Wednesday, December 22

Wolfram on Biology

It is helpful to read to read my book review on "A new Kind of Science" before considering this interesting finding. When your famialir with the outcome of the crucial experiement the conclusions on biology will be readily apparant.

Wolfram points out there does not seem to be a general theory with most views treating natural selection as the most obvious choice, consequentl your observations are always on the basis of evolution rather than abstract theories. Why bother? Evolution /natural selection provides us all of the answers. Traditional Mathematics (as we understand it) cannot always capture the complexity we see in biology. The relevance of the enlarged mathematics now possible using the simple programs developed by Wolfram allows to explore the possibility of a general theory in relating to biology.

Going back to the crucial experiments we need only make minor changes in the form of substitution systems to reproduce immediately many of the forms in nature. Substitute systems are set up so that the number of elements can change e.g. Consider the rules governing the movement of say black or white cells as we saw previously in the crucial experiment but at each step each one of these elements is replaced by a new block of elements. So you assume the growth of flowers and plants in your garden must be highly complex. But what Wolfram can explain is that most aspects of this growth are governed by remarkably simple rules. Even generating just a few of his simple programusing substitution systems we can see plant shapes with smooth boundaries others with sharp points, whilst others have complex and seemingly random boundaries.The traditional intuition of biology would suggest wherever ones sees complexity-say in the shape of a leaf it must be generated by some particular purpose by some sophisticated process of natural selection.

What Wolfram can demonstrate with his many experiments in this area is that in fact a high degree of complexity does arise effortlessly just as aconsequence of following certain simple rules of growth. Even in a complex species it seems the independent forms of parallel growth allowed for influidity of early cell development have their origin in simple growth rules effortlessly creating the complexity and wonder of biology. I believe this way of thinking is at odds with most to -day and one would need quite a lot of convincing. Wolfram develops this argument over a lengthy period in the book.

Life with Principal

The following is a reply to an early imaginary 19th century philosopher and worker frozen in time.He bemoans the lack of principle existing in commerce at that time in history. Henry was not happy with the pursuit of wealth without principle.

Henry would have been happier today if he had known what is now known about science and the world. He laments the values attributable in society to those whose status is determined on the sole principles of money, enterprise and work. His era had very limited restraints on development such as the welfare state and complex laws and rights to protect community interest.

The case for complexity from non complex beginnings means with fewer restraints in any “open system” there will be inevitable skewing of extreme advantage to the minority who happen “by chance” to be in privileged position to take advantage of their unique position in history. Even to day it is interesting to note the 2nd richest man an in the world Warren Buffet of Berthshire Hathaway has been quoted “ I have been extraordinarily successful in my field as an expert in “asset allocation” at a time when being an expert in this area gave greater returns than in any other form of endeavor on earth at this time. Had I been born a peasant with the same talents a few hundred years ago but had difficulty with a basic peasant farming I may well have starved to death like many of my forebears.

Henry would have been pleased to know there is now ample evidence to show the more advanced civilizations owe their very early development to purely random events. Some of our early ancestors emerging from the forests migrated to the plains where there was a greater concentration of edible material and opportunity later for agriculture. They were able to put down roots earlier, form larger cooperative groups and eventually build on technology. Other species of man in other regions were not so fortunate and had to keep moving, following the seasons to survive and became isolated and “cut off “ as new continents were formed. Th e changes in climatic conditions in different regions gave rise to a greater ability to store grain and crops in some regions and thus allow sustainable development. That more fortunate group developed rapidly and became the so-called civilizations that we describe today.

These random events and the subsequent human development meant some early explorers where full of their own importance and self aggrandizement as they wrote in their first memoirs that the “savages” they encountered were not really human beings” at all and attributed all of their “superiority “ to be linked to their “enterprise and “breeding” identified sometimes as to be a “white” skin color. If you accept our so called success”{for want of a better word) is due to the random nature of our evolved existence than it leads one to the conclusion we should be humble and compassionate in all of our ways.
And so dear Henry “There’s a hole in your Bucket! “ and we need to fix it! . But how shall we fix it,‘Dear Henry, Dear Henry?

Truth, Wisdom & Happiness
I could not find any reference to Henry having a belief in god but I am sure it was so accepted at that time (95% of people then believed in god) and he didn’t feel the need to sate this. The truth however is that christen faith exceeds the capacity of human reason.In fact our measure of happiness can be improved if we accept our limitation particularly in terms of curbing aspirations to attaining certain outcomes “by for trying to force the issue so to speak”. A recent study carried out has come up with a conclusion (for a period over the past 200 years) we don't seems to be getting any happier despite our obvious increase in material well-being and in general health. Why is this “ Because our expectations keep increasing at an even faster rate.” When we don’t reach them we become unhappy.” Just like praying for a definite outcome rather than asking that we can remain strong to our principles.

