temperature smoothly we get a step transition from liquid to solid.

ditto for more complicated properties of chemical networks?

where does this go?

classification of finite simple groups

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Here is another static tautological system with simple rules that will give us a surprisingly diverse but not totally chaotic behavior. No dynamics or random input required, though i suppose you could work out the consequences by seting up an iterative system with stochastic input to explore the space and 'discover' all the possible groups... hmmm..

So we can define a mathematical object called a group, in a similar way that we defined prime numbers.

a group is a set of elements with an operator *, that has the following properties:
1) closure: for any two elements in the group (not necessarily different) a, b, a*b, is also an element in the group.
2) the operation is associative: a*(b*c) = (a*b)*c
3) identity element: there exists an element e such that for all elements a in the group, e*a=a*e=a
4) inverses: for every element a, in the group, there exists an element A (the inverse of a), such that a*A=A*a=e

there are lots of examples. the simplest most familiar is the set of integers with addition:

1) x+z is an integer.
2) addition is associative
3) 0 is the additive identity
4) the inverse of x is -x

that's an example of a group with an infinite number of elements.

the next simplest example is NOT familiar but motivated the invention of the idea of groups:

look at a book on your desk. i can rotate it in a number of ways. let's start out simple, just leaving the book flat on the desk. i can rotate it 90deg clockwise, now it faces to the right. i can rotate it 90 again, and if faces towards you. or i could have rotated it 180* clockwise, same result. So lets make that the group operation: 90#90 = 180 means follow a 90* by another 90*. I can rotate it 90* again and get 270*. one more 90 gets me 360 which is the same as no rotation at all or 0*. rotating 90* again gets me 450 but that's the same as 90* so nothing new. looks like our group of elements is 90, 180, 270, 0. is it a group? start combining different rotations. work it out. is it closed? two rotations always result in a rotation in the group?

Arrange your knowlege of the structure of this group in a 'multiplication' table, i'll start it out for you:

#      0    90    180   270

0      0    90    180   270
90    90    180   270  ...

Is it associative? Is 90 #(180#270) =(90#180)#270? what's the identity element? does every rotation have an inverse? 270#what=your identity?

so that's a finite group.

look at this group: remember the imaginary number i, the square root of minus one? the defining feature of i was that i*i=-1. can we make a group? i*-1=-i, i*-i=--1=1, i*1=i. so it's closed: 1, i, -1, -i. does it work? identity? inverses? associative?

now make a table for this one too.

same groups aren't they? the GROUP is the structure itself, an abstraction of the examples of square roots of minus 1 and the physical rotations of books...

can we make different group with 4 elements? how about e,A,B,C with A#A = B#B = C#C = e. now fill in the table. let's let A#B=C. now what is A#C=? well, if A#B=C then A#(A#B)=A#C, now we use the associative property, so (A#A)#B=A#C and now we use the fact that A is its own inverse: e#B=A#C, and identity property: B=A#C. so A#C = B! see how the 3 properties create the structure of the group. now you can fill in the rest of the group using these games and see if it is all consistant. is it a different group than our first two?

now comes fun. how many groups can you think up with ONE element. what does the element have to be?

how about groups with two elements? e, A. what must A#A be?

groups with three elements? do we have some choices?

and four elements...

Are there any patterns? There are certain classes of these finite groups. For instance our first example of group size 4, is a member of the class of cyclic groups of order n: for any n, use 0,1,2...,n-1 as your group elements and use addition as your operation. but it's not closed! (n-1)+1 is not in the group! so adjust the addition to work modulo n, i.e. (n-1)+1=0, (n-1)+2=1, etc.. check to see that 0,1,2,3 with that operation makes yet another group that is the same structure as our first 2 groups of size 4.

another class of groups is the group of permutations of n objects. work it out for 3 objects: From (abc) you can make (acb) (that's a flip of two letters), (bac) (another flip), (bca) (that's a rotation from front to back)... There are 6 possible permutations in all. The group operation is to follow one permutation by another, like our rotations of the book. For instance (acb ) followed by (bac) is: start with (abc) then flip the last two letters: (acb) . then flip the first two letters: (cab) . There is yet another element of the group: flipping the first and last letter! Don't forget the identity element: (bac) followed by (abc) is (bac). (abc) is do nothing, like rotate 0 degrees. Did you find all 6 permutations? Now arrange them in a big 6X6 multiplication table. And work out all the multiplications. If you arrange them in the right order, you will see a nice pattern.

