Thursday, September 20, 2012

Questions of Complexity

     Today's been a good day.  How about yours?  Quite honestly, sometimes when your in the middle of your day and it seems like crap, you come home and listen to something soothing, all of it seems trivial.  They tell me that the soothing sounds of the ocean is better than the best opiates.
     I'm sitting here and working on my "Maxwell's Equations" post, but this is going to take some extra time.  As it turns out, I never made it to vector calculus.  Euclid's fifth postulate and the problems that face it just barely escape me.  That's why I read about this stuff though.  I just keep on getting better.
     Before I go on, I'm going to link this playlist here.  I don't want to lose this.  Now moving on.
     For the last three years, I've been a farm hand.  It's in the exciting world of organic farming.  The thing that gets me is, I've had people argue that we need to get back to the roots, or something called natural farming.  There is another movement called bio-dynamics that bugs me because the more I try to understand it, the less sense it makes to me.
     The thing about all these that bothers me is they don't treat agriculture as a science.  The most appealing thing about farming is looking at everything and watching it work.  It's not magic, it's a machine.  Many people object to that term, so let me explain.  A machine is not a soul-less, uncaring, unfeeling hunk of metal.  It's complex, governed by laws that we seek to understand.  I like to use the analogy of a car engine, but sadly I find that example lost on some people.
     I've heard the term "fragile ecosystem" used to describe the earth, so let us try and start there.  The term is used to talk about how hunting creatures to extinction or cutting down forests will lead to changes in global climates.  This is the machine I'm talking about.  Each creature acts as a gear or a cog in it's given ecosystem.  If you remove the gear, or change how the gear works, or even add one, it will change the machine as a whole.  Of course, the world is a wondrous place, helped in part by the complexity of the machine.  We stand back and watch this machine work, and we are taken aback by the fact that we cannot begin to fathom just how each part works.  We see connections here and there, but the complexity is lost on us.  And as Arthur C. Clarke put it "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
    What does this have to do with farming?  Well, the first time someone described bio-dynamics to me, I thought they were talking about creating an ecosystem on a small scale.  Or a small, organic machine.  This appeals to the side of me that is obsessed  with science, logic, and math.  The idea of creating you're own carefully balanced machine that can provide you with food!  People familiar with bio-dynamics understand that it goes so much more than miniature ecosystems.  And when I found about the mysticism that went with it, I was very disappointed.
     I'm working with fungus at the moment, so I get a chance to learn about the workings of fungus and how they can apply to an ecosystem.  It does more than decompose things.  Fungus inhales oxygen and exhales CO2.  There are specific types of fungus that grow on specific types of root systems.  It's said that spores lead to rain in the rain forest.  And these factors work together in an ecosystem to create healthy soil, healthy plants, and healthy animals.
     Farms, and forests, are complex in how each small factor works with each other.  And they are chaotic in that the factors that are most important to the success of the farm, are the things that are the most unpredictable.  Sure, things like the weather can be broken down into a series of equations, but in the end the answer comes down to probability.  This probability is what keeps it going though.  Tonight, I find myself lying here and pulling apart ecosystems in my mind.  And the question keeps coming back around, how do you apply the chaotic complexity of the natural world into the structure world man has created?
     There are ideas put out in the ag world right now that seem new, but can be observed in the forest.  Trees in a deciduous mulch themselves.  It's wild.  They help provide the nutrients that they need.  And they help kill the weeds that would keep their offspring from coming up.  But without the supporting players in the form of the stuff living in the sub-soil, they would be sick all the time.  Can these ideas be applied to a farm?  Can a small scale ecosystem be created?  And would it create healthy plants and animals?  At the very least, this is something that should be done just so we can further understand how ecosystems work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


