Here's the thing -- if you have to tell him that in the first place,
then telling him now is futile. Paul Reiser did a comedy bit about
people who "just didn't get it." It's pretty funny, but at first I was
completely baffled. In the real world I think like a teacher: if they
"don't get it" they must simply be misguided and after the reality is
carefully explained if they still don't get it that must somehow be *my*
fault for not explaining it well enough. Fortunately for me I finally
did get what the comedy bit was about: people who don't get it already
aren't gonna get it now! If you've followed that there is a bit of
irony that I finally did get it... Regardless, these net loons aren't
worth our time and trouble. Just kill file 'em and poof -- they go away.
Man, the mystery of evolution! And before that there were reversible,
self-reproducing non-living phases in the "soup" that grew more and more
complex leading up to life.
If Mars is wet (liquid brine or acid solution) even today, with solar
irradiation bathing the surface, life forming is a totally natural and
deterministic thermodynamic response. In a much wetter (oceanic) environment
an organism like a sponge might evolve through random mutations and
fortituous assemblages of cooperating entities, but the final forms and life
cycle is constrained to a small subset of stable geometrical and
mathematical topologies. And thus similar patterns are repeated in nature in
so many diverse contexts, even perhaps on another planet. The mathematician
Rene Thom observed:
"Let us start with the very basic objection of the finalists to a mechanist
theory of evolution: if evolution is governed by chance, and mutations are
controlled only by natural selection, then how has this process produced
more and more complex structures, leading up to man and the extraordinary
exploits of human intelligence? I think that this question has only a single
partial answer, and this answer will be criticized as idealistic. When the
mathematician Hermite wrote to Stieltjes, 'It seems to me that the integers
have an existence outside themselves which they impose with the same
predetermined necessity as potassium and sodium,' he did not, to my mind, go
far enough. If sodium and potassium exist, this is so because there is a
corresponding mathematical structure guaranteeing the stability of atoms Na
and K; such a structure can be specified, in quantum mechanics, for a simple
object like the hydrogen molecule, and although the case of the Na or K atom
is less well understood, there is no reason to doubt its existence. I think
likewise there are formal structures, in fact, geometric objects, in biology
that prescribe the only possible forms capable of having a self-reporoducing
dynamic in a given environment."
He goes on to talk about the thermodynamics behind the process:
"In the last analysis, whence can life on our planet come but from the
continuous flux of energy from the sun? The solar phtons arriving in contact
with the soil and seas are immediately stopped, and their energy abruptly
degraded into heat; in this way the discontinuity of the earth and water
surface is a shock wave, a cliff down which the negentropy of the sun's rays
fall. Now, life can be considered as some kind of underground erosion of
this cliff, smoothing out the discontinuity; a plant, for example, is
nothing but an upheaval of the earth toward the light, and the ramified
structure of its stem and root is the same as that found when a stream of
water erodes a cliff and produces a mound of debris. Plastids, veritable
photon traps, are the miniscule orifices where this subterranean circulation
begins. The energy stored in the noble form of chemical energy begins its
slow decline. It flows underneath the cliff like a fluid, and its
circulation echoes the inverted pyramid of the ecology of living beings.
Each living species is a structurally stable singularity... of this
circulation. As in hydrodynamics the energy of a turbulent regime flows from
low-frequency oscillations towards higher frequencies, finishing in thermal
chaos, so in life those with slow metabolism (plants) are the prey of the
faster-metabolizing (animals)... There is no doubt it is on the
philosophical plane that these models have the most immediate interest. They
give the first rigorously monistic model of the living being and reduce the
paradox of the soul and the body to a single geometrical object... [The]
dynamical situations governing the evolution of natural phenomena are
basically the same as those governing the evolution of man and societies,
profoundly justifying the use of anthropomorphic words in physics...
Biologists will perhaps reproach me for not having spoken of biochemistry in
precise terms. This is true, and I do not deny the importance of chemical
constraints on the dynamic of life. But I believe that any such constraint,
and any chemical bond, can be considered as a geometrical factor in an
appropriate space. Writing the equation, in atoms, that connects two
constituents of a chemical reaction is one, the coarsest, of these
constraints; the topology of biochemical kinetics and its relation with the
spatial configuration of macromolecules are others that are certainly more
decisive." -- Thom, "Structural Stability and Morphogenesis"
These mathematical structures, like the mathematical structures guaranteeing
the the stability of Na, exist at each of the 100 billion solar systems in
the Milky Way. It's vain to think that only in our locale were these types
of pathways realized.
Quite right. There is a fourth law of thermodynamics now, it is the
science of self organization, once called chaos theory, now called
complexity science. It is the mathematics of Darwinian evolution, but
an abstract math that can be applied to any complex adaptive
system, living or material. It is now known that the mathematics for living
evolution is the same for material systems. Only the level
of complexity varies.
THE NATURE OF AUTONOMOUS AGENTS
AND THE WORLDS THEY MUTUALLY CREATE
Evolution is set in ...motion by randomness. The mathematics of
evolution can be seen in a simple cloud. Which is a system that
is at a phase transition between its system specific possibility
space. A cloud is neither water or air, but is chaotically jumping
between the two. Much as water when at the transition to
steam, that narrow window when it's both at the same time.
The 'edge of chaos' is the technical term for a system at
this phase transition. This 'edge' state is where classical
mechanics completely fail, in math it's simply considered
a discontinuity. A place where the chaotic behavior makes
deterministic methods entirely futile.