It would take quite alot of exploration to find All the different kinds of groups we can make with 6 elements! The permuation group is certainly different than the cyclic group modulo 6!

So we start getting all kinds of cool structures and patterns, how does all this structure come out of our very simple abstract definition of a group? it's like the structure that comes out of our simple definition of prime numbers, or the structures that come out of our simple definitions of the behavior of conway life.

neat, huh?

like prime numbers there are certainly infinitely many finite groups, for instance the cyclic groups of order n form one such class. now we know that there are infinitely many primes, but we can't really get a handle on just what numbers they all are, there's not quite a pattern...

So, can we work out all the possible groups for each size n? Is there any pattern? One tool is to look at not just any groups, but just as we can factor numbers into primes and generate all the numbers by multiplying primes, we can factor groups We factor them into what are called simple groups, the 'primes' of groups. the cyclic group of element 4 we found was a simple group. the one with A#A = B#B = C#C = e, is not. it 'factors'. How to do this will get us too far afield, but you can look it up in a book about group theory. It's a little wild!

Nevertheless, as the size of the simple group gets bigger there are more and more different kinds for each size, or are there? Does the diversity of simple groups keep growing chaotically for bigger and bigger size? NO! we have classified ALL the finite simple groups, as the size goes to infinity the number of different kinds of groups of each size does keep growing, it settles down. the diversity of groups is interesting but settles down to a FINITE number of classes. There are in fact only 18 infinite classes of finite simple groups. That means that for each class, there are bigger and bigger groups that share the structure of the class. The cyclic groups is one such class. So that's that, right? No! There were also found to be 26 other sporadic simple groups that did not fit into these classes, and the largest one of these has
808,017,424,794,512,875,886,459,904,961,710,757,005,754,368,000,000,000 elements in it! It is appropriately called "the monster"! 

Where on earth in our definition of a group, did this crazy beast come from? And why do the sporadic groups go on up to the 26th one and then no others can be formed? 

Here is yet another example, like the 96 stable elements in the periodic chart of a simple system with simple laws giving us a surprisingly diverse but not totally chaotic array of behaviors.

This is a fascinating recent result of mathematics. By the way, working it all out and writing up the proofs that we got all the groups takes up about 10,000 pages of math journals! There are only a few mathematicians in the world who have a grasp the whole result.

Here is some more information on this result:

And here is an advanced summary:

Here is a nice video describing groups and some clips of John Horton Conway (who worked with the monster) describing how much this puzzle disturbs him!


(29Oct95 )

Think of the four forces of physics as rules for how to make a universe, if there were a universe around to sculpt. We have worked out in great detail how the rules for these four forces work: gravity, electromagnetic interaction, strong and weak nuclear interactions on mass charge color and charm respectively. But we do not know why mass charge color and charm exist. Nor do we know why they are instantiated in particles in the amounts and combinations they are. Still mystery as we look deeper and deeper in.

Behind total vacuum, nothingness, seethes a source of randomness that can create space-time-matter-energy into existence. Particles of matter energy constantly burst on the scene and annihilate each other in vacuum. Perhaps the birth of the universe was that way.

Once a specific amount of space time matter energy miraculously enters the canvas, the four forces sculpt it into patterns. The second law of thermodynamics also comes into play.

These two kinds of rules interact and produce a grand play between them. The four forces play by pulling STME into patterns, discrete particles and govern how they interact, that they in fact do interact, come together and form dynamic patterns. The second law of thermodynamics says: there are more ways to be random than to be organized, correlated. So as the universe bustles around it eventually settles into a disorganized state. You can see they play against each other. This creates the drama of the universe on all scales.

