Serious and Silly

Is there inherent order in nature or is it all chaos and chance?
Chaos is defined as complete disorder and confusion, or it could refer to the void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in the Greek creation myths.  From the midst of chaos, we strangely find order spontaneously arising.  From within order, we inexplicably find chaos emerging to devour the order.  The ancient Greeks thought that before this world came into existence, only a confused mass of shapeless elements was present, and that was called Chaos.  Eventually all the elements consolidated resolving themselves into two widely different substances, a lighter portion which soared above and formed the sky and became known as Caelus or Father Sky and the solid mass beneath, is known as Terra or Mother Earth.  Anaxagoras of Clazomenae counterposed two principles, Chaos and Nous (Cosmic Mind) as an ordering force, which moved and separated out the original mixture, setting all of the unarranged matter in the universe into motion and creating order from it.

The second law of thermodynamics Entropy is a measure of disorder, and this explains why life seems to get more, not less, complicated as time goes on.  Order and chaos are mental concepts, involving human points of view concerning how we see situations during certain time periods.  Nature can be perceived as being orderly or chaotic, but in reality, it is neither random or deterministic.  I see two things that give order to nature and those are Benford’s Law, and the Golden Ratio numbers which are derived from the Fibonacci sequence.

Benford’s Law shows up everywhere and this is an observation about the leading digits of the numbers which are found in real-world data sets.  Benford’s Law is the finding that the first digits (or numerals to be exact) of the numbers found in series of records of the most varied sources do not display a uniform distribution, but rather are arranged in such a way that the digit “1” is the most frequent, followed by “2”, “3”, and so in a successively decreasing manner down to “9”.  Benford’s Law appears to hold true for earthquake data, the surface area of rivers, baseball statistics to a host of other natural phenomena.

The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers in which each number (Fibonacci number) is the sum of the two preceding numbers.  The sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 and 144), may not be a law of nature, but it is a fascinating common trend.  The Fibonacci sequence is often called the Fibonacci Spiral and the ratio of any two successive Fibonacci numbers from three on is about 1:1.618.  This ratio occurs ubiquitously throughout nature, in logarithmic spirals that underlie the process of growth.  The volume of the chambers of the nautilus shell, the number of seeds in consecutive rows of a sunflower, branching plants, flower petal and leaves arrangements, it is on pineapples and in apples, pine cones and many other natural ratios in art and architecture.  The Fibonacci numbers are therefore applicable to the growth of every living thing, including a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, and even all of mankind.  The golden ratio is derived from the Fibonacci sequence and it describes predictable patterns on everything from atoms to huge stars in the sky.  Nature uses this ratio to maintain balance, and the financial markets seem to follow this pattern as well.

What is infinity?
Natural numbers begin with 1 and proceed by ones up to infinity ∞, which is not actually a number, it is an idea.  A number can never reach infinity, they can only approach infinity and there is such a thing as a positive and a negative infinity.  Zeno of Elea had a strange way of reasoning where he offered arguments that led to absurd conclusions contradicting what others knew at the time and he was the first person in history to show that the concept of infinity creates problems.  A limit is a number, and many calculus problems involve limits at infinity, and this is simply the language that is used to describe a property of a variable.  By looking at what happens to a function if we let x get very large in either the positive or negative sense, we will see, that these limits may also have infinity as a value, as they will become larger than any number we might name.  In mathematical language when the limit is infinity, this says the function is limitless.

Does observation alter an event?
Sometimes you are not able to see the forest because the trees are in the way, or you become over concerned about details which makes you miss out on the big picture.  Often when something is learned about a particular thing, there is a good chance that the object has already changed.  It seems that we always end up playing catch up, because change is a universal constant of time.  This happens because the act of observation alters our coherence and creates a blind spot.  Schrödinger’s cat in the box thought experiment created a situation that is sometimes called quantum indeterminacy, or the observer’s paradox.  This is where the observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that the outcome as such does not exist unless the measurement is made.  Thus, there is no single outcome unless it is observed.

When man started learning about Quantum mechanics, we found that particles can also behave as waves.  When particles are behaving as waves, they can simultaneously pass through several openings in a barrier and then meet again at the other side of the barrier.  This meeting is known as interference and although is seems odd, interference can only occur when no one is watching.  Once an observer begins to watch the particles going through various openings, the picture changes dramatically.  If a particle was seen going through one opening, then it’s clear that it didn’t go through another.  When under observation, electrons are being forced to behave like particles and not like waves.  Thus, the mere act of observation affects the experimental findings.

Do you like balloons?
I like balloons and when I was young, I was particularly fond of throwing water balloons.  I would often blow up the balloons and then let the air out slowly to make those squeaky sounds, as it is deflating.  I would rub balloons onto my hair, (when I had hair) to create static electricity which would allow the balloons to stick to surfaces.  I enjoy seeing hot air balloons, but I have no desire to travel in one.  I like party balloons, especially if the party is for me.  Balloons are colorful, inexpensive and they are available almost everywhere and they are a simple way of providing entertainment making a convenient distraction for kids.

Optional Gratitude
I used to get excited about celebrating the 4th of July with fireworks, but as I got older the novelty has worn off.  Yesterday was my nephew’s birthday and I gave him a call and it was so nice being able to talk with him.  Yesterday I grilled up some sausages and enjoyed them with peppers and potatoes on Kings Hawaiian buns.

Written for Melanie’s sparksfromacombustiblemind’s Share Your World.

13 thoughts on “Serious and Silly

  1. Thank you Jim for Sharing Your Informational World! You do know a lot if I might say. Very interesting and educational reading of the first three answers! And you did great with the balloon one too. I’ve been hit with my fair share of water balloons and threw quite a few in my time. They were particularly enjoyable on hot summer days, but some folks had no sense of humor being hit with one I must say! Thanks again for sharing and have a great week!

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  2. If you listen to the physicists, the only true chaos in the universe is quantum uncertainty. Above the Plank scale it is all deterministic. Quantum uncertainty itself may have some underlying determinism. We just can’t see it because at those small scales, the concept of measurement itself is meaningless.

    It is possible that quantum uncertainty might be the flapping of a butterfly’s wings that ultimately makes the universe chaotic but that would only be over a very very very long times scale. One also has to remember that the same theory that says a butterfly’s wings are far more likely might do nothing at all. The world is full of butterflies and everything averages out.

    The “chaos” of the butterfly effect does not lie in true chaos, it lies in our inability to simulate something in adequate detail. To do a perfect simulation of the real world, you’d need a computer capable of containing all the information in the universe. Since you and the computer are part of the universe, it could logically only be done by someone from beyond our universe.

    There is an “edgy” scientific theory advanced by some that our universe is indeed a simulation being run by someone beyond it.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/confirmed-we-live-in-a-simulation/

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    1. Heisenberg determined that our observations have an effect on the behavior of quanta, because the very act of measuring anything always disturbs the object measured. His Uncertainty Principle applies to all objects, but is only significant at the atomic or subatomic level. At such scales, there are discernible limits to how certain we can be about an object’s position.

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  3. This was such an interesting read. I didn’t know about Benford’s Law. I didn’t know that it seemed to appear a lot in many natural phenomena. This entire post felt like a summary of my physics lessons at school. But it was not the least bit boring! Great post, Jim!

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    1. Thanks Shweta. Physics is far from being boring, if the right person is giving the lecture. I try to make things interesting and I taught a class of advanced grammar school students about String Theory.

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