Philip Forbes Henshaw...   on natural systems
(those special machines of nature and how they record their accumulative learning)
You might start with the 1st law of stuff... or In a Nut Shell, by asking  Why?    (why think about the life cycle of change?) or What to do?? (to steer our unmanageable world.) or What grows into "life"?, Bio "Blurb" Personal history eds. 3/9/04,05,06,07,08,09, 1/21/10 1/23 2/6 7/5 11/28 1/14/11 4/11(note ed. dates indicate how current paragraphs or sections are)

What's going wrong? 

Our culture developed around principles for growing a small scale society in a big world, and that condition made it seem that expanding ever faster would always be good...   It's not.   Today we're seeing the world's resource markets responding together, responding to snags in supply by permanently increasing the floor level price of resources, a sign from nature that she's "running out of stuff".   A good introduction to that is my article, A defining moment for investing in Sustainability, in New European Economy.   It's also important to have a simple way to understand the deep problem, in a nut shell, Why is it natural to find reality confusing


What's going right?

People are slowly, but very slowly, noticing that "sustainability" is more than convincing people to live morally and efficiently, it's learning to measure the hidden impacts of how we use money.  Not surprisingly, that's the great majority.   It does mean that we've often had policies to reduce visible impacts that just increased the hidden ones more, often outsourcing our costly tasks so we don't see the cost.  Whether discovering how sick you've become is desirable or not, it's a lot healthier than believing your not. System Energy Assessment (SEA)


This site is an archive for 30 years of work exploring the growing lack of connection between how the natural world works by itself, and the imaginary worlds of human thinking do to.   Some "physics principles for naturalists" is one way to put it, as a way to keep your thinking connected to its subjects.      That increasing productivity will solve our having produced too much... is something to question. "

(2011) "Nurturing cash cows or crash cows?"  and  "simple facts... and hard memes"  



 Science seems to describe the world as a lot of inanimate objects animated by our equations,
 ...which we make ourselves, inanimate objects. 

The scientific subject here is a verifiable method for finding information missing from our theories.
( & discovering the fascinating details of how real relationships truly develop & change)

In a phrase, what's always missing from our theories is how nature puts together the continuity of change*.    That is verified by following pointers to apparent gaps in our information that nature must somehow be connecting, and successfully finding what's missing.    It's often no more complex than asking when things started and when they'll finish, maybe beginning with observing complex events occurring with remarkable simplicity, like growth.

*except the other reason... the real difficulty people have distinguishing between our cultural realities that explain things to us and anything physically independent of them... seeing our beliefs as stories of our own design that are often missing the best parts of the real stories of nature is part of what looking for the missing continuities of change helps expose.

Complexity within systems comes with making things simple.   To see how takes effort in closely watching how nature does it, and tracing the way things change as a whole.    Vast assemblies of independently behaving parts self-assemble to work together by accumulatively linking their complementary shapes and functions; wastes to resources, liquids caught by cups, etc., building on the kinds of opposites that connect, like growth.  


Change over time in natural systems occurs everywhere at once, which does not confuse nature in the least.   That change everywhere at once often occurs in organized ways, suggests its coming from a common origin as seen in growth systems.    It seems inexplicable, and there are parts that really are.   Study what both is and isn't enriches your appreciation of life.  It also gives you early warnings of change in the natural organization of things, letting you adapt your models and expectations, and helps fill other important gaps in your information.    (continued5/12/2010, 5/22

Some quite simple answers for complex problems... (by finding  the right question) 11/13/10


How business energy use is counted misses ~80% of the energy being used.   Curiously what's counted is energy uses for which there are traceable receipts, and the ancient habit is to ignore the untraceable energy uses for business costs that don't provide energy receipts.   The true scale is found by assuming the average amount of untraceable energy will be about the average global energy use per dollar,... presto... the missing 80%.   It's remarkable, and it does check out!   It means revising worldwide impact assessment methods, like for CO2, rethinking where our impacts come from, and making quite different energy choices as we see the more accurate picture of what produces our energy problem!   -- DollarShadow notes  Whole system energy measurement


Free market economies can reduce our burden on the earth by following the natural succession from quantitative to qualitative growth.   To change from doing more to do it better and better follows the example of other natural systems that end growth at a peak of vitality rather than a peak of exhaustion.  Our doing that involves changing the use of profits from multiplying the scale of business to improving the quality of our relationships with nature and each other.   The intellectually interesting part, first noticed by Keynes, is that nature actually provides no other option.   For individuals, the natural limit to growth would otherwise be the speed at which they can keep up with making ever more complex and conflicted decisions.   What we need to see quickly is the need to give it the attention now so it gets done right.    -- Natural Economies essay  Search this site for other links to it

A Complex World

Escaping old assumptions... in a changing world   Traditional ideologies that work well can efficiently organize a society, but become dangerous traps when they stop working.   To escape one has to learn to trust your own observation again, recognizing conflicting evidence without judging it until you put the pieces together.  The important new observations won't make sense in the old social and cultural language...   Growth is supposed to solve all problems, for example, not multiply them.  So following the old beliefs, our society acts as if problems caused by growth like climate change, can be solved by more growth.   Money has to multiply, but the earth can't, is a good observation to make.   Find the meaning later when you can.   We live in a world becoming numbingly complex for everyone is another Too Complex to keep track  Wandering Minds  Models Learning Change

How to slow it down

Resource efficiency improves cost and availability... accelerating uses and depletion.   It's actually a 150 year old and very easily confirmed observation that economic growth and resource use are accelerated by people adopting productive efficiencies.  That theory fit's the observation.    Sustainability policy blindly and tragically ignores the main stimulus effect of productive efficiency.    As the economy actually works, the ratio of stimulus to reduction is 2.5:1, a world average effect for saving of 1 gal. of gas of creating new uses consuming 2.5 gal. -- #1 issue in sustainability,   "Stimulus for Constraint"

Impacts on the earth = Population  Affluence • Technology costs  Stimulus (effect of improved technique)  

• • • • better questions don't end the task of finding what to do, but give you a more solid place to begin • • • •





(This graph shows 5 choices for when to respond to an approaching natural limit, asking when to respond to reach growth limits at a peak of vitality rather than at a peak of exhaustion.   ... and the need to study your path, not your past.)

(click to enlarge)

...current cartoon...
  1995-2011 reproduction, review and quotation encouraged with attribution.  

Delayed responses to approaching limits risk exhausting yourself and loosing control.  

So the #1 sustainability issue today is our delay in asking why growth would change from making everything cheaper and easier to making everything more costly and complicated.   That's the time when our way of solving problem begins to multiply them, creating more conflicts instead of freedoms as it once did.   
Finding and solving the true causes may be more challenging but  that at least addresses the right problem, correcting our Type III error, using the wrong model and accepting the wrong questions it gives us.

General Essays
What's so different here?
- The problem with systems  -  Reading Hints...The top sustainability issue in the world today? 
What are Natural Complex Systems? - A question, does all change evolve?