Second law says Big Bang should just evenly spread out into a warm formless haze of heat. But early in the first few seconds of Big Bang some of the four forces kicked in and pulled energy together into particles: photons, electrons, protons.

Still, 2nd law says keep expanding and electrons and protons spread out. But then gravity kicks in and pulls huge masses of protons and electrons together into clumps.

The miracle about these forces and their play with the second law is that the universe never settles down into homogeneity. Heterogeneous structures form at all scales. [actually macro scale of galaxy clusters might have come from quantum scale properties when Universe was small]

So gravity pulls together a nation, a Sun full of protons and electrons and forms a sun. Gravity would pull in all the way and pop the sun out of existence if the there weren't other laws around to interact with it. Especially the second law of thermodynamics. See, once gravity clumps Suns together into existence we have warmth inside the suns and cold outside them. Gravity pulls in more and...

Gravity pulls these protons so close together that energy locked up in their separate form of creation is released as they fuse together with electrons and form helium nuclei. The sun begins to burn with fusion power. Since energy is concentrated in the sun, the 2nd law says pull it out into the cold black space of the universe and disperse it. This flow of energy pouring OUT of the sun BALANCES the pull of gravity INTO the sun, and allows the 2nd law and the four forces an opportunity to balance for the millions of years of the life time of a sun.

If gravity had not clumped the universe into sun and cold space, but instead we had an even expanse of energy production then as much energy would flow into the "sun" as would flow out of it. It's only because between the suns is cold that energy flows out of the sun from hot to cold.

This is the way it is. the four forces constantly set up heterogeneous clumping of higher concentration of energy and lower concentration of energy and the 2nd law then sets in to causing energy to flow between these two potentials. All the drama is possible because of this separating out and flowing back. This Universe is an interesting place after all!

But what HAPPENS to Suns! The miracle that this universe is, is this: I can write down on one page the mathematical formulae for these four laws that make up the set of instructions with which to shape s t m e. Yet that simple set is enough to create unbelievable heterogeneous pattern.

What I am talking about is the creation of the incredible wealth of color, texture, taste, size, smell, sound of what is immediately around me. Brown wooden window sill, transparent glass panes, air to breath, hills clothed in green trees, multicolored butterflies, hills made of 2000 different kinds of minerals, plastic pen, aluminum tip, cotton clothes, cardinal birds that have learned how to sing and fly!

We take this for granted, this over 10 million species of creatures, 10,000s of colors, 10 million smells, 2000 different minerals, 100,000 different man made materials.

Surely if Big Bang proceeded out of a mind combined out of Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Bach, and Shakespeare, then it would be easy to imagine how this wealth of creation occurred. But of course then we are left with the puzzle of where did THAT mind come from? Science has found a different way.

Some examples will show that given a set of simple rules, it is possible to create this spectacle.

(1) Conway life:

(2) Zero one laws on random graphs

(3) classification of finite simple groups

(4) Xnew=mXold(1-Xold) and Mandelbrot set

So these simple laws of physics don't allow THIS dull story: Random cloud of hydrogen atoms. Gravity pulls it inward and gets denser and denser and denser until it pops away as a black hole. The end.

On every level phase transition sets in. [See (2)] First of all, convection happens on the surface of a star. Magnetic fields form. Simple laws of nuclear physics creates for us the heterogeneous pattern of possible nucleii that fusion can form. [See (3)]

Matter doesn't fall out as some kind of infinitely divisible, infinitely blendable clay, but breaks up into a heterogeneous family of discrete nuclei.

When these nuclei are later shed from a Sun who explodes, they will collect electrons and when you pump in the ascending scale of numbers 1, 2, 3, ... 106 into Schrodinger's equation you get a surprisingly complex and varied set of properties for each of the 106 elements.

I want to point out why it is so surprising and how gracious we ought to be that out of these simple laws can come this cast of characters: Hydrogen, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Aluminum, Silicon, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Chlorine, and just a dash of Copper, Zink, Vanadium, Molybdenum, Nickel, Chromium, Cobalt. Over 99% of everything we see, touch, taste, hear, smell, is made of only that many kinds of building blocks.