Our aspirations need to be “descriptive” based upon “principles “ and not prescriptive in a world that has always been a continuum of uncertainty and randomness. The truth is we only have free will to make a tiny number of decisions (those we are in a conscious state to know as opposed to the vast number made subconsciously for us in our marvelous brains) at a point in time. Any influence over the final outcome will in turn be determined by the guiding principle we adopted in the first instance. The way forward for the world and civilization is to developed principles that show reverence for all life and to encapsulate these in every layer of society so they become universal. This reverence for life also needs to include in commerce dealings to include principles that protect the stakeholders by enunciating such aspects as “openness, honesty full disclosure and basic human rights aspects that set minimum standards for all stakeholders (including the animals) with a minimum world standard. You would be pleased to hear in my company Henry we operate in 39 countries and have “On Line Counselors” from the “St James Ethics Center” who have developed such a “Value System:” This is now only possible by virtue of the world wide web by e-mail ( a form of written communication) where we can communicate across all countries with embedded security so that governments or customers or other employees are not privy to any of the detailed discussions where principles or ethical issues are aired without fear or recrimination.

This gives all our employees the greatest encouragement to maintain they’re high principles always guided by the company’ value system principles, which are usually, the same. This ensures worldwide any employee anywhere in the world can seek independent support should he be not satisfied with the company’s behavior on any one aspect at one time. No more graft or corruption will be tolerated anywhere in the world as far as we can ensure.

Ethics centers and Centers of Influence with guiding descriptive principles need to become embedded in every organization and in particular within the fabric of our world trade. Only in this way will capitalism be able to progress in a harmonious and principlined way my dear henry. This is how we need to fix the hole in the bucket, dear henry, dear henry-We will fix it!.

However there are other aspects of life we are still struggling to understand.

Nature and Truth
The truth of nature has been shown by observation and experimental analysis to be continually evolving over time. Continuous change and rapid complex changes from non complex beginnings even give a known variant to the original Darwinian theory of evolution. Hence there is in an inbult complexity to creation hitherto unknown that has just emerged into our understanding. This leads me to the truth that god is either in everything or is in nothing and creation is a “moving feast”. Obviously I would ascribe to the first notion that god is in everything and creation is continuing. But this then leads us to an interesting observation as to the role of nature and in fact does nature operate according to certain principles-principles I mean, as we understand as humans? And can we ascribe any moral or ethical values or responsibility to nature. ?

Do the animals adhere to principles and depart from them sometimes? Or is it nearly all instinctive or pre programmed in the genes of evolution. How much of their behavior is learned and adapted and to what extent do these developments enter into a state of “consciousness” where they are aware of themselves just like ourselves.

Know what you don’t know

Donald Rumsfeld said “You need to know what is known about was is unknown so you know what is unknown” On first “blush” the statement appears contradictory and obscure. Is it the ramblings of an ageing commander spruiking flawed statements of fleeting logic?

His statement is remarkably relevant to the insurance Industry. We need to know what is not known (claims incurred but not reported) so that when financial statements are prepared adequate provisions are made for what is not known. How do you know what is not known? You need to know from previous trends and pre-existing conditions what is likely to occur (what is unknown) so that in the end you know what is unknown. If you don’t know what is unknown you will make inaccurate provisions that will result in either over stated or understated financial results compared to the actual results when all of the claims years have been finalised.

This is what is known as disclosure.

What has been disclosed in the accounts of Back To Basics Cover . Well the MD has predicted a profit increase of 50% this year. Does he know what is unknown? The pre-existing conditions are predicted to allow a continuation of the prior unrest and changed world perception of increased risk. Greater provisions need to be made in this era of heightened uncertainty and it is easy to justify this to cautious auditors who agree with increased provisions to cover the uncertainty impost justifiable in their minds that are already converted to this new world thinking.
Eventually the actual trend downward on risk exposure must emerge and get ready for some real big surprises. An increase of 50% in profit may well be a rather poor result if you now know what is not known. As an investor you need to know what is unknown about your stocks so that you know what is unknown about all of your investment.
Please comment immediately that you now know what is not known so that I can “rest easy” knowing you know what you previously did not know about what was not known.

Tuesday, December 21

A History of Science

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The purpose of this paper is to introduce brief aspects of the history of science and show how its discoveries shaped religion, which in turn shapes our beliefs. John Gribbin’s book –Science a history –1543-2001 provides a splendid reference and for the sake of brevity only a handful of the multitude of exciting discoveries are covered.

