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ColoradoGuy
06-13-2007, 07:51 AM
It's been trendy these past few years to apply Chaos Theory (http://library.thinkquest.org/3493/frames/chaos.html) to everything, perhaps because it seems to apply to most everything, from the stock market to planetary orbits. So it's not surprising that literary theorists (http://www.printculture.com/item-1162.html) have seized hold of this next Big Thing. One result has been some predictable silliness. On the other hand, it seems to me that a couple of fundamental notions of Chaos Theory apply quite well to the act of reading.

Some kinds of reading are intended to produce very similar effects (optimally the same effect) in all readers. Think of computer manuals, for example. The author wants a linear, predictable cause/effect relationship between the act of reading and the effect on the reader. Very non-Chaos.

Other kinds of writing are meant to be non-linear, particularly poetry. Chaos Theory posits that small, even tiny perturbations in the initial conditions of a scientific system result in wildly different effects later, the so-called "flapping butterfly effect." Consider how tiny changes in how an author's language use, the literary analog to a scientific system, produce huge differences in how the language is perceived by the reader. A verb change here, a new preposition there, really matters. And these changes give results which, although some are more likely than others, are unpredictable.

Now for the fun part. Although small changes in the language cause huge differences in the perceptions in individual readers, I suspect that the sum of these effects on readers defines a fractal (http://library.thinkquest.org/3493/frames/fractal.html#life), one which reveals a consistent pattern. Maybe even now some lit/crit mathematician is writing the equations. After all, research suggests that the brain itself is in fractal form (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=17159150).

LaceWing
06-13-2007, 10:48 AM
I enjoyed that Massino link; love his her writing style even more than the content, but then I'm the type who views Pollock from an inch away. Others see the rivers and mountains, and I watch the wavelets move.

Anyway.

Just this evening, I read an article by Daniel Everett at edge.org, in which he takes on Chomsky's insistence on recursion -- an essential aspect of fractals -- as being a property of grammar and therefore of all human language. Everett's work in the Amazon disputes this, and he claims recursion is first a property of brains, which may or may not be used in a particular language, depending on cultural constraints. I gather that linguists are frantically ruffling feathers, esp since Chomsky is being challenged to show that his theory is falsifiable and thus viable as a theory.

And, constructal theory claims to take on fractals themselves as the ultimate descriptor of natural forms and forces. See Wikipedia, google, etc.

Meanwhile, I've come across some extremely random looking poetry that I think has a secret code of some kind behind it as well as knock-out stream-of-consciousness effects to make an Irishman swoon. Can't say I care to read it, but it might be fun to write . . .

LaceWing
06-13-2007, 12:17 PM
Related book length material:

Jeremy Campbell -- Grammatical Man (information theory, entropy)

Douglas Hostadter -- Godel, Escher and Bach (impossible algorithms, complexity)

Rudy Rucker -- The Lifebox, The Seashell and The Soul (in which language is a social computation, and everything is some kind of computation)

I can't do the math, but I still have spent many hours in the past trying to grok it. Rucker's book is one I've only browsed a bit. The others I read years ago. (So, I would flunk a pop quiz if challenged on any of this.)

MacAllister
06-13-2007, 01:09 PM
Combine Chaos Theory and the Heisenberg principle, and god only knows what you're reading...

Higgins
06-13-2007, 04:05 PM
Combine Chaos Theory and the Heisenberg principle, and god only knows what you're reading...

Go for all the beans and add Schoedinger's cat...or maybe then it is all over...you've tried everything most people seem to know about physics.

robeiae
06-13-2007, 05:25 PM
Combine Chaos Theory and the Heisenberg principle, and god only knows what you're reading...
Ummm...Nietzsche?

That was good, Mac. Do another.

robeiae
06-13-2007, 06:07 PM
It's been trendy these past few years to apply Chaos Theory (http://library.thinkquest.org/3493/frames/chaos.html) to everything, perhaps because it seems to apply to most everything, from the stock market to planetary orbits. So it's not surprising that literary theorists (http://www.printculture.com/item-1162.html) have seized hold of this next Big Thing. One result has been some predictable silliness. On the other hand, it seems to me that a couple of fundamental notions of Chaos Theory apply quite well to the act of reading.