When we find the creation of Earth we will see what extravagant play this simple set of characters can create.

* * *

"Fourteen tribes, some similar and some very different."

So is Earth some huge solid clay ball with colorful fuzz of a world painted in its surface by a Michaelangelo, God? Let's look deeper.

Of the 15 common elements, Iron and Nickel being the densest sink to the core when the Earth was molten or at least very hot.

Earth was made of 15 kinds of characters:

...............................C N O
Na Mg .................Al Si P S Cl
K Ca .......Fe Ni

Why couldn't Earth just be a random mash of evenly dispersed neutrons, protons and electrons? See, the universe goes through cycles. Matter flows through these cycles of alternate cooling and heating.

See, the universe starts out ultimately compact with only energy at a very high temperature. Then it expands and cools, and as it does so protons and electrons condense out. But now it is too cool for the nuclear forging to take place to stick these protons together and form the wealth of elements we got. But then gravity kicks in and pulls protons together and heats them up again. They jostle around and bang into each other and stick together to form the 96 different distinct nuclei that our Earth is made of. Of course, up to iron, these arrangements are actually at more of a state of equilibrium than were the separate protons, but in order to get over the hump of activation energy to get to that lower energy state closer to ultimate equilibrium, they had to be heated a little. Still, in a massive enough star, if things stay this hot and under such high pressure, eventually ALL the nuclei stick together into one huge ball of neutron star. Again, nothing interesting. So the star blows up and spews all its new made elements into the clouds of space and as they cool, they can no longer fuse, so we get the wonderful mix of DISTINCT atoms that make up earth.

Now they cool even more and no longer make up a plasma and electrons can once again settle back in place around nuclei and make atoms. But too cool, and they will never be able to join and make interesting arrangements. So again they may settle into the local equilibrium well unless we heat them up a little so they get some activation energy and they can form new bonds and finally settle into the molecules with the lowest potential energy. Till they find the lowest potential energy well.

Hydrogen atoms, but then heated and squozen to be forged, fused together to heavier nuclei. But when cooled off and released to relatively cool and small planets they separate out. Different conglomerations of nuclei are stable at different pressures.

How can I say this? Once the high pressure forging is stopped and for a little while discrete atoms form and exist in a cooled state, they can't fuse and rearrange their nuclei anymore. So we are stuck for a while with a discrete set of elements.

Neutron stars and white dwarfs, grey dwarfs... and surely most of the universe will settle down into that state of balance between nucleon repulsion and gravity. In that state the star will be a solid still ball of atoms. Or if the star is more massive and it becomes a neutron star then it becomes one solid ball of neutrons and that is one huge nucleus, no mix of different kinds.

But as I said, we are blessed with happening on a very special and gifted place, a planet between Sun and Void.

So this myriad of only 14 different kinds of atoms are stuck here in their distinctness. Now let's look at our caste of characters.

So no clay of nuclei to sculpt willy nilly ( but who would sculpt it?) So these 14 kinds of atoms sculpt the world from the inside, each obeying relatively simple rules. Look at the personality map that I placed these 15 elements on, the so called periodic chart of elements. From sodium to chlorine we have one progression of personality types; sodium gives away all its electrons and chlorine hoards all the electrons it can get as tightly as it can. From top to bottom, we get larger and larger atoms. That means more room to make connections, but looser ones.

For instance, Carbon and Silicon like to form all kinds of chains and loops and webs but they do it slightly differently. Carbon is what makes wood, clothes, plastic, supple living people possible, and Silicon supports the variety of rocks and minerals in the world. There is no continuum of elements in between carbon and silicon, with intermediate properties! These are the two possibilities, that we are stuck with. This is what quantum rules give us. So we do not live in a psychedelic nightmare haze of formless mush exhibiting the continuum of all possible properties between rocks and fleshy creatures. Only carbon and silicon form out of the nucleons and no others.