Science as Philosophy

Early science was considered philosophy and it is only of recent times the two are separated. This has led to confusion as philosophy marches along to the tune of “logic” struggling valiantly to stay in tune with the pace of scientific discovery often at odds with the previous conventional wisdom. Nor have management theories and the social sciences kept up, to the extent, I believe, that if the latest science discoveries were better understood in the wider community, it would lead to better informed and more compassionate policies for society. More of this aspect later.

Early beginnings

In the beginning it must have been very hard indeed to accept the newly found ideas so foreign to everyday wisdom .The earth must be the centre of the universe. As you look around and see the multitude of stars it is not hard to imagine why it was commonly thought the earth was the fixed centre of the universe. If the earth moves on its axis and goes around the sun then surely you would feel the rush of wind in your hair just like you did when riding a horse. Of course the idea of motion was not clearly understood and many believed humans “might fall apart” if exposed to speeds exceeding that of a galloping horse. A heavier ball must fall more quickly to the ground than the one lighter –was this not common sense?

The beginning of science can roughly be attributed to the 16th Century as civilization "emerged from the Dark ages". A good beginning is to explore the elegance of the theories of Copernicus who indicated that the earth moves and risked being ex- communicated from his church. Later the Copernican model that explained planetary movement was banned as heresy. A primary candidate of universal interest must be Galileo who began his life in a monastery.

You may be interested in a little poem he composed when refuting the Aristotelian notion of an unchanging celestial sphere.
No lower than the other stars it lies,
and does not move in ways around,
Than all fixed stars-nor change in sign or size.
All of this is proved on purest reason's ground:
It has no parallax for us on Earth
By reason of the sky's enormous girth.

Galileo was able at the time with his refinement of the telescope to convince a subcommittee of learned priests that:
The Milky Way is a vast number of stars,
Saturn is a strange oval shape,
The Moon’s surface is irregular,
Venus exhibits phases,
Jupiter has 4 satellites.

Many of his views were at variance to biblical teaching at the time and Galileo’s approach was : “In disputes about natural phenomena one must not begin with the authority of scriptural passages, but with sensory experience and necessary demonstrations.”Later he had to renounce his beliefs to avoid going to the "rack" or the "stake" or possibly both. The great co-incidence is Isaac Newton was born the same year that Galileo dies in 1642.

Science perhaps also "found its feet " so to speak by Italian Giovanni Borelli who likened man or animal to a machine. Borelli was a Professor of Mathematics around 1640 and had also made some major discoveries in relation to the operation of the planetary systems. His most important work however was in the biological field of anatomy.
Borelli treated the body as a system of levers acted on by forces exerted on the muscles, and analysed geometrically how muscles on the human body acted in walking and running.He saw a role for "God"in the setting up of the system in the first place. God for him was likened to the designer of the machine, if you like. But this was different from the idea of a human body being operated by some kind of guiding spirit, which controlled activities from minute to minute.

Newton took a 7-year fellowship with Trinity College in 1667 but had to swear to an oath "I will either set Theology as the object of my studies and take holy orders when the time prescribed by those statutes arrives, or I will resign from the college"He was the first of the great Scientists to show the laws of science are indeed universal laws that effect everything. For Newton and many of his contemporaries God was he was the architect of it all. Newton even went on to say God was a "hands on” architect who might interfere from "time to time".

18th Century

At the beginning of the 18th century Linnaeus expanded the botanical horizons by providing descriptions of 7,700 species of plants and just about every species of animal known in Europe at the time.It was Linnaeus's belief that man belonged in the same genus as the apes, a belief thoroughly born out by modern studies of the similarities between the DNA of humans, chimpanzees and gorillas. If the classification were being made from scratch today, using the DNA evidence, man could be classified purely from a scientific point of view as perhaps a chimpanzee.
It is only through a historical accident and Linnaeus’s fear of arousing the wrath of the theologians that "Homo Sapiens" sit in unique and isolated splendor as the sole member of a genus. Although we have around 98% complete compatibility with the chimpanzee many would nevertheless still argue “that 2% difference makes all of the difference.”Linnaeus was religious and believed in God but saw himself as uncovering Gods handiwork, he believed the number of species existing on Earth in his day were the same as the number created by God in the beginning. He accepted the Biblical event of the flood, but reasoned it as a short event of less than 200 days.

19th Century

We enter then what might be termed the beginning of "enlightened science" where chemistry catches up as a number of new discoveries are made. Carbon Dioxide is discovered, the Steam Engine and the Industrial Revolution, Electricity, Oxygen and water as an element.There were many more dramatic developments, but undoubtedly the most important in terms of understanding the place of humankind in the Universe, was Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which, for the first time offered scientific explanation of evolution.