     Sometimes, I sit and stare at this blank screen while thoughts drift by with no real mass.  The best I can do at times like these is to try and snag them.  Today, however, I have too much I want to write about.  It's all philosophy, math and science, and it's all heaped into a pile in the middle of my mind.  It doesn't do anything there; it needs to be organized into boxes where I can access them.
     My mind has been on telescopes and the world of optics recently.  I started building a mirror for a telescope last winter and now as the nights grow colder and the night sky grows clearer, I keep thinking about finishing that mirror.  I've been working on thermodynamics for the past five months or so, now I want to start focusing on other things smaller than the naked eye.
     I've gotten to a point were I am realizing that there is only great moments in science.  Growing up I heard about Albert Einstein and how great he was.  Right now, it seems Nikola Tesla is in the center of hero worship spotlight.  As Issac Newton once said "If I have seen further, it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants."  Everyone has their ideas based in the ideas of the people that came before them.  Last spring, I read "Optiks" by Sir Issac Newton.  It's a nice, simple introduction to optics.  It's basic if you know geometry.  Tonight, I'm reading through articles trying to find something explaining James Maxwell's fish-eye lens, which was conceived of 200 years after optics.  Apparently, a lot of new insight into optics was happening around this time.  People were still using the basics laid out by Newton, but were adding onto it with their own equations.
    This is a common theme in the world of science.  People don't just memorize someone else's equation, they use it to solve problems and create new questions of their own.  The more I read about Maxwell, the more he intrigues me.  He came up with theories and discoveries that influenced the next few hundred years of science.  Electromagnetism, thermodynamics, optics, and he even discovered the particles in the rings of Saturn.  But, without the people who came latter, he would have been nothing.
     Wow, I'm really losing focus as I'm reading this article.  Theoretical math and physics is hands down the coolest sci-fi I have ever read.  I'm going to wrap this up.  I'm going to start reading more about electromagnets and optics.  Electromagnets still deal with energy, so it really is just the next step for me.  Optics, though.  Optics is really fucking cool.  Optics deals with light and how light travels and bends to create images for our brain.  And reading about it just made sure that I'm about to spend the next couple of days thinking about it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insecure Writers support group

     Here I am, putting insecurities out there.
      I've been trying to pick out an insecurity for my first Insecure Writer post.  The question "Am I good enough?"  has been plaguing my mind a lot, but that seems to be a question that bothers most new writers.  This question seeps into other areas of my life and writing though.  I have a high school degree, and I write about physics.  In this area I use the question to push myself to read as many textbooks, lectures, and essays I can on the subject.  This question drives me to find people who are also interested and can share knowledge.  This question brought me here, to see If I could prove myself in front of the largest one way mirror known to man.  It's strange, this Internet;  You can see me, I can see a reflection of me, but I can't see you.
     I'm writing this on a Tuesday night, the night usually held for my studies on thermodynamics.  The reason why I'm not is the next of my insecurities.  Focus.  After being diagnosed with Adult ADHD, I have had to develop rituals and patterns to help get things done.  Is trying to cope with this count?  I know it seems like a major hurtle for writing, jobs or a lot of things.  Ugh.  Again, it seems like I all can do is push through it keep learning to cope with it or use it to my advantage.
     I wish I was smart.  I read like crazy because I feel frustrated that I don't know everything there is to know.  The problems rise when I try to test somethings out in the real world.  Sometimes they are mechanical things, test I perform to study physical principles in the real world.  Sometimes I feel compelled to test psychological principles in the real world.  Don't feel too scared, I only try them when people put me in sales positions.  Stuff like this makes me wonder about myself.
     Yeah, I'm nothing but one big insecurity over here.  Isn't that what attracts me to writing though?  I get to show this side of myself for a change.  In the job world, if I crack and lose my confidence, I slip and fall and lose a good position to someone else. Or I lose my job to lack of control on my part.  In the relationship world, having confidence is seen to be attractive.  Here in the void though, it's wonderful.  Three people follow me.  Do they read any of it?  I don't care.  Here, it seems like I can shout until I go horse.  I'm IrishRedFox, a name and a picture.  I am a shapeless idea.
     This opening up thing?  This thing where I lay here and just write about what bothers me?  It bugs me.  I'm scared that as a writer, I no good.  As a thinker, I want to be better.  And I'm not convinced these insecure moments make me better at either.  There is no research, no experimenting happening.  Maybe taking some time to force my eye inward will help me in long run.  It's forcing me to write, after all.