Similarly, carbon forms partnerships with up to four other partners at a time. Fairly low energy bonds and so moderately stable. But Nitrogen bonds with only up to three partners, and nitrogen bonds with itself so strongly that many nitrogen compounds gladly explode so that the nitrogen atoms can come back together and hug each other. but only two at a time. So no webs and loops. Since N2 molecules don't stick together in larger groups they form a gas, most of our atmosphere, in fact. But carbon is more sticky and does not form a gas. Anyway, they have quite distinct properties and again, there are no intermediate elements between them.

So only fourteen distinct personalities. Still, our immediate response to this Earth with its 14 different kinds of elements would be, that if you cobbled 14 different colored clays together in a big gob and mixed it, you would get a boring grey gob of clay. but we aren't dealing with dumb clay. This universe is not created by a distinction making god-artist out of dumb clay.

Two sources of creativity exist that works here. One occurring at equilibrium, and the other far from equilibrium. We have described the cycling through temperatures that is required to bring things into equilibrium structures. But there is a whole other form of interestingness, dynamic self organizing beings that can form in a system far from equilibrium.

Equilibrium. Recall that the second law and the four forces hold forth with their battle. Recall that the 2nd law attempts to bring all pattern into randomness.

The elaborate webworks of electron dances around nuclei can be arranged in order of their energy level or likelihood. i.e. the pattern of O=O and N#N is of higher energy, is more complicated than O=N etc.. Of course there are potential humps to be leaped by activation energy...

Is it possible to calculate the equilibrium structure for a set of, say, nine carbons, 2 nitrogens, three oxygens, one sulfur, and 14 hydrogens, if we begin at 5000 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly bring it down to 70 degrees? Does a unique one exist? Nevertheless, there are sets of arrangements of atoms which have different enthalpies.

We must mention that as long as we are above absolute zero degrees of temperature, the mix of molecules at a given temperature has a Boltzman distribution of energies. Kinetic energy, which means that molecules in a gas are whizzing around bouncing into each other, molecules in a liquid are swirling around each other, sticking together, coming apart, molecules in a solid can even creep a little. In all states the molecules are always vibrating, spinning, and their constituent atoms are vibrating against each other like balls connected by springs. So the molecules are always jostling each other. There will always be some with an energy high enough to leap activation energy and if they can find a form which can be found at a lower energy... then they will come together and form it. After all the four forces have arranged this mix on Earth at a height state of potential energy and 2nd law will always pull energy out of it to cold dark space until all potential is leveled.

The final structure which HNaKMgCaFeNiAlSiCNOPSCl will attain will merely be an elaborate solution to the Schrodinger equation for that mix of nuclei.

Nevertheless, this structure can be formidable for the same reasons the structure of properties across the periodic chart is. Only one level of complexity more.

Earth would not have begun at equilibrium because atoms in space spewn from life giving suns explosions are open to bombardment with high energy photons and particles. Getting hit by one of these, an atom might get to an activated state, and in that state collide with another atom and form a bond. Thus molecules with high potential energy are formed. The second law can work with these and make stuff happen and things will once settle down to the lowest energy level of equilibrium.

* * *

So what's the cast of characters?

First aspect to their personalities is their discrete quantum character. One valence electron for H out of a possible two it can attain. One for Na out of a possible eight it can attain, that's too high so it opts for loosing its only electron. Two out of eight for Ca, four out of eight for C, that puts it in the middle of the personality chart. Ditto for the next row, but these atoms are a little bigger so there is a little more room for extended valence.

H, Na, K give up one electron, and become positive +1 ions. Mg, Ca give up two electrons and become positive +2 ions. Fe can become +2 or +3 that's interesting. Al becomes +3, C, Si +4 or -4, N, P, become -3, O, S become -2, Cl becomes -1. First part of the story. The natural thing happens.

Na can get an electro-magnetic charge of +1, Cl can get -1, so of course they stick together. They make crystals, which are moderately hard, melt at a high temperature and dissolve in water. Interesting palette of properties just from two atoms. So obviously all these ions can stick together in all kinds of combinations.