Some kinds of reading are intended to produce very similar effects (optimally the same effect) in all readers. Think of computer manuals, for example. The author wants a linear, predictable cause/effect relationship between the act of reading and the effect on the reader. Very non-Chaos.

Other kinds of writing are meant to be non-linear, particularly poetry. Chaos Theory posits that small, even tiny perturbations in the initial conditions of a scientific system result in wildly different effects later, the so-called "flapping butterfly effect." Consider how tiny changes in how an author's language use, the literary analog to a scientific system, produce huge differences in how the language is perceived by the reader. A verb change here, a new preposition there, really matters. And these changes give results which, although some are more likely than others, are unpredictable.

Now for the fun part. Although small changes in the language cause huge differences in the perceptions in individual readers, I suspect that the sum of these effects on readers defines a fractal (http://library.thinkquest.org/3493/frames/fractal.html#life), one which reveals a consistent pattern. Maybe even now some lit/crit mathematician is writing the equations. After all, research suggests that the brain itself is in fractal form (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=17159150).
I gotta tell ya CG, what always gets me about the kind of analysis cited in your first link is the open assumption that importance must be indicitive of significance. Why is it significant at all that fractals can be used to describe Pollock's work? They may exist in a three-year-old's scribbling, as well. In fact, given the right frame of reference, they may exist in everything. I see no reason why they wouldn't. But what does that mean to us?

But don't let me bring you down. After all, I think Godel is where it's at...:)

ColoradoGuy
06-13-2007, 09:49 PM
Combine Chaos Theory and the Heisenberg principle, and god only knows what you're reading...
Of course if I'm sitting reading in Schrodinger's closed box, with his famous cat (http://www.answers.com/topic/schr-dinger-s-cat-3)purring in my lap, you would need to open the box to see what I'm reading. Although you could then know both my and the cat's quantum state (both alive, as it happens), your observer bias (http://www.answers.com/topic/observer-effect-1) would affect your apprehension of what I'm reading, especially if it were in a genre of which you don't approve. Meanwhile, if I flung the offending tome at you, neither you nor Dr. Heisenberg (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-uncertainty/) could really know both its position and velocity as it hurtled toward your head -- you would need to make a quantum guess and just duck.

kiplet
06-15-2007, 07:02 PM
Of course one must not think so literally, that in this way one learns how things go in the real world. To show that one does not think this, one calls the precise thinking aid that one has created, an image or a model. With its hindsight-free clarity, which cannot be attained without arbitrariness, one has merely insured that a fully determined hypothesis can be tested for its consequences, without admitting further arbitrariness during the tedious calculations required for deriving those consequences. Here one has explicit marching orders and actually works out only what a clever fellow could have told directly from the data! At least one then knows where the arbitrariness lies and where improvement must be made in case of disagreement with experience: in the initial hypothesis or model. For this one must always be prepared. If in many various experiments the natural object behaves like the model, one is happy and thinks that the image fits the reality in essential features. If it fails to agree, under novel experiments or with refined measuring techniques, it is not said that one should not be happy. For basically this is the means of gradually bringing our picture, i.e., our thinking, closer to the realities.

[...]


It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a "blurred model" for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.

—Erwin Schrödinger, on the “quite ridiculous case (http://web.archive.org/web/20040203150332/http://www.emr.hibu.no/lars/eng/cat/Default.htm)” of his famous dam’ cat.

Higgins
06-15-2007, 08:05 PM
[...]



—Erwin Schrödinger, on the “quite ridiculous case (http://web.archive.org/web/20040203150332/http://www.emr.hibu.no/lars/eng/cat/Default.htm)” of his famous dam’ cat.

No kidding. Every time people want to make some kind of hint that seems to suggest that they might be aware that there might be a certain amount of complexity in the physical universe, they come up with Heisenberg's principle (or they used to...that one seems to be losing popularity, possibly because there is a chance that somebody might wonder just what is uncertain about it) or Schoedinger's cat. The cat is more popular of late because, I think, of the fol-de-rol about "observation" and the obvious air of farce...anyway...very bored with it. Apparently more Einsteinian hint-bit topoi about "spacetime" used to come up, but there was an accepted way of dealing with them by just reciting the tensor definitions (where mu is 4-fold and so is nu a very tedious thing to du)...and this nugget of wisdom has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

ColoradoGuy
06-15-2007, 08:43 PM
Well yes, but sometimes a thing (or a cat or a physics formula) becomes a free-standing trope with a perfectly legitimate life of its own, one apart from what its originator intended. Nothing wrong with that. That's language at work.

