The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Author: Margaret Wertheim.
Physics on the Fringe, Author: Margaret Wertheim.
African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design, Author: Ron Eglash.
By Margaret Wertheim – The world is full of mundane, meek, unconscious things materially embodying fiendishly complex pieces of mathematics. How can we make sense of this? I’d like to propose that sea slugs and electrons, and many other modest natural systems, are engaged in what we might call the performance of mathematics.
Rather than thinking about maths, they are doing it.
In the fibers of their beings and the ongoing continuity of their growth and existence they enact mathematical relationships and become mathematicians-by-practice. By looking at nature this way, we are led into a consideration of mathematics itself not through the lens of its representational power but instead as a kind of transaction.
Rather than being a remote abstraction, mathematics can be conceived of as something more like music or dancing; an activity that takes place not so much in the writing down as in the playing out.
Since at least the time of Pythagoras and Plato, there’s been a great deal of discussion in Western philosophy about how we can understand the fact that many physical systems have mathematical representations: the segmented arrangements in sunflowers, pine cones and pineapples (Fibonacci numbers); the curve of nautilus shells, elephant tusks and rams horns (logarithmic spiral); music (harmonic ratios and Fourier transforms); atoms, stars and galaxies, which all now have powerful mathematical descriptors; even the cosmos as a whole, now represented by the equations of general relativity.
The physicist Eugene Wigner has termed this startling fact ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’.
Why does the real world actualize maths at all? And so much of it?
Even arcane parts of mathematics, such as abstract algebras and obscure bits of topology often turn out to be manifest somewhere in nature. more> https://goo.gl/ifKV2Z
Posted in Book review, EARTH WATCH, Education, History, Nature, Science
Tagged Earth, Ecology, Mathematics, Nature, Physics, Technology
By Daniel L. Byman – Let’s consider some of the assumptions Trump and his team appear to bring to the table as they enter office. Some are about how the world works, while others concern the best way to design and implement U.S. foreign policy.
- Assumption #1: Calling it “Radical Islam” Makes a Difference
- Assumption #2: Foreign Public Opinion Doesn’t Matter
- Assumption #3: Allies are Overrated
- Assumption #4: Russia Is America’s Natural Partner
- Assumption #5: Israel Can Do What it Wants
- Assumption #6: The Rough Stuff Works
- Assumption #7: Tough Policymakers Make for Tough Policy
In short: Trump’s foreign policy assumptions fly in the face of many traditional U.S. policy approaches and the preferences of powerful bureaucracies. We should expect international realities and bureaucratic obstacles to obstruct, or at least water down, some initiatives, while those that get through might not just fail but may leave the United States worse off for pursuing them.
As a candidate, Trump excelled at destroying truisms about how politics works; over the coming years, we will find out if this holds true for foreign policy as well. more> https://goo.gl/PVWnOe
Posted in Business, CONGRESS WATCH, EARTH WATCH, Economic development, Economy, Education, History, Leadership, Media, Net
Tagged Congress Watch, Donald Trump, Government, Leadership, United States, United States Congress
The Age of Sustainable Development, Author: Jeffrey D. Sachs.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs – This tradition of US-led regime change has been part and parcel of US foreign policy in other parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Wars of regime change are costly to the United States, and often devastating to the countries involved.
It is nearly a truism that US wars of regime change have rarely served America’s security needs. Even when the wars succeed in overthrowing a government, as in the case of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Moammar Khadafy in Libya, the result is rarely a stable government, and is more often a civil war.
A “successful” regime change often lights a long fuse leading to a future explosion, such as the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government and installation of the autocratic Shah of Iran, which was followed by the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
These wars destabilized and impoverished the countries involved rather than settling the politics in America’s favor. The wars of regime change were, with few exceptions, a litany of foreign policy failure. They were also extraordinarily costly for the United States itself.
Alas, the blinders and arrogance of American imperial thinking prevented the United States from settling down to a new era of peace. As the Cold War was ending, the United States was beginning a new era of wars, this time in the Middle East. The United States would sweep away the Soviet-backed regimes in the Middle East and establish unrivaled US political dominance. Or at least that was the plan. more> https://goo.gl/tLrvil
Posted in Book review, CONGRESS WATCH, EARTH WATCH, Economy, Education, History, Leadership, Media, Net, Science, Technology
Tagged Earth, Government, Imperialism, Industrial economy, Leadership, Regime change, United States
By David Farrier – The Anthropocene, or era of the human, denotes how industrial civilisation has changed the Earth in ways that are comparable with deep-time processes.
The planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles, ocean chemistry and biodiversity – each one the product of millions of years of slow evolution – have been radically and permanently disrupted by human activity.
The development of agriculture 10,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 19th century, have both been proposed as start dates for the Anthropocene.
But a consensus has gathered around the Great Acceleration – the sudden and dramatic jump in consumption that began around 1950, followed by a huge rise in global population, an explosion in the use of plastics, and the collapse of agricultural diversity.
There is also something disturbingly banal about the Anthropocene.
Arguably, it’s in the encounter with everyday objects, surfaces and textures that we get the best sense of its scope and scale. Some 60 billion chickens are killed for human consumption each year; in the future, fossilised chicken bones will be present on every continent as a testimony to the intrusion of human desires in the geological record.
Plastics, which began being mass-produced in the middle of the 20th century, give us back the world as the West has been taught to see it – pliable, immediately available, and smoothed to our advantage. Yet almost every piece of plastic ever made remains in existence in some form, and their chemical traces are increasingly present in our bodies.
Humans created 5 billion gigabytes of digital information in 2003; in 2013 it took only 10 minutes to produce the same amount of data. more> https://goo.gl/q9dRCD
Posted in EARTH WATCH, Economic development, Economy, Energy & emissions, History, Nature, Science, Technology
Tagged Anthropocene, Climate change, Earth, Ecology, Industrial economy, Super regions