General Scientific Theory & Method:
Current work 
Physics for Open Systems

Lists etc.

Some things to fix? - Concept & Comment essays - Publications - Odd Facts - Philosophy in a Phrase - Bio - Life Tools Arts 

What's so different here?  

Systems Theory is not really the subject...  but rediscovering a lost art of observation

Science is all about observation, of course, but almost exclusively focused on observations about how things of the physical world are externally controlled, using controlled experiments, for example.

The problem with that, of course, is that it makes learning how to observe the things of our world that choose their own paths, and are significantly self-controlled, into a lost art. 

I say "lost art" because our common languages are filled with terms for how people, our cultures and communities, and other kinds of organisms of all sorts of nature actively explore and steer their own paths in their worlds.   After you learn to look for it you find it's a fairly common property of natural systems.  For centuries it has been represented as something that happens nowhere in nature except in the minds of the one self-conscious species.  That's just a bit of an exaggeration.    It takes effort and a playful approach to demystify it, but it's just a wonderful lost art in the end. 1/8/10

It's not even "science" in a way, as science is a theory of how nature is controlled
and this is about how to explore the uncontrolled systems in nature.  
Learning is an uncontrolled system, for example, both for us and for nature.

It's learning about the real mysteries of how ordinary things work using observation to help find better questions about them.
(aided by some innovative physics and systems theory)

Understanding what problems are unsolvable solves amazing problems is part of it.
Studying the flows of change exposes distinctly temporary systems, pointing to what cannot continue.
Foresight then comes from asking the hard questions about what will upset them and how they will change.
Then you can far better predict their tipping points, as their fortunes change by changing their own environments,
to discover the unusual richly beautiful worlds of accumulating and upsetting local designs
 in the spaces "between the laws of averages"
where individuality develops.

It's a way to learn about how what persists in nature develops from what is temporary
 as complex natural relationships develop,
finding their complementary connections.
Perhaps that lets you become part of and make much better responses to them
during an age of stumbling over ever bigger mistakes,
trusting failed habits of the past and bad advice,
Finally catching up on the loads of "back home work" on the story of life
we never turned in when we were younger.

Information actually controls nothing but our predictions, but it's become popular to redefine nature as being what we can predict.
What leads you to understanding something
about the worlds of nature we completely rely on taking care of themselves,
is not prediction however, but using the same information to help you ask better questions
about what must remain unexplained.

8/30/10 This site and my own explorations are about switching one's orientation toward reality.  It starts with recognizing our common habits of explaining things use images we fabricate in our minds to substitute for the real subjects of the world, a kind of short circuiting.  The alternative is to use our images to help show us where reality is different from our mental picture.   That orients you to being an explorer of the real thing beyond what you can imagine.    It's "counter intuitive" in our culture to consider physical reality to be what we find beyond explanation, but other than being quite factual, the benefit is that there is so very much of it otherwise going neglected.  

Science has mostly taken the opposite approach, though, trying to find the features of the world that could be turned into rules of explanation, often explicitly claiming that by explaining more and more we'd eventually explain everything.    It becomes a truly false objective, to consistently avoid studying the things beyond explanation, like how natural systems work with so many individually uncontrolled learning and evolving parts.   Needing rules for things means neglecting to study how things take care of themselves, one of the most notable features of nature.   The sure sign of the gap is that the universal process by which organized systems develop, growth, is not a recognized subject of physical science, and evidence of an extreme blindspot.   That growth is an environmental learning process seems to be why deterministic science has neglected studying it.  

So, it takes a real admission of a kind, just to study what we naturally can't explain about the world.   It means admitting that conscious explanations or "knowledge" is a kind of fiction that leaves out more than it explains in practical fact.  Our explanations themselves are all human inventions, and they don't match the physical reality very well when you check.    It implies that physical reality is located primarily in what we don't understand, and in what we find inexplicable about the world.   It seems to suggest knowledge in general would be much more valuable if treated as questions rather than conclusions, and that may be our mistake...  

2/12/10 Appreciating how uncontrolled systems make up their own rules as they go is about closely watching them, identifying large and small cells of climate and economic processes and personal or ecological relationships as they develop and change form, like storms, technologies and our friendship circles and the balances of nature around us.    There are their tipping points, approaching dead ends and emerging new forms to identify.    What usually marks their irreversible change, as opposed to incidental change, are the patterns of successively bigger or smaller steps of change.  Those are what indicate developing or dissipating environmental systems, the enduring structures of nature.

One develops mental models of them, but mostly as questions about what's changing on its own.   It would help scientists to see what complex systems in an environment might be modeled, too, and when the real system has or is about to change form and models of it will need to be changed.    It's about raising better questions, considering natural systems as changing by accumulating new features as information in their physical designs, as organizational learning processes themselves, made possible by watching their conserved change accumulate .   How to tell the ones that are persistent and for which organizational change is strictly accumulative and permanent is one of the important steps. 

Considering natural systems as processes of accumulating organization engaged in learning about their environments allows you to view them as controlled by how they explore their environments and what they discover, instead of as controlled an observer's rules of prediction.   A mouse explores its environment its way, to find food.   A business explores its environment its way, to discover markets.  A teenager does to find who there is to hang out with.   Each is forms a network regular connections, the environmental relationship itself, that serves as a platform for finding new ones, establishing a presence in the environment and a way of growing and responding to growth limits.    Sometimes an observer can see what they are about to discover, letting them anticipate what to do then.   The same stages of development and variety of outcomes for new personal relationships can be seen in the life story of more complex environmental systems like businesses or cultures.

Such new networks of environmental relationships are "special machines", things that change form as they find room to take off, and change form again when they run out of room.  That's their growth phase and maturation phase for systems that will persist beyond their own initial growth.    Normal models and theories fail to suggest how such natural systems continually change as they interact with their changing environments.   Natural systems have distributed parts, and tend to change everywhere at once, often in seemingly coordinated ways and without controls.   Sometimes they just "go zoom" in some fantastically orchestrated way, for no apparent outside cause at all.   They're individually "eventful".  Their biggest changes in form come when they discover something and take off, and then when their limits trigger them to either stabilize or run down.   "Simple machines" don't do those sorts of things.    "Simple machines" is all people and theory can define, though.   So this is about getting "simple machines" to point at nature's "special machines", as better questions about them, helping an observer to see their features and learn to tell when they're changing.

One thing that points to them is their succession of progressive development trends, and reading them as narratives of their organizational processes.   Identifying a local development trend lets you associate it with everything working together as a whole to produce it, to recognize what's happening in total, and as changes progress from one direction of development to another.  It's whole system learning from beginning to end.   So there's the art of observation and the general approach and other topics  The rigorous scientific "hook" making it a new scientific method is building the narrative around the sequence of developments required  by the conservation of energy for the physical continuity of energy flows.   The form of the narrative is derived from the Law of Continuity, which opens up a useful new approach to general physics of change, consistent with thermodynamics but not with some of its more common interpretations.    Other physicists are still generally hesitant.   The problem is how to treat scientific information, whether as well defined representations of nature or also for referring to physical things we can't define.    It's a mysterious philosophical conundrum, with a long history.   Learning to separately discuss physical realities we can only point to, not confusing them with the information we point with...  looks like the trick.   