Now the miracle again is why don’t they don't just all stick together in one huge grey gob all averaging out to zero charge? Why if we evaporate water containing Na+, K+, Mg++, Ca++, Al+++, Fe++, Fe+++, Cl-, CO3--, B4O6----, PO4----, SO4---, NO3--, doesn't it all evaporate into one huge gob of a crystal with all the ions evenly mixed? Instead, what happens is that different combinations crystallize out at different times depending on the increasing concentration of the salts in the water as the water evaporates. Each distinct combination makes a distinct crystal of its own forming boundaries with the other crystals.

I don't know exactly. But it has to do with complicated solution sets to shrodinger equation just like the startlingly discrete array of solutions to the classification of all finite groups problem. It also has to do with phase transitions. It seems to be even more basic than physics. It is a mathematical property of systems of many jostling parts that as you change a parameter continuously, like the concentration of the salts in the water decreasing at a steady continuous rate as the water evaporates, the system goes through discrete jumps in behavior, one type of behavior for each region of the parameter.

So anyway, different properties: hardness, melting point, solubility in water, solubility in each other, solubility in the molten mantle of Earth.

Fe, Cu, Co, Ni, etc.. are metals so they may form extended huddles by themselves, sharing electrons. Soft malleable, reflecting, fairly insoluble.

It's the CHNOPSCl part of the smorgasbord of elements that gets interesting. Each can share a distinct number of electrons with the other and thus many different combinations are possible. furthermore, they only share a few electrons at time, unlike the metals, who share all their electrons and the electrons flow from one atom to another and so they can come together in huge huddles. The CHNOPSCL guys only share with a few at a time and so make distinct molecules.

This means that carbon and oxygen and hydrogen and nitrogen can form small chargeless molecules that don't stick together so just bounce around and form gasses: O2, N2, CO2, CH4, NH3...

Or we luck out and find that H2O is such a bizarre molecule that it sticks together just a little with more molecules like itself and we get something in between gas and solid, a liquid, which is rare at the temperatures on the surface of Earth. This liquid is of course water, amazing stuff, which makes oceans, rain, blood. Looking at the physics for the four forces and quantum mechanics and the 2nd law, you would never dream such a substance is possible.

Listen to some of its amazing properties. In the narrow range of temperatures we experience on the surface of Earth water can exist as a solid, liquid or vapor. Three phases for one substance. What heterogeneity! Water forms liquid and not a gas at room temperature because it is much more sticky than almost any other small discrete covalent molecule. This stickiness gives it another incredible property: it can dissolve all those ions in itself. That means it can dissolve all the rocks on this Earth. Slowly. This sticky property of water, we say it's a strongly polar molecule, plays major roles in all the games played here on Earth. And last, its stickiness means that when it freezes it expands ( most substances contract as they freeze). So when water freezes in a lake or pond or ocean it expands and thus becomes less dense and floats to the top. But then this top layer insulates the bottom water from the cold and the bottom of most ponds and lakes and oceans don't freeze in the winter. What amazing luck for all the life that lives in water!

Or, we get networks of carbon and oxygen and nitrogen to form solids like wood, hair and plastic. Its possible that you can even call life itself as a phase of matter somewhere between solid and liquid. Either that or just call it a balancing at the phase transition between solid and liquid that can happen at far from equilibrium, but more about that later.

More surprising details!

We also get small charged ensembles: CO3--, CNH-, CH3-, SiO4----, PO4----, SO3--... So more ions to combine to form ionic crystals. CaCO3, CaPO4, CaSO4... We get seashells and bones.

Now one more surprise before we get on to the dynamics. Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Phosphorus can form larger covalent ensembles:

O=C=O, C=N-O-H,

../...... \
C ........C
\\..... //

And of course in three dimensions. The possibilities are endless. Graphite is infinite expanse of the first form and you just cut some bonds, make some double, replace some C's with O, N, stick some =O, or -H at the ends to seal it all up, make any molecule you want. Different arrangement of atoms and bonds makes different taste, smell, color, stiffness, reactivity etc...

These molecules range form gaseous, to liquid, to fats, oils, solids of various properties from wax to fat to grease to alcohol, to oil to wood to plastic and on up to the complexity of the 1000 or so radically different kinds of building and functional materials that makes life possible.

