Love and Chaos Part 5(A) How A Coffee Break Started A New Scientific Theory

9th February 2021

Part Five

Image result for edward lorenz

The time is the early Sixties; the place, a room in a research centre. We can imagine the entire back wall covered by metallic, grey-blue, wardrobe-like cabinets, housing large, state-of-the-art computers, their spools turning through Perspex windows, emitting a constant hum that is deafening to new arrivals, but now inaudible to the scientists that work there, a security blanket, an audio barrier against extraneous interference.

Now we have The Scientist. Doubtless he is wearing a spotless lab coat, pure white, or, perhaps, as The States were emerging from their Eisenhower conservatism and The Sixties still a swing away, the coat is a dull, conformist grey. Pens neatly arranged in breast pocket.

The Scientist is concerned with the weather. Forecasting it, trying to comprehend its peculiar patterns, its apparent aberrations, its random rumblings.

By analysing data, maybe it could be understood and, if not controlled, at least scientists would know exactly what to expect and when.

That’s where the computers came in. The calculations were so intricate, the figures so exhaustive, that only these cumbersome machines could handle them. What an exciting time; technology now existed that could process the mind-blowing streams of numbers. The scientists just had to sit back and wait for the results.

So our Scientist, while inputting data, and rather desirous of a caffeine fix, decided to take an insignificant short cut.

Wanting to check some previous work, but not wishing to start the calculations at the beginning, he took a reading at mid point, and started the simulation on computer from there.

Instead of feeding in a figure with several decimal points, he decided to round it up to just three, thus 0.506127 etc became 0.506.

This minute alteration should have no discernible effect, would probably have no effect at all, so, safe in that assumption, The Scientist left his room and went to the cafeteria, where he could chinwag with the other boffins about suspected cold fronts, joke about predicating football scores and cast sideways glances at the cute girl behind the counter.

Back to work. The Scientist picked up the reams of paper and looked for the result. He found it, but immediately thought it must be wrong, so he checked. He double checked.

He had been expecting an answer within certain parameters.

The figure before him was far outside his prediction, and he was driving himself crazy by constantly going over the calculation. No, all the figures, the work, was correct, so why the discrepancy ?

Surely it couldn’t be because he had made a tiny adjustment ?

So he re-ran numbers, checking the altered sum from the original figure.

Thus, the first point about Chaos Theory: Tiny, insignificant changes at a starting point, can lead to massive, significant changes at a distant point.

It was therefore an act of Chaos that led to Chaos Theory.

Then came the second point about Chaos Theory : All complex systems are constantly changing and feeding back on themselves.

The Scientist took some data at 9:00 AM and, feeding this into the computer, tried to forecast the weather for the following afternoon.

Three hours later, he fed in new data, how the weather was at 12:00. This he repeated, at intervals.

All the results were different.

The weather was constantly changing, and even minor fluctuations would cause different patterns, which may lead to other alterations which would lead to other situations, which would … and so on.

By rounding up the figure to just three decimal points, The Scientist would popularize theories that had long been in existence, bringing them out of academia and into the modern world where they could be applied by anyone wanting to know the weather, or predict the economic peaks and troughs, or regulate traffic flow, or apply it to an understanding of history or politics.

Or, maybe, just maybe, someone may come up with an theory about trying to understand that most chaotic of human relations: love.

Image result for edward lorenz

Love and Chaos Part 2(C) The Knock On The Door

24th November 2020

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge awoke from a dream with the words of Kubla Khan flowing, demanding to be transcribed and he immediately collected his ink and paper, no less his thoughts, which were racing through those ancient, mythical, mysterious lands.

His hand, desperate to record those indescribably, wondrous images, not knowing where they would lead him, his mind, knowing he mustn’t a moment waste, compelled him to write, write, write …

And then the wretched Man from Purlock.

A matter of pressing business, must be attended to, forthwith. Coleridge tried to dissuade him, entreating him to return at a later time, but requests and pleas wouldn’t move this persistent Man from Purlock. He decreed that Pleasure Domes, stately or otherwise, could wait, they would still be there after satisfactory conclusion of matter at hand, which must be gone into with the greatest care.

Still The Poet attempted swift conclusion of conversation, but unlike the distorted, other-world time of the vision, the minutes now dragged heavy-weighted, Xanadu receding, shapes blurring, demands to be left in peace to regain the inspiration holding no truck with this intractable Man from Purlock.

And when finally The Poet could return to his desk and thoughts, try as he might, no further impression was vouchsafed him. The poem remained unfinished.

DGA Quarterly Magazine | Winter 2006 | Shot to Remember - Amadeus
From the film ‘Amadeus’ by Milos Foreman 1984

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart increasingly felt unable to trust a soul. His genius which had promised so much, had proved to be a curse, a Faustian pact that was rapidly drawing to its inevitable, diabolical finale.

He had hoped the spirituality of his music would elevate him and his audience. Instead he was rooted amongst worldly pettiness, of insidious jealousy and bitter hatred. Far from reaching the Parthenon of the gods, he would sink as surely as his Don Giovanni.

There was no doubt that there was a conspiracy against him. Would he meet his end by swift blade, or slow poison, left to die like a dog.

Just as he was obsessing over such thoughts, he was startled by a heavy pounding of his door. Opening, he was confronted by a tall, dark, masked man who held out the commission.

Mozart was to write a Requiem.

Not only would he die, they would humiliate him, make him know exactly what fate had in store. And in such a fitting way, make him compose music for his own death.

For there was no question. Death had paid him a visit and Mozart knew it wouldn’t be long before they were to meet again.

Ludwig van Beethoven, it is said, was starting work on his fifth symphony, when his landlady knocked on his door, one, two three, four, which gave him the immortal opening that heralded the piece and which, many years later, was broadcast over occupied Europe, four notes that proclaimed that the Allies were on their way, the darkness was over.

It was Fate, knocking on the door …

BEETHOVEN: THE KNOCK OF FATE | Looking for Things To Do? Kuala Lumpur's  best Events Calendar | KL100