But this chaotic edge state is in fact the realm where self
organization occurs. It is where adaptation, self tuning
and evolution is generated. The one place where classical
methods fail, is the ....source.....of all natural structure and
order...of evolution and life.
The very minute one applies objective methods to an evolving
system, is the same minute the system is deconstructed to
either its static or chaotic states. In the analogy above the
system would become either water or air, since classical
methods only work at either extreme, not at the edge state.
So you see, objective, deterministic or classical reductionism
is completely useless in modeling a ...living or evolving system.
As the source of the organization is destroyed by objective
measurements. This is also the source of the mystery of the
wave and particle duality. When we measure it becomes
one or the other, in nature it's at the edge state, and is both
at the same time, as in a cloud.
The mathematics of evolution, at its heart, is strikingly simple.
See the link below for a great intro into the science of the
future, as it's applicable to....any....discipline. Whether
in biology, psychology, stock market or religion, it works just fine.
It is a universal science of real world systems.
An Introduction to Complex Systems
Torsten Reil, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
People see the enormous complexity of the world around
them and assume the mechanisms of order must be
as complex. But in truth there is a single and simple
underlying mechanism that can produce splendid
complexity...all by itself. A person can understand
all the disciplines at once, as they all share the
same fundamental cause.
Self-Organizing Systems (SOS) FAQ
Randomness forces systems to an edge state, an edge state
forces the system to self tune and adapt. Evolution is an
inherent and pervasive property of the universe. Spontaneous
creation, increasing order and diversity is the norm, not
A very readable and complete description of complexity science
is at the link below, and all in essay form. Start with the themes
and concept links. This page comes across a bit new-agey
at first, but give it a chance. There will come a point when
all of a sudden...the light switch is turned on...and you'll
realize you can take this math anywhere, answer any
question, and swim where everyone else sinks.
Thats exactly what I thought when I heard the news conference would be
coming from NASA HQ instead of Pasadena. Seems like quite a dramatic event
to simply announce they found evidence Mars had water - maybe theres a
little more to it than that?
But finding water fulfills the primary mission goal. In a world where
science often gets caught up in complex and often contradictory
interpretations a simple result to a simply stated goal probably
warrants bragging rights for the NASA administrators (and rightfully so).
I think they have settled on a theory that explains the presence of the
blueberries in their host matrix. I hazard a guess that they have
strong evidence that water was involved. This would imply lots of water
and lends credence to a once warm wet Mars. That would be a very
significant finding itself. As to the presence of liquid water in the
soil, I would be interested to see the proof of that. They have not
shown photos of liquid water or ice from these missions. Finding a low
concentration of water in the sand would not be such a significant
result since the orbiters have already demonstrated the strong
likelihood that water exists. I have a feeling they have hit the cover
off the ball in some other respect. Maybe evidence of a hotspring or
Spooky how MER-B was somehow attracted like a fly into a spider's web.
Has anyone calculated the improbablility of winding up in a crater which
hosted such a tremendous geological display? Must be near Superball
odds on this terrain.
I'm looking forward to hearing the news! They certainly have hyped it
up a bit.
I would expect any crater this size to reveal the bedrock. I mean, why
wouldn't it? Did anybody notice that they finally images the large
crater to the east? What looks to be a much bigger outcrop! Also,
craters this size or larger aren't everywhere but they are spread around
pretty liberally. Unlikely yes, but I wouldn't think it "superball odds".
My point is that it is extraordinarily unlikely that MER-B would wind up
in a crater like this. Superball odds was hyperbole.
Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. Before 1/25/04 no one predicted there would
be an outcrop of layered rock at the landing site and that MER-B was
going to roll gently northward into a crater, changing course by 90
degrees after screaming in from the west. Now everyone can say it is
obvious there would be exposed rocks in craters. Many of them are dust
covered though, as you observe in the great majority of images from
Looking at the DIMES images, there are precious few craters of this size
on this terrain in Meridiani. They are well spaced. I'd say by surface
area, they would be on the order of 0.01% (1 in ten thousand). So the
odds of winding up there must be on the order of a quite unnatural
sounding 1 in a thousand if you allow that in bouncing across the
terrain, the probability of bouncing into a crater is 10 times greater
than hitting one at random from on high. Perhaps longer odds if you
conclude it was necessary for the lander to make a sharp turn near the
surface in order to find a crater.
When contemplating such an incredible long shot one can't help feeling
that Mars might simply have wanted us to find this spot.
No such thing as blind luck -- everything has to have a reason? There
probably isn't a greater dichotomy in human thinking than that idea vs.
happenstance. Personally, I think it was just a lucky bounce.
So that would require the planet to have, at the least, some form
of intelligence (does Mars have a brain?), an awareness of the
existence of humans and the purpose of the Rover (does Mars have
eyes, telescopes, radio and TV receivers?) and quite stupendous
control of the movements of air currents (by what mechanism?) in
order to quide the lander exactly into the crater.
It seems to me that if Mars had all this, and wanted us to find
out about it, it would not be teasing us with hints of the
existence of liquid water in ages past - it would be writing
"HELLO NASA, WELCOME TO MARS!" in 10-mile-wide dust devil tracks
on the Martian plains!
The more sensible explanation is that it was a fortuitous
Subtlety is not your strong suit, Ic -- :-). Perhaps a closer look at
those dust devil tracks might reveal a coded message in Martian.
Of course you are right, luck, or good fortune has everything to do with
it! (That was very much my point, too)
It is like contemplating the improbablity of how we all managed to ride
our little blue speck of cosmic dust long enough to develop rockets that
could give us a real close look at the next speck over. The red one.
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