Silicon and Aluminum and Oxygen can also play these games to a lesser extent. But you can't seal off the ends with -H or =O, so you only end up with huge expanses of molecules which make the 2000 different mineral crystals that make up all the rocks on Earth. It is the special property of CHNOPS arrangements with the sealed off ends that make possible thousands of small covalent molecules interacting with each other dynamically that makes life as we know it possible.

Again, a wonder that the laws of physics come up with a wonderful character as carbon!


We must now move to dynamics. To describe each of the properties these elements and ensembles have. Two main themes:

(1) Paths of reactions, transformations take place and you notice that many elements, especially C, N, O, S, H, can travel form the atmospheric realm to Oceanic to Earth and round and round. Even the other elements can travel back and forth between Earth and Ocean in the form of their ions.

(2) As the paths ( some even circular) of transformations occur, levels of potential energy will also travel from one ensemble to another. Ultimately from high energy photons of sunlight into pathways around a few times and finally out into cold black space.

The energy potential flows through and is ultimately washed out to cold dark space. But the fixed number of atoms on Earth recycle. [end hotcold]

to be continued...

Evolution and fantasy

Human beings are the kind of animals that insist on living in fantasy. I will endeavor to show how this happened and what it means. I believe it is one of the gifts and burdens that make us stand out from all other forms of life on this planet.

All animals and plants live deeply embedded in a rich world of ecological relationships. The quantity and timing of all sorts of parameters are of greatest importance to the health of individual animals and indeed, to whole ecosystems. Animals are constantly in the world, responding to weather, temperature, other animals, availability of minerals and vitamins. You may say that animals and plants spend most of their time in the present moment.

But there is another world, or time frame: the world of evolving species. As individuals and various ecological parameters go on their way interacting on the scale of lifetimes, The overall environment changes slowly over the eons. Almost anything, really, can happen. A comet may strike the Earth changing the whole climate for months. The continents slowly move around. Channels may open up connecting two formerly isolated oceans. A mountain chain can form, separating a region into two isolated regions. Global temperature can slowly rise. Sea level may change. A new species may evolve and radically change all the other animals' way of life.

What has made life so successful on this EVENTFUL planet is that the various forms that creatures grow into can slowly change. What's more they do so in a random way, because no one knows what the future will bring. Species change by way of parents rearing children who are different then they are. They raise MANY children, more than can survive in each generation.

Living beings contain fallible DNA. That is, the basic blueprints which specify the form they grow into is not perfect in its ability to copy itself from parent to child. But this is its beauty. Imperfect copies mean random changes are introduced from generation to generation. Also each child may have different changes then its siblings. And finally there is sex, the complicated meeting of two different family lines in which genes are swapped randomly between the blueprints archives of both family lines to create totally new mixes. Anyway, we see this riotous, playful, random variation all around us in the differences among people, dogs, roses... Each new change can possibly equip an individual of the next generation with a way to approach a new problem which the ever changing environment might present. But if species just kept on changing randomly back and forth from one generation to the next, how would any of them ever settle down to sticking with a new form or behavior which better equips them to deal with a change in climate or geography or community around them? After all, the environment changes SLOWLY, which means that any one new situation will probably last for thousands of generations.

This other element is supplied by natural selection. Parents often have more children then two. Sometimes they have millions of children as may some fish, sea urchins and maple trees. By interacting with each other and the environment, sometimes competing, sometimes cooperating with each other, the children who have varied far from the norms that work well in the current scene don't contribute to the next generation. If members of a species must interact, than those that act close to those norms are better able to interact. And so, generation after generation the cumulative effect of the way individuals and the environment selects the children who best respond to the changes in the environment stabilizes new forms for species.

Try this change, it doesn't work, the animal doesn't live well and cannot raise up children. Try this change, this parent manages to get one kid into the next generation. Different combinations of blueprints are tried out in each offspring as if we might try out ideas and throw out those that don't fit, slowly building up a solution or a story.