One interesting question today is how to truthfully explain, like "outgrowing our britches", why humans chose to out grow our freedom on the earth, to maximize our constraint from environmental conflict with the earth and each other.   If the physical measures show that 50 or more years ago there was a turning point toward growing constraint and conflicts, as everyone took ever more space, material and control of everything else,  why do we still act as if everyone taking more space, materials and control over everything else is the solution?   -  It would be good to answer that.   It seems we're following that path like a machine, or as if we were sleep walking, not as would conscious humans.    Here's a hint from one view, if that helps you find your own. 1/23/10 2/6
Another question, from a very old version "Does all change Evolve?" also takes you to the bottom of this long document so, if you like, you can then scroll up instead. 3/22/01

Please do ask if things are not clear.   If I say things that seem to conflict with your beliefs, ask why I might suggest it, or if I was just misspeaking for your way or reading it.   Sometimes I'm trying to suggest a range of possibilities, sometimes I'm omitting something that should have been mentioned.   Let me know.   We definitely have a lot to sort out in many ways.

The problem with systems

....4/10/09 05/20 6/17 7/9 is that people don't recognize the vastly complex natural machines by which the world works.   Natural systems don't operate by our explanations, and how they do operate is as yet quite inexplicable to us.    Natural systems arise from their environments by local development, which is one inexplicable thing about them, and operate without instructions or controls, using processes occurring differently everywhere at once.    "Seeing" things is to make sense of them, so No Wonder we don't see them!   We can begin to though.   It takes learning some strategic ways of reading beyond your information, and discover the implied processes of sweeping change we are caught up in.   The key to foresight with them is recognizing the kinds of progressions that end by upsetting the regularities they display (growth | integration | disintegration | decay), so you can learn to watch them to learn about change in natural system relationships has or is about to happen.    It's another way to read the fingerprints of nature's transformations.     Traditional scientific theory is mainly used to build predictable models that interpret nature's stable behaviors of the past, not to read nature's instabilities for clues to her changing complex organized forms.   

Mathematical models are not prone to change by local developmental processes as natural systems do, though, and don't offer a way to explain things that change in different ways everywhere at once either.    What this approach does is raise questions about when and how individual systems will change their behavior in the future and lead to discovering the new models that will be necessary to make new sense of them.   It's "raw science" not "finished science", for beginning or advanced research into any subject of change.    It's also a way to open our minds and learn how to follow nature's actual processes, rather than just follow the kinds of simple (and lifeless) explanations for them our thinking can build and make sense of, and maybe... let us end our clumsy effort to control nature by attempting to make her follow our explanations too.   There's lots of things you can follow and understand, that you can't really explain, and that's often enough to show how to adapt to or avoid them.

A useful theory of environmental systems isn't about answers, but pointing to where you should look to find them, only hinting enough at the answer you'll find there to begin the search.    Where this approach began was with noticing odd things like how all experiments misbehave a little, and how economies are designed to let everyone put money into the common pot, to then take ever more out, with no end in sight...    Along the way it takes discovering how to identify whole systems by connecting all the dots that grow together, like all the cells in a body and all the local features of the environmental niche it grows in and builds around itself.

People often respond "I don't understand", but that is neither a question, nor an answer.   Just add "yet" if you don't see how to proceed.  Your questions about your environment are needed for this to work.   The best source of "connected dots" is not your theory, but noticing developing change as it happens.   That is invariably a sign of a whole network of developing relationships.    Try asking "where did things start" and "how are they going".   Ask "what's happening" and by "looking around" at everything your issue touches learn to see it as a whole.   Ask "where are the flows" or the "eruptions of change" that connect things.    Natural systems doesn't make our kind of sense, true, so we need to learn theirs.   If you get stuck break your thought pattern, try flipping a question around, to ask it in some entertaining backwards way, perhaps, then retrace.    The story here is about an exploratory physics of uncontrolled systems that any field or level of interest could make use of, discovering how to discover the naturally developing environmental relationships all around us.   It's about "the track" that people often refer to with phrases like their life or work being "on track" or the country going "off track".   This approach lets you ask "whose track" and "what track".    It allows open minded explorers to enrich their view and knowledge of the locally developing features of changing environments.       

Natural environmental systems generally have "variable organization".  Nature's physical systems are simply not sets of fixed rules, though having theoretical rules can help you make guesses, see what is behaving differently, and explore it.    Physical systems develop from the collective behavior of independently acting and adapting parts.  They come to act together as a whole through by all acting opportunistically in complementary ways, with "the system" as their special environment.    Organisms are that kind of special environment for their cells, as cultures are for their populations, storms are for their individual currents, and technologies are for their many closely fitting complementary parts.   What's good for the horseshoe is good for the horse...    All have that same basic organic design, lots of independently different parts working in concert.   You can recognize these wholes, and explore their internal relationships, using questions raised by watching their individual stages of developmental change.   Tracking things with any regular measure that reflects the whole will do, energy, money, size or resources, displaying the basic turning points of a life and hinting at others.   

Natural systems are illusive too, because people have some bad mental habits.   The most frequent is ask the wrong questions by confusing our mental images and related cultural issues with the physical world of environments.   They're mostly all but totally different and unrelated.    The problem comes from tending to mistake our own information for the physical thing referred to.    A first step in "learning how to think" then, might be to study how to separate what you "see" from what you're "looking at".  One of those is in your mind and the other isn't, one built of your values and intuitions the other physical interactions.   Becoming aware of the chains of connection in an environment is by recognizing that regularly accumulating physical changes are not in your mind, and do not need any explanation to be connected to each other somehow.   Then discover that they have continuities that identify them as parts of natural processes you couldn't possibly have dreamed up.   You slowly learn to confidently point to them, and discover why it's never possible to define them.    When you look inside a living organism you can never find what makes it alive, for example.   That's mysterious because living things are distributed systems of independently acting parts, and most of the "real action" at any moment is guaranteed to be somewhere other than where you look!    

If that makes you say "cool!", you're on your way.   Otherwise, "look around", something will surprise you.    One hazard of using scientific models for representing natural systems composed of independently learning and responding parts like environments and economies have,  is that models have no independently learning and responding parts.   They are built using variables representing measurements of categories connected in fixed equations.    As such they don't contain any representation of the real working parts of their own subject matter.   This means that scientific models make particularly ineffective operating instruction manuals.   They may be good at predicting but are not designed for steering.    It never mattered much before, when environmental science was mostly just descriptive, but now that we have to run things we find all our "operating manuals" are untested.    Even economic theory was used largely for explanations rather than operating instructions, and never had to actually work before.    Now that we have to start thinking of using scientific models to steer all kinds of local and global environmental systems through their collisions with each other, the issue of whether systems of independently behaving parts can be controlled like our models of them matters a great deal.     My approach uses a model of simple scientific questions anyone could ask, rather than predictions, presented as if anyone could be doing their own original scientific research, directly observing their own environment, relationships and experiences.  