Much of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection remains in place today and his theory is generally accepted within modern theology except for fundamentalist sectors who loosely describe themselves as “Creationists” relying on literal interpretation of the Old Testament. Perhaps there is also a shift in belief away from the belief that God was merely the architect of the system to one in which God can be seen to be in all things as creation continues. Modern Science is also indicating a hitherto not fully understood in-built ability for simple life systems to continue to evolve more quickly than had previously been understood.

Hence many believe we can view the world as an ongoing creation adapting and evolving into complex systems to suit the ever-changing environment within which it operates.

In the 19th century science moved away from the interest or hobby of a privileged few to a well-populated profession. No longer could a single individual have such a profound impact except of course for Darwin who could be seen as somewhat of an anomaly. In fact with the rapid advancement in knowledge in atoms and molecules it became increasingly difficult to keep track of what was going on and by whom.During this time the work of William Thomson (who remained philosopher in Glasgow from 1846 until he retired in 1899) advanced the notion that the Earth and by implication the Universe had a definitive beginning.

20th Century

The pace of discovery quickens.
"Let there be Light”

In 1905 Albert Einstein special theory of relativity was published. The foundation stone was the constancy of the speed of light and that nothing exceeds the speed of light. By the time he developed his theory, there was experimental evidence that the measured speed of light is always the same, irrespective of how the person doing the measuring is moving. The equations contain a constant, c, identified as the speed of light.

He went to develop the special theory of relativity, which was terrifying for many at the time. Was everything relative? Were there no absolute moral standards? Although Einstein was able to show that space and time are relative it was in their union that the concept of space time emerged to be understood as an absolute. Wherever we are we are part of that large cake as if it could be cut into slices to pinpoint locations. No longer could space or time be thought of without the other as space time was shown to be a major player in the unfolding cosmos. Given that nothing exceeds the speed of light any motion through space time absorbs time so that anyone taking off on a very long rocket journey and returning to earth much later would be younger than an equivalent earth bound counterpart.

In many ways, modern astronomy –astrophysics –only began at the beginning of the 20th century, precisely because of the application of photographic techniques to preserve images of the stars.Various discoveries have enabled astronomers to work out the masses of the stars. It was Hertsprung who discovered the relationship between the brightness of star sand its color. The point of his discovery is that the temperature of a star is related to its color, which allows measurement of the distances to the stars.Astronomers are now able to calculate with great accuracy how much material of different kinds is manufactured inside stars and scattered into space by stellar outbursts described as a supernovae. This is an ultimate truth revealed by a process of enquiry that began when Galileo first turned his telescope towards the sky.From large systems (perhaps the infinite universe) to the tiniest particles unimaginable.

The beginning of the quantum revolution (study of sub atomic particles called protons and electrons) meant light could be seen behaving either as a wave or as a stream of particles.Much of this latter science discovery work following on from Einstein’s earlier discoveries seems so strange it often seems absurd to our minds. We have no hope in satisfactorily understanding the behavior of tiny particles such as electrons and protons inside or outside of atoms. All we can hope to do is to find equations –circumstances, sometimes more like a wave, sometimes more like a particle. Enter the world of quantum mechanics.Heinsberg made a contribution to quantum physics when he introduced his famous uncertainty principle. However the bizarre notion of quantum mechanics postulate where two photons were entangled any successful measurement of either will force the other distant photon (however far away- even were it to be on the other side of the universe ) into a corresponding same spin cycle rather than any expected haze of probabilities.

These relatively new discoveries have relevance to the social sciences. Although quantum mechanics and the duality principle only operate at the sub atomic level they tell us something about the nature of uncertainty in the universe and our tenuous grasp on reality. Ultimately although we have free will to determine our immediate actions the uncertainty principle is likely to lead to a much more random outcome for individuals and groups within a society that has hitherto been understood. The idea we can control our destiny and end result carries with it its idea that the poor are totally to blame for their plight. This seems at odds to what we know happens in the scientific world. More likely such groups were less effective in adapting to the random changes that occur in society at an ever-increasing rate with the advancement of civilization.

This calls for a more compassionate world in policy and management advancement. Although we tend to think of science in terms of great discoveries by individual geniuses on whose shoulders we rest, Gribbin shows us more often than not it is rather the “hard slogging” step by step building process by ordinary people that wins out in the end. This painstaking work is undertaken usually without “lust” for glory but to satisfy our intense curiosity about the world and how it works.
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