Thus life comes up with solutions to the problems that the changing Earth presents it. The solutions are often very creative, sometimes bizarre. It must be emphasized that no individual animal or plant is creative enough by itself to invent a new species. Neither is it the view of modern western science that some kind of god, like Michaelangelo is sitting up there thinking these things up and carving them into existence. It is the combined interaction of all those individuals through countless trials and errors that slowly over the generations create new species, new solutions.

And so just as individual animal and plants play a game of life in this rich immediate sensory world, populations of animals (belonging to the same species) play a game of evolution with each other in the meta-world of interacting species.

This evolution-time world is not a separate world away from this one, or after this one but just as a computer program is run on the hardware substrate, so this other world is played out in organism time substrate. [ok, still not clear]

By just one of these odd flukes of evolution, animals came about who can live in this higher level world of evolutionary problem solving. The apes, of which there are only five species alive today, live very intricate lives. They live in complicated cultures of linked families, and they eat a wide variety of plants and sometimes animals. All but one kind live in very limited environments today, but one kind of ape got themselves caught in a cycle of living in environments which where changing at a faster and faster pace, and somehow they learned to ride all the changes. For some reason one of the mutations that got selected for dealing with all this was a bigger brain.

A description of this brain came to me one day at the Zen center. Someone asked why do we need zen if simple animals don't? Why does an amoeba live totally in response to its environment, while we are so caught up in our heads and find it very difficult to live in the world? It occurred to me that what we have in our heads is a tangled mass of twenty billion amoebas. They are all yacking away at each other, all the time. But they never get out much. I mean, most of them are deep inside Only a few get immediate input from the world, like the ones in our eyes, ears and only a few get to act in the world, the ones that control our body. So, most are stuck talking to each other, most live in a world made up of themselves. And this is why we are most of the time caught up in our own dream world.

Of course there is a positive use for this tangled mass. It is its own ecosystem in which evolutionary problem solving may take place. What can happen in the human brain is exactly what happens during biological evolution. With that many neurons, ideas are tried out by the thousands, mostly unconsciously. There is so much machinery up there that it is capable of producing lots of random static. This, the neurons translate into totally new ideas, images combinations of memories. Most of course are preposterous, just look at your own dreams. At the same time, The neurons are so interconnected, many of them are connected to thousands of others, that ideas are constantly competing and cooperating, combining and separating. So they, like the species in evolutionary time get selected for according to various kinds of consistency And this happens quickly. After a few weeks or maybe even in a second.

The main tool of this large tangled net is simulation. It can simulate the situation of a whole ecosystem. It can imagine beings, each with their own behavior and play out stories where they interact. This imagination and story weaving is our specialty as a species. To solve problems we imagine stories and work them out over and over again each time with slightly different characters until something works.

Most of the time this goes on completely underneath our own awareness, and when presented with a problem we often experience what is called insight. Behold; the solution sits before us. Nevertheless, this can often take weeks, while we are only dimly aware of mulling over the problem in the back of our mind. It is not unlikely that all that while our brain is playing out thousands of combinations, stories, until it hits upon the right one. And when this resonates with all else that we know, it rings loudly and comes to consciousness.

You can even experience this with a short experiment. Look at one of those stereograms or 3-D images. The circuitry begins madly combining and recombining the data from both eyes in as many different ways as it can until one of them makes sense, and behold, the image pops into being.

Ok, we cannot deny the usefulness of our wonderful brain, but the dangers are immense. It is an incredibly large labyrinth. It is our ability to weave tales in our own head that is our downfall. Each of us can build an entire virtual world in our own head, populate it with countless characters, and then enter it ourselves, and wander around in it endlessly. Of course some people actually do this completely and never quite come out. I see them all the time on the streets of New York City, talking to mysterious characters that I cannot see or hear. It would be less shocking to watch if we just realize how all of us do this to one extent or another. More shocking is to realize that collectively, as a civilization we build up elaborate virtual worlds in which we make up our own stories about what is real and we talk to each other all the time in it and very few of us take time to step out onto planet Earth and smell real roses.