MacAllister
06-15-2007, 08:47 PM
This has been a chaos theory demonstration thread, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood mod, CG.

:D

Dawno
06-15-2007, 08:53 PM
Does chaos theory explain why I left my half finished copy of "Gun With Occasional Music" behind at the lawyer's office yesterday?

ColoradoGuy
06-15-2007, 08:56 PM
In f(r)act(al), it does.

robeiae
06-15-2007, 08:57 PM
Does chaos theory explain why I left my half finished copy of "Gun With Occasional Music" behind at the lawyer's office yesterday?


In f(r)act(al), it does.
No, it doesn't. Not at all.

In fact, String Theory explains it: you forgot to tie one on your finger, Dawno.

scarletpeaches
06-15-2007, 09:06 PM
Combine Chaos Theory and the Heisenberg principle, and god only knows what you're reading...

A book that doesn't exist.

Dawno
06-15-2007, 09:20 PM
No, it doesn't. Not at all.

In fact, String Theory explains it: you forgot to tie one on your finger, Dawno.

You know that leads to a huge problem. You tie a string to remember something then you have to tie a string to remember what it is you tied that string on for and on and on until you're covered in string and can't move. Now if I'd tied a string to the book and tied that to my finger...that might have worked.

Higgins
06-15-2007, 10:48 PM
Well yes, but sometimes a thing (or a cat or a physics formula) becomes a free-standing trope with a perfectly legitimate life of its own, one apart from what its originator intended. Nothing wrong with that. That's language at work.

I wish that language would get back to work and suggest some other
suspiciously fixed topos to replace the cat thing.

Sting theory! I meant to type string theory...I know absolutely nothing about Sting or String theory....so they both seem quite harmless.

I'm not sure why any area of physics should have any particularly enlightening relation to reading. You'd think simple Optics would help, but I guess that is far too Early Scientific Revolution (or even Renaissance perspectival or even Al-Kindi-ic). Your average anamorphism would seem like a more readerly experience than any number of trips down "symbolic dynamics" would turn out to be. Besides, "chaos theory" seems to be as out of style as the old M. Thom thing and his catastrophes (a mathmatical fad that more or less directly preceeded "chaos theory").

Maybe a journey back to the dawn of Arabic Science would have some helpful lessons for readers who have gotten lost somewhere in our Western Scientific world and its interpretive practices.

kiplet
06-16-2007, 05:08 AM
Well yes, but sometimes a thing (or a cat or a physics formula) becomes a free-standing trope with a perfectly legitimate life of its own, one apart from what its originator intended.


Hence, Schroedinger's Knight (http://www.longstoryshortpier.com/2004/07/07/revolver_six). (You anticipate me, sirrah.)

Now I'm off to figure out what sting theory is. (A [hastily stolen] side note: A prominent string theorist, well-known for her profligate adultery, is finally caught in flagrante by her husband. Leaping to her feet, she cries, "Darling! I can explain everything!")

Higgins
06-16-2007, 07:05 AM
Hence, Schroedinger's Knight (http://www.longstoryshortpier.com/2004/07/07/revolver_six). (You anticipate me, sirrah.)

Now I'm off to figure out what sting theory is. (A [hastily stolen] side note: A prominent string theorist, well-known for her profligate adultery, is finally caught in flagrante by her husband. Leaping to her feet, she cries, "Darling! I can explain everything!")

More linear free association:

1) nonlinear in math doesn't mean anything like a nonlinear plot except in the round-about way that some nonlinear functions like x-squared work in that enough squares make a circle
2) Plots: well...hmmmm.... why limit a sum-over-histories to a single nexus: lots of times in plots and simulations the overall effect is not dependent on the particular order (hence the reference to Feynman diagrams).
3) Sum-over-history: That's not Chaos theory or schoedingerian things, its plain old field theory.
4) field theoretical arguments do have a historical or plot-like structure and incorporate causality in a way that reinforces the coherence of the models.