The basic question is "What can you know for sure when you don't know very much?", and finding that the answer to that becomes a better leading question.   Where it leads is to questions arising from the classic story line, "the beginning to end", and digging up the unique threads to be found along anything's path of "magical levitation" that sustains it and it's relationships.   So this approach creates a story written in anyone's own language, knit together with some simple principles of continuity in change, for use in discovering your own questions about things changing around you.   Sometimes it reveals surprising and helpful realities that have been 'hidden in sight', like the link between rules and environments, and how they reflect local systems of relationships.   The key is learning to connect the continuity of irreversible changes in scale with resulting changes in kind with the stages of natural development.   They help you see what kind of change to look for having occurred in the past, and is sure to be coming.  

1. Growth,                  3. Stability,             5. Decay.   
   2. Integration,                   4. Disintegration,

0 Initiation 123456 Termination


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Reading Hints...

Try just browsing for something interesting, there are lots of starting places...

Please do ask questions about things that are not clear.   I apparently switch perspectives sometimes, without giving readers warning.   I'd like to know were I should have inserted a footnote to explain.    Like the "six wise men and the elephant",  I may imagine you see the whole when I jump around referring to various seemingly unconnected parts.

 If some one said "Local systems explore their environments for opportunities and develop individual organization and behavior"   would you guess it meant a) natural systems all have conscious thoughts??... b) they are ruled by spirits??...
or c) they develop and respond individually along natural local paths? ...

The top sustainability issue in the world today?
Efficiency is being used for sustaining growth not the earth,
Popular attention is being diverted from the real moral and practical issues, to end the need for growth.

The problem with our concept of I = P • A • T is that it's really I = P • A • T• S

a linear equation missing the hidden 'S' for productivity STIMULUS, the main purpose people use efficiencies for

making P • A = f (T, E) reflecting

how People use Technology to consume Environment for making Affluence and more People


9/2/10 The curves at the left demonstrate the oddly ignored 150 year old observation of Stanley Jevons, that improving efficiency results in accelerating resource use.   He first noticed it in how improving efficiency for steam engines used up coal faster.   The problem is we mostly use efficiencies to simplify our tasks and so make resource use more profitable, to become more affluent.   The "secret" of how it works is that the particular efficiencies we choose to invest in are the very ones that for a small cost have the effect of simplifying a whole system of parts, often with improved technology.   That causes an increased productivity of the whole greater than the decreased needs of the more efficient part.   That's called growth, the redesign of production systems so they can use and consume more.    To achieve the opposite effect and be responsive to our strains on the environment we'd need to bring growth to an end, rather than accelerate it with more efficiency...   We've let ourselves be misled, in part, and stumbled into a natural misunderstanding much like early doctors who applied leaches to remove a patient's "bad blood".   By believing that sort of myth for too long we're now slipping into grave danger of creating  development we'll soon be unable to either maintain or replace, and a physical system bankruptcy of a lasting kind.  (...continued.)

Talk outline,     Draft paper "Stimulus as Constraint"

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."   Martin Luther King Jr.

Those able to see these errors need to be employed in helping guide the change.  We need to fix this, and other fatal errors still part of our thinking.     please help  

Lists of other top  systems theory issues  and  sustainability issues  -

What are Natural Complex Systems? 


 Particle, Atom, Molecule, Organelle, Cell, Organ, Body,

Community, Economy,  Population,

Ecology, Life, Planet, Solar System, Galaxy, Universe

The Continuities of nature arise with the local development of

Multi-scale Networks of physical relationships 

Acting as a Cell with an internal Medium of Exchange

And local Marketplace to internally Link its Hubs,

Which are themselves smaller scale networks containing their own Hives of activity

Surrounding their own Mediums of Exchange,

Cells on their own scale. that develop regularities as "Local Laws" of "Their Nature",

Small Universes with original design and behavior,

Linked together by sharing mediums of exchange with others, as part of larger scale networks,

Whole Physical Economies composed of independently behaving parts,

That we may refer to as features of our information. 


Complex systems work by themselves, sometimes predictable, but determined by how their processes develop locally.  There are two realities, the physical world and our mental world of human ideas, to be taken as dance partners rather than as enemies, denying neither their freedom, and avoiding the denial that is major trouble for both.  At the scale of growth systems, at least, natural systems  require diversity in their constituent parts and reserves of resources in their environments.   Those that grow also come to require stability.  Their creative hearts are the hives of network activity that form their cells, like the village that creates the reason for a train stop and the reason for the roads leading there.  Those hives of activity on any scale are where creative events develop to propagate like seed on the larger network scales, the process of emerging features that for a whole system "punctuates the equilibrium".     


Bob Ulanowicz has  recently published a theorem on the need for diversity in natural systems (1) concluding "all complex systems, including our monetary and financial one, become structurally instable whenever efficiency is overemphasized at the expense of diversity and interconnectivity".   What drives systems to overspecialize, though, and develop their strengths until they become weaknesses, is a broader issue.    An example of this I’ve been studying is why people advocating sustainability are attracted to using efficiency as a growth resource, though that ultimately creates instability as its end.  It appears that it used to have the opposite effect, and we got used to that.   When we were small and the earth was big, growth stimulated by efficiency used to make resources more plentiful and cheaper.   The economic theory of the last two centuries, then, built up around that assumption.   Now the opposite is true, growth makes resources more scarce and expensive.    If you look at the ‘green’ literature, these days, you find that fatal solution for sustainability (sadly...) is really all people talk about…


There are perhaps many misconceptions that lead our society to reduce diversity, for profit, till systems become unstable.  I once devised a general solution to the monetary part of the problem I called “general allocation theory”.   I found it hard to discuss with people.   The barrier seemed to be the need to discuss economic systems as individual organisms of a sort, "creatura" as Gregory Bateson would have called them, like self-organizing social or business networks as well weather systems and organisms, each with their own individual behaviors.   The still dominant "paradigm" of nature for science is that there are no independent systems, and everything that happens is determined by it's environment and error, so writing other better versions of that and other papers also received the same total lack of interest.   The preference is for representing systems with a set of rules of control.   


The natural systems approach is radically different in that systems are considered as individual self-organizations that originate by growth and development, and are full of different scales of independent internal activity, like what we observe.    Links on a network, for example, exist to connect these ‘hives’ of complex system activity, like the road and rail networks that connect homes, towns and cities, or the blood stream branches that connect cells and organs.   In economies there are the supply and product chains feeding into goods and service markets that link the individual hives of activity that individual businesses are.   It's a really good "telescope", something you can reliably find your way with, providing a great way to begin making sense of natural systems by looking for their mediums of exchange of different scale, through which their hives of organization connect.


1) Quantifying sustainability: Resilience, efficiency and the return of information theory 
Ulanowicz, R.E. / Goerner, S.J. / Lietaer, B. / Gomez, R. , Ecological Complexity, 6 (1), p.27-36, Mar 2009 

   2/7/09 2/12 pfh   

Physics for Open Systems          0 1 2 3  4 56

The space between the deterministic laws where nature develops animated systems
Explanatory principles
, for locating and exploring their design and behavior, 
and a way
to unify the languages of science around the natural world subjects they address in common

               Introductions to General Theory and Applications

                 Intro Essays & quick links

The Emergence of Natural Systems, 
Uncontrolled Complex Learning
of, by, and for  Distributed Natural Processes
 05? 07/04/06 5/26/07 2/2/08 3/3/08 1/7/11 4/14

...Using physics tools as a naturalist would, for studying how physical processes develop by themselves,

a study of individually occurring systems, their internal networks,
their life histories, their current and future organizational development processes, as the natural subjects of science.

1/29/09 11/28 4/14/11  Note: My first successful expression of this idea was in old unpublished early paper called "An Unhidden Pattern of Events",  the same "canonical development trajectory" was also described by Stan Salthe as a universal thermodynamic process in his 2005 Energy and Semiotics.    This common succession of events in the continuity of " development and decay" as the "life cycle of natural systems" provides an outline, or a 'crib sheet' if you will.  You use it as a framework for filling in the details in the "Chapters - In the whole story of individual lives and events"  that any individual case of natural system development and decay will be found to exhibit, as necessary to satisfy the law of emergence and continuity, for energy using events and processes to begin and end.    Below is one introduction to my approach, expanding on the scientific method to discover nature's "other theories", the innate languages of organization that develop within natural systems,  and how that makes many new kinds of scientific discoveries possible.  It would also seem to offer a more deeply grounded understanding of the realities surrounding us and with in us.    The following two short discussions are still useful, but "in a nut shell" might work too.

Recent Research Papers

2011-3 A decisive moment for Investing in Sustainability - A discussion of the turn of events represented by global resource demand apparently exceeding supply on a long term basis, and the way that upsets all the "natural laws" of economics... accepted for New European Economy
2011-2  The Curious use of Stimulus for Constraint - A study of the odd general use of growth stimulus for slowing growth impacts... to explore a method for looking at natural systems from inside and out, and defining useful energy budgets for their evolutionary processes accepted for E:CO
2011-1  System Energy Assessment (SEA) - How to define whole individual complex environmental systems, as physical subjects of science, fixing a ~500% error in carbon and energy impact measures form not accounting for businesses as whole working systems, for Sustainability
2010-3  Models Learning Change  - Methods for identifying irreversible organizational development processes to anticipate new models for natural system change - for Cosmos & History ph copy
2010-1  Complex Systems  -History & open Issues for the broad spectrum of complex systems science theories and application methods - for the Encyclopedia of the Earth ph copy
2008-2 Life’s hidden resources for learning - Discussion of how systems with learning parts differ from systems with controlled parts, in Cosmos & History special issue on "What is Life"
1999-1  Features of derivative continuity in shape - Methods for identifying emerging continuity of systems from time series data, for a special issue on invariants in pattern recognition, IJPRAI,
1995-1  Law of emergence and continuity - a mathematical physics theorem that identifies the place of complex systems in maintaining the continuity of natural events

1.  11/08/08 1/6/09  The general subjects of dissipative systems and complexity is are not really new, and really vast.   What's new here is the recognition that individual systems that begin and end do not need to be approximated by deterministic models in order to explore their changing local organization and developmental behaviors.   Determinism is a restrictive assumption of the physical sciences, based apparently on the guess that because some things can be determined from other things, therefore nothing has independent learning or behavior.   This is about learning how to study systems with clearly independent learning and behavior as a naturalist would, but using the tools of physics to identify the learning processes of the complex systems they contain and are the environments they interact with.

The starting point for applying the physics of change to natural systems (i.e. use deterministic principles to raise useful questions for understanding non-deterministic phenomena) is with the universal limitations for natural processes implied by the conservation laws.   These are 1) energy budgets for any closed boundary (2011-2)  and 2) the necessity for processes of multiple scales of organization for energy flows to begin or end (.    That conclusion comes from the old problem that when theory implies infinite field density, rates of energy flow or accelerations, the real implication is of another scale of organization.  A theorem expands the conservation laws into a general  that identifies natural necessities and limits of developmental processes, and opens a new way to explore causation.

To apply the continuity & divergence principle to complex systems research one uses the principle backwards from the normal procedures of physics.   It becomes a diagnostic tool for exploratory learning, that helps locate and identify the 'little bangs' and 'big booms' of locally emergent developmental processes.  Development in a process, say an ionization cascade in a spark or other growth phenomenon is called 'learning' because it is not guided by rules or a map, but takes place by local exploratory interaction with an environment.  That successes in that tend to be exposed by how they multiply provides a guide to where successful strategies within the system are developing.    It leads to a diagnostic approach to physical systems and change rather than a representational approach.   Work on the method was begun in the late 1970's and now is collected here, with methods and applications discussed in "a physics of happening" section.

From an information theory view, a diagnostic approach to physics treats the physical system as a unique individual "in-physico" model of itself...   The empirical signs of organizational change point to the physical phenomena within and around it, which are together considered to be the full complete and true representation of the system, in the physical thing itself.   Then one explores it's features and shapes to inform one's questions about it.   A 'theory' that may develop for it is considered to fit the physical thing's shapes like 'a glove' fits (or does not fit) to 'a hand'.    It's an approach of trying to understand individual things that nature has already built, by developing better questions about the process by which they developed.  It then leads to questions about what new conditions it will confront and need to respond to as it develops further.  The conserved property of derivative continuity allows one to do that by connecting inflection points in its learning curves with the internal network of its system of relationships, their learning processes, and the environment they are responding to.  

Typically there is a switch in the kind of development between a starting period of discovering expanding opportunity for self-referencing change in relation to the conditions the emerging system is coming from, without limits, to responding to and integrating with the limits of a larger environment it is emerging into.   The system development alters its original conditions of development and other independent things in  the environment often independently respond.

 "How can you see there's a process when your information about it is 'between the dots' ?"  

2. 11/08/08 1/6/09 It's in the continuity of the dots.   Unfortunately, partly because of the many years of representing learning systems as following other kinds of abstract deterministic rules, there are a lot of 'tricks' of reasoning to unlearn.  One of the key ones is about reading beyond one's data.  The rule of the physical sciences has been that science must only consider the information it has as representing reality.   Physical systems, though, still exist in-between the times when you have information about them.   Here the gaps in your data are treated as questions, not exclusions, and a continuity of change is what your probing of the environment is seeking to uncover.  It's proof by discovery, not prediction.   That's very different.

3/3/08   Every 4 year old child knows that frogs jump because you poke them.  It would be nice if the philosophy of science did not still rely on that idea of causal determinism.   The idea that careful description of how actions of one kind produce effects of another is sufficient 'natural cause' for how we determine our own effects is perfectly sound.   That we say our models of deterministic prediction are also invisibly 'embedded' in the universe as the direct causes of nature is not.   The truth of course, is it's the frog that jumps, not your finger.    Looking at the time lags between stimuli and response, you can actually prove that the jumping of a frog is a local complex system learning process.   

A natural systems approach has to do with watching very closely as the 'frog jumps' to observe  how that learning process develops, and identify the emerging organizational networks that are instrumental in the frog's behavior.  It's not about designing an 'artificial frog' as normal control oriented science would be.  It's about discovering how to read the internal processes of the real frog.    There are a number of important discoveries about the true sources of eventfulness and organization in nature to be made, including how a lot of it is 'hidden in sight', disguised by our own unthinking categories.    I have a collection of basic principles:

Lists of Key Principles for understanding Natural Systems
Common Sense - Basic Theory - Systems Thinking - Research Methods  12/07

My main collection of analytical work on studying the continuity of change to raise key questions about the evolving systems of change is  a Physics of Happening.   I built the collection of studies in the late 80's and in the 90's, and have been trying to find the right words to explain it ever since.   To me, looking at historical records for when, where and how developmental processes changed direction is an obvious short-cut for finding the physical systems involved.   I closely observe time traces to see what's happening, focusing particularly on where events begin and end.  Where continuities begin and end the growth & decay of the internal networks of relationships that do it is very exposed.     Physics has looked at nature and asked what universal rules are being followed.   This approach looks to see what local rules are being developed.    Certainly it may look a little strange to study individual things rather than large classes of similar ones, but it's a key to understanding the physical world.   This intro has been rewritten many of times, the following are some short topics that didn't get erased....

Notable achievements?  There's a list of what I consider important results, but the most valuable for our steering the earth are various methods of measuring whole system strain and impacts.   In  well connected economies money does actually quantitatively measure physical energy use for example.  Money is a 'marker', yes, of potential energy, because spending an average dollar consumes an average amount of the total energy in global competitive markets with energy price liquidity.   This has a gigantic implication for economics in that most of our long range economic planning assumes the opposite, failing to count the 'fat tail' of the impact distribution of spending.   Using the $shadow principle to compare the measurable and unmeasurable portions of the impacts of commerce shows a typical undercount of a factor of 10.  

The property of infinitely smooth progression in mathematics is called 'derivative continuity'. It is one of the most fundamental and useful properties of mathematical functions.   Physical systems often display a similar but less well defined property, call it 'flow', or 'natural continuity'.   It characterizes the physical processes in which change takes a process of change, and so is 'conserved' in the same way energy can not be created or destroyed, only transferred by a process.   It's the main property of nature that formulas attempt to emulate, and the main reason equations are useful.   Energy is among the few properties of nature that is universal and conserved.    Most properties of systems of organization are not, except... the continuity of their changing.   That's very useful.    The natural continuity of flows is more complex than equations, continually changing as the underlying complex systems continually change.  For example one section of a curve might have all derivatives positive and a following section of the curve having all derivatives negative.   That suggests looking for underlying systems and how they switch from growth to decay. 

The intent is not aimed at writing a formula. You might use a formula as a way to see how the natural system diverges from it, though.  The intent is to understand how the instrumental systems develop and interact.    Reading shifts in the continuity in natural flows is a big help.   It's an approach that works with any field of science, astrophysics or political science, ecology or economics.   Each would use it to study the continuity of change of the properties they are interested in for the systems they are interested in.   Making it possible to have a common empirical reference to the qualitative subjects of interest  greatly helps in 'getting the problem right', whatever analytical method you then use.    One promising method is to us network science , starting with mapping networks of internal sets of  working parts of whole complex natural systems, and then reading their learning curves for their whole system environmental experience.. 

My sample studies  use various mathematical tools in a diagnostic fashion, to expose otherwise hidden details of  physical system flows and the implied system developments they reflect.   One of these is called "derivative reconstruction" (DR) that uses the mathematical definition of derivatives in reverse,  to "reconnect the dots" and sensitively reconstruct the probable dynamics of underlying system by filtering the spurious higher derivative fluctuation.  Another constructs a "dynamic mean" (DM) by stripping fluctuations and reconstructing the simplest curve shape representing their norm.  They produce differentiable natural functions by interpolation.   It doesn't always, but often exposes otherwise invisible developmental changes and forces excellent new questions.  To assume that a series of dots represents a single continuous process is tricky, of course, and there are some statistical tests like the step variance test (SV) to rule out random walk and a noise suppression sensitivity test (NSS) to gage the scale of non-random fluctuation.   Another of the methods used is called "curvature scale space" (CSS) which originated in the field of computer vision.   It uses repeated smoothing of shapes to distinguish and define those features of shape which are the most robust (slowest to disappear with suppression).  Basically you look for where processes begin and end and try to figure out what is beginning and ending.

There is no practical barrier to these new methods having wide and immediately useful application in numerous fields.   There is a conceptual barrier though.   It's not the Western cultural habit to think of time as a process.  We tend to think of it as a location, and so equations with time as a variable as describing a system that itself does not change over time.   The evidence is that all natural systems continually change over time, and that the main events causing change in systems are 'tipping points' at which systems 'out of balance' end up disrupting themselves in some fashion.  Ordinary thinking hides that from us.

The Art of Observation

12/28/08 1/24/09 1/27 1/20/10 There are two things required for learning how things in nature work on their own.   One is observing them without thinking, so your mind records some marks of the original behavior in a highly faithful way.  The second is exploratory.   Exploration is a matter of finding threads of connection and following them, and for natural systems, then letting the connections "grow on you" giving you "new ways of thinking" to check out.    What you're looking for is ways nature thinks differently from the way you do, paradoxically, so you can "be of two minds" about them.    It's becomes a way of connecting the dots that raises useful questions you never thought of before prompting further observation. 

That, in a nut shell, is what "science" is, with one key difference.   This is about discovering how individual systems discover their own rules rather that all compelled to follow preexisting universal rules.   One way to tell if it's working is whether you find paths of discovery that lead you on, little "yellow brick roads" in nature, taking you beyond your prior imagining.   That also helps you tell if you're just making things up or really discovering the nature of what you are looking at.   That's an endless hazard because of the human tendency to interpret consciousness as reality, instead of our own personalized cultural image.    Observation is pure research.    Then, you hope your way of asking better questions gives you a way to talk to others who have done the same thing, in their own different way, so you can constructively trade notes.  

Figure:  The diagram is of 1) how seeing a tree leaves a direct imprint on the retina of an observer's eye, 2) in who invents in their mind an image of a whole system through which energy and materials flow like a tree, along with an image of how it is connected in the cycles of nature.   Is the diagram to be found anywhere in nature?    No, of course not.   It's imaginary..   Is it may also be useful for helping the observer ask better questions about the real tree and it's environment, that others may understand as well.   Possibly...  --

Why people seem to know so very little about how the intricately organized things of nature take care of themselves gives the appearance that humans have not learned much from our time watching to see how things around us work.   Our normal rule for explanations is self-consistency, that every piece of information is determined by some other piece of information, and nothing in it has any independent behavior.  The better question would be, if some things in the world seem controlled like that, why isn't everything?   Asked another way, it might be, why do people almost never ask that question?    That there do indeed seem to be at least some things that take care of themselves, but we hardly ever ask how, seems to be a possible reason why we have such mixed success in taking care of ourselves...   It comes down to our habit of treating the *things* we see as the *information* we have about them.   Things may actually talk back, and information never will.   Seeing them as information we then interpret the things of the natural world in terms of our explanations.  The inadequacy of that is not only how explanations are never going to talk back, and the things being explained very well could.   All the connections in an explanation are also things we added ourselves, not things that came from what we're explaining.    What we use to connect the pieces of information to make explanations stick together are the cultural and emotional values we attach to the information.   In our minds we don't see physical things as connected by the physical systems they are composed of, but by the value laden constructs we attach to the information we have in our minds.   We tend to equate the real world with a kind of "dream world", our own artificial representation of it.   How we see things as being organized is as we organize our own thoughts and values.  We don't see them as organized by the natural processes that produced what we see.   What a true observer needs to overcome is this naturally artificial naive viewpoint, that the things of the world are the images we have of them.  It's often not easy, but there are lots of little flaws in the 'magic' of how we disguise the world as information you can learn to trust, leaving openings to the real world where you discover connections rather than fill in explanations.    

Observing is a process of letting the intricate beauties and designs of nature seep into one's awareness without imposing your own cultural values or explanations on them, to remain free to discovering their own connections.  When later attaching ones own values to them, then it is to something of substance rather than to nothing of substance.   Otherwise observation tends to be just a fascination with your own values.  Often where you make your first discoveries of nature's connections is noticing how things act as a "whole".  It's the best indication of the existence and design of uncontrolled systems, that they have complex scattered connections that act as one.   The easiest place to see it is in any organism, or culture, or burst of chemical energy, locating the system by how its set of scattered parts erupts in growth as one.   What you soon find is that what makes them whole, and gives them their ability to act as one, is what I call "ESP" (equal stress principle).  Things that act as a whole tend to evenly distribute their own stresses internally.   Seeing this can be easy for some things, but quite hard particularly for things we only know from other people's explanations.   Explanations don't do well with uncontrolled parts.   It can be a lot easier with things that need no explanation or come naturally and are beyond explanation, that we know intimately and so can closely observe without bias.    Truthful observation is not a "one shot deal" but an accumulation of them.   It's like building compost in the soil of an organic garden.   It's a matter of letting one's own mind accumulate a rich compost of the unaltered features imported directly from the "value free" physical systems of nature, letting your mind become imprinted by them as the first step.  

A painter needs paint, and a good observer needs to let their 'paints' accumulate in nature's own colors.   Not taking that approach, but seeing things as the information about them we connect in our own subjective way, our observations then tend to represent the world as lifeless and formless.   Things become "just explanations", given meaning only by the values we attach to them.   We miss all the natural meanings they have that way.   What we then "see" is our own poor awareness of how other things work on their own.   Then in everything we see we find mainly reflections of ourselves and little of the natural world's own connections.   It's an 'inadequate' view of our extraordinary rich intertwined and living world with its many kinds and scales of organized and complex individual parts.   Whether it's the health and prosperity of a tree, of a storm the size of a planet, or of a personal friendship or community of relationships getting into trouble and painfully hard to understand, the beginning of becoming truly a part of it's future is truthful observation.

I have lots of accumulated notes on observation technique scattered all over these pages.  I've been learning how to express it better, which of course means nearly everything here is also a little "out of date" and in need of "fixing" a little.   So, poke around...and see what you'd use and what you'd fix.

Network Science     
....what happens when things connect! 
05/24/07.. 09/09/07

Watch this space....   The NetSci conference in NY in May 07.  The ability to convey highly complex system information and understand the evolution of systems from it is advancing to a useful tool very rapidly.   Great Displays from Manuel Lima's Visual Complexity.   My most recent technical notes on linking Net Sci and Natural Systems theory with Complex Systems engineering.. PICS.htm

  • One of the things that causes the 'power law' distribution of organization in emergent systems appears to be the elaboration and refinement that occurs in how they grow and develop.  

  • One of the ways of understanding how networks are embedded into the complex systems which produce them is hat all the nodes are actually 'hives' of activity in the larger system when looked at at a different scale.  

  • To understand what it means that people are connected by 5 degrees of separation and web pages by 19 is helps to consider how close connection of this kind has a simultaneous reverse property of great isolation and independence.   What the difference between 5 and 19 means is that information is divided into many many more separate worlds, the flip side of the astonishment we all feel when finding out that all our very separate worlds are also quite closely connected.

The tools for displaying these structures and relationships are so good, and the complex system decisions people need to make so pressing, that there clearly should be an office of complex information display in every branch of government.   You can't ask the question till you can see the problem.   Think of the difference if we could look at comprehendible maps of the real evolving complex relations between communities in Iraq or your own city!    It's clearly possible now.  Think of the difference if we could map ecologies in depth and display their connections in a visually compelling and analytically rigorous way.  It's clearly possible now.

General Systems Theory
....a grand event in systems thinking that didn't survive, 05?  07/04/06

General Systems Theory, was one of several great attempts to make a science of the study of natural systems.  The more popular but still unproven one today goes by the name 'Complexity'.   GST originated as a major interdisciplinary effort in the 1940's, Von Bertalanffy, Boulding, Ashby, Miller, Forrester and others, and seemed to loose direction and turn into other things in the late 1980's & 90's.  The language of general systems theory as it developed, is problematic as science and quite short on generally useful results.    Still, it is full of insights into the nature of the problem. 

The successor organization which retains little of the original form keeps a web site with a genealogy diagram of systems thinking (  Basically, 'holism' became 'cybernetics' and with several layers of complexity became 'general systems theory'.   I've had recent long and productive correspondence with Don McNeil about the origins and 'death' of pure systems thinking, and what might be salvageable.  I thought it might be of some research interest sometime, and asked if I put it up on the web that I show it as copy righted. My two 1985 papers for SGSR and some other things are now online too.

All natural systems are an interplay between active and passive components, for example. There's the plant and the soil, the cell and the blood stream, the speaker and listener, the industry and the pools of resources from which it draws and to which it contributes. Nature is also structured as a unity of opposites, things and the mediums through which they communicate with each other, for one example. These and many other insights into nature are mystical in their power, but also overwhelming in their grandeur while failing the test of having practical use.  It left those who studied it relatively less to say than it first appeared they would have.   

The 'Physics of happening' is a general science of systems based on close empirical study of the same physical subjects as GST. I did a quick study of the GST citation rates for the terms 'general systems' and 'general systems theory' on Google Scholar from the 1930's to the present.    The measures show a combination of effects, but tell an interesting story.   There's been a continued explosion of the use of GS and a hint of climax and decline in the original use of  GST.   It's just a very fast stucy I haven't been able to follow up.    ed 6/23/06

Natural System Economies - compulsive capitalism v. natural growth
...(it's about what you do with profits!)  05?  07/04/06  08/25/08 3/31/10

Keynes was a misunderstood systems ecologist too... and there's a trail of evidence that he discovered the secret of how natural systems switch from multiplying complex designs to refining simple solutions, he gave the strange name "the widow's cruse" after a bible story about the gift of an inexhaustible cup (I Kings 17:8–16). His proposal makes no real sense to anyone, unless, you consider our "crisis of capitalism" as a growth ecology creating insurmountable internal problems for itself at natural limits and needing to switch to nature's usual solution for that.

The general conservation equation for auto-catalytic growth compares the resource for making products (P) and the saving from it for developing the process (S).   If the linked markets for it's "work" and "investment" grow and stabilize together, then the system stays in balance as it develops.     In an economy that occurs when the returns added to savings (S*r) and spending from savings (S*s) match the increase in products (P*p).  

(When physical limits cause product growth to stop, p = 0

THEN stable change over time requires

EITHER:   r = 0  and an end to average positive returns on investment   

OR:  r - s = 0  so the comfortable positive returns are spent on purposes other than multiplying returns

SO:   both    S1 = S0 + S0 (r - s)   and     S1/P1 = S0/P0 )

That’s Keynes “widow’s cruse” idea for turning the economies into an “inexhaustible cup” with a lasting sustainability plan, to spend enough of the seed money on something useful for the system to stabilize it.     It’s not about stabilizing growth but stabilizing a healthy economy without growth, treating it as a natural living system switching to maturation, sacrificing the practice of limitless growing investment and concentrating wealth.   It would be a big cultural change for us, but once it’s realized why it was always going to be physically necessary…, as at the end of growth there is no other healthy economy option …   there are ways to provide quick systemic relief.  

It's also an application of "new physics", using scientific models to refer to and assist in studying complex physical systems that remain undefined.  That's an approach that avoids representing nature as the conceptual model used, and allows connecting different languages of interpretation through their references connecting aspects of the same physical things.

Physical systems that operate by themselves in relatively passive environments develop by auto-catalytic growth from a seed process of some kind, generally animated by their own self-organizing parts.   The whole system develops by treating some of its products as operating surpluses, and using them to build the process.    That multiplies its scale and the surpluses until the erupting internal and external environmental imbalances disrupt or exhaust it, or trigger a switch to maintaining the surpluses and adapting to the new environments by  completing and perfecting the design its operations.  

The normal way to multiply wealth is to invest in something that makes a profit and add the profit to your investments so both your investments and profits multiply exponentially.   That's the familiar compound investment function of using something that was built to build more, using success to leverage growing success.   Every organized system in nature actually begins with a relatively 'long habit' of doing that, but then changes.   The change happens at a point of diminishing returns, a declining net productivity for investment (declining success in multiplying) at some point.   What businessmen normally do when that happens in a single business is divert the returns for the business away from reinvestment, doing something else with them.   It turns their business into a sustainable "cash cow" to support other interests or help build compounding investment in other things.  

When diminishing returns occur for an economy as a whole its seen as meeting natural resistance, in steeper learning curves, shortages causing higher prices and erupting internal and external conflicts, throughout the whole system at once.  Nature is sending the same signal for the system as a whole that peak development in an individual business indicates, that increasing investment is decreasingly productive.    It then decreases the productivity of investment to continue multiplying investment, heading toward a point of whole system climax where the productivity of investment comes to zero.  It could not get there, of course, since zero return financial systems would not be stable.   

To maximize the natural capital and its positive rate of returns would then result from investment returns being diverted and freely spent on non-investment interests, treating the economy as a whole as a "cash cow".   Stabilizing that way leaves an ample pool of investment to maintain or update outmoded parts of the economy, while maximizing rates of return and dispersing wealth to extend prosperity throughout the whole system.   As for a single business, it's just responding to the environmental signal in the way providing the best total return.

Why that strategy does work for natural systems and does not work for people is that people continue multiplying their own investments as the whole system runs into resistance.   The resulting zero sum game at the end of growth then becomes an accumulation of conflicts more than an accumulation of wealth.   The technical solution J M Keynes called "the widow's cruse" is for those with surplus funds to spend them as they would with the proceeds of a cash cow business.   How to organize it is less clear, but the requirement is quite clear.   It would also have the unusual effect of decentralizing wealth as part of the whole system response to approaching sustainable climax.   

What you see now is the opposite in terms of our "natural capital".  As the net productivity of investment in the earth (new wealth minus new impacts) decreases, the concentration of wealth has been increasing too.   That is the opposite effect of making the opposite response.   Ending growth by maximizing total returns then, creates an economy that is stable, vibrant and changing, at the beginning of a long a productive life of stability, just not exploding.  When you look at successful organisms throughout nature they all make that same discovery, that the turning point from growth toward stability is the beginning, not the end of 'the good life'.  

There are a great many 'relief valves' for the forces and pressures in our economic system, and it once had a marvelous stability.   Our great wealth comes from the interaction of a lot of talented people trying to make things work, connecting with each other through free open markets.   There are dangers, though, in pushing it too far.   Relying on ever more complex ways to accelerate the use of diminishing resources, robbing them from people who can't keep up and otherwise pushing everyone's interests into conflict, creates instability that is irreversible except by collapse.   Expectations for growing financial returns from diminishing physical returns are guaranteed to be disappointed.   You get cascading failures of expectation.  

Just following "productivity growth" to it's logical end amounts to making ever bigger decisions about the future ever faster, leading to a certainty of making ever bigger and longer lasting mistakes.   You can see them growing all around us, like global warming.   The hurried 'solutions' contain many of the same mistakes too, like offering 'alternative' resources to only find them just used to continually leverage all others, repeating the same 'fault' being blamed on fossil fuels.    Why people don't openly wonder if we're making some mistake, given nearly everyone's good will and the dramatic evidence we're making the problem worse is a puzzle.  It's clearly that multiplying our solutions is multiplying our problems, though, once you ask. 

It is in the nature of exponential growth to bring about the unforeseen, of ever larger scale, at an ever faster pace.  Growth for us has been very rewarding for around 600 hundred years.   Slow accumulation, using success to build on success over