Chaos theory. The butterfly effect.

Today I’m going to talk about “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”, which is one of the foundations of chaos theory.

Chaos theory. I find it a fascinating subject to talk about, so here goes. Some people (me included!) can be really confused by the mathematics that is involved. So I’m not even going to put up a single formula here. Some people can’t seem to fathom how the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas.”

I’m just going to explain the concept to you. How can I best explain this something called “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”? Easy.

I want you to think of a single marble on top of a mountain peak like the Matterhorn. Imagine if we placed a marble way up there on the very highest point.

Now imagine, too, if an abnormal amount of snow had built up over the previous winter and there is now the possibility of a great big avalanche. And you all know how avalanches are caused, right?

Avalanches are initiated by too much snow that accumulates on the side of a mountain. Even the smallest rock moving can set it off. Even the force of the snow melting in the sun can change the distribution of weight of built up snow on a slope.

We all know that the marble might dislodge a slightly bigger rock on its way down, thus causing an avalanche. So we have a situation where a very small physical event like a marble falling down could potentially generate a much larger event like an avalanche at the bottom of the mountain. Well ‘okay’ you might say.

Now this is just where it becomes interesting. Because the slightest change in the way we placed that single marble down onto the summit might have caused it to fall one way or another. Or the slighest breeze in one direction or the other. Or some small feature on the surface of the rock on which it is placed. [Read more…]

What is the wisest long-term monetary investment billionaires can make?

Someone posted a meme about J. K. Rowling today (the author of Harry Potter).

And it said she is the first person to lose her billionaire status. And as soon as someone posts a meme about billionaires on LinkedIn, my ears prick up. She dropped off the Forbes billionaire list due to “charitable giving”.

I myself am very outspoken these days, ever since my former psychologist hyptnotised me. (I only asked to be able to stop biting my nails. And she threw in “accessory bonus packs” of self-esteem and confidence!)

So I promptly wrote back:

“Well, see now that’s one of the first person to be billionaire that I TRULY respect.
I’m sure there are others out there. I’ll probably write an article about her on my blog now. Yes.

Because personally I think (I know) that the best thing billionaires/trillionaires can do with their money, in my professional opinion as an ex-materials scientist, the wisest long term investment any multi-millionaire or billionaire can make, is to buy up native sections of forest. And just sit on it. And not for eventual ‘development’ either.

Trust me, biologists are right. It’s truly priceless. Why? Because we cannot replicate it. We actually need it. And we do not even fully understand it. Life has properties that no manmade material can ever match.”

Good morning from North Korea!

So this blog is not just about the environment. Sometimes there are surprises!

You know, I’ve been to pretty far out places before. In the year 2000, I went to Moscow by myself when I was 23. I could barely speak a word of Russian. And yet it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

And so its no surprise to me that I am kind of becoming fascinated with North Korea at the moment. Ever since watching this video. And I couldn’t help but notice the eerie North Korean melody that plays about half way through it … it just seems so surreal.

I tried a few months back to find another copy of this music because the voiceover plays over the top of it and we can only hear part of the song.

Today I listened to it again. I guess the the recent North Korean underground nuclear test yesterday reminded us all about North Korea, didn’t it?

I searched for things like “North Korean funeral music”. Because apparently that’s what it is. Eventually I found it when I typed “North Korean train station melody”. I managed to also find this video and an even louder, clearer copy here.

Why am I talking about this? [Read more…]

Zen and the art of minimalism

How can you (we) all go about buying less stuff?

I have bought many things over the last few decades. I started with bike parts, I was forever looking to build the ‘ultimate’ bicycle.

I have easily spent tens of thousands of dollars on bike parts of the last 20 years. But every time I got something new, I would lust for something even newer. The more I got, the more I’d want. It was pure greed and indulgence.

But looking back, some of my favourite rides (most of them actually) weren’t done on my most expensive bikes. Most of my favourite rides were made on relatively cheap bikes!

Whenever I see a product now I ask many additional things:

1. Where did it come from / how was it made? What was the the environmental cost of manufacture?
2. Will I be able to resell it, reuse it, recycle it or compost it when I am finished with it? (and the packaging)
3. Do I really even need it? Or do I think I just ‘want’ it?
4. What are the “false promises” being advertised?
5. Will the new item create extra ‘worry’?

The next time you go to buy something, stop yourself and ask whether you really need it. Never buy on impulse. Never! Wait. Put things in your ‘watch’ list. Meanwhile, look for the most sustainable or ecological alternative. If you still think you ‘need’ something after one or two months, by all means, go ahead and buy it.

Ever since I started doing this, I almost never regret anything I have purchased. [Read more…]

Dear America,

[TOP SECRET: classified]

I just wanted to say that if allow this person to die in your custody, they will become a martyr. And you don’t want that, do you? Because a martyr is ten times worse than a political prisoner. A martyr can never be forgotten. They are forever remembered throughout history.

And I’m sure you don’t want to start editing history now do you? Because that would put you alongside places like North Korea. And I’m sure you don’t want to do that. Because you’re trying to be a ‘better’ country.

Which martyr am I talking about? Well that’s just it. They’re not a martyr yet. Because they’re not dead. They’re still very much alive…

Why am I writing this? Well, I’m writing this because here is what Chelsea Manning, your most famous politicial prisoner, wrote today:

I need help. I am not getting any. I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations. My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lip service by the prison, the military, and this administration.

I need help. I needed help earlier this year. I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any.

I needed help. Yet, instead I am now being punished for surviving my attempt. When I was a child, my father would beat me repeatedly for simply not being masculine enough. I was told to stop crying—to “suck it up.” But, I couldn’t stop crying. The pain just got worse and worse. Until finally, I just couldn’t take the pain anymore.

I needed help, but no one came then. No one is coming now.

Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison—or by anyone within the U.S. government. I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect—that I once actually believed would be provided for—afforded to any living human being.

I do not believe that this should be dependent on any arbitrary factors—whether you are cisgender or transgender; service member or civilian, citizen or non-citizen. In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect—just more pain and anguish.

I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity, I shall—refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws, and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned.

This is a peaceful act. I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible. Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vendictive. I will not physically resist or in any way harm another person. I have also submitted a “do not resuscitate” letter that is effective immediately. This shall include any attempts to forcibly cut or shorten my hair or to forcibly feed me by any medical or pseudomedical means.

Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.

I need help. Please, give me help.
Chelsea Manning

Yes this person, Manning, exposed one of the underlying reasons for at least some of the terrorism that we are now seeing… and that is that innocent people were being shot down by helicopter gunships like in the video above.

That was actually a very brave thing for anyone to do. Because I’m sure that that person knew there would be some repurcussions. But they did it anyway.

And so what happened then? Well, instead of Americans and the government simply watching the video and starting to ask themselves the really hard questions like “why do some people hate the West?” or “have we done anything to piss foreigners off?” or “what have we done to deserve this?”. What did you do?

You took the ‘easy’ approach. Next, you tried to silence that person by giving them an unfair trial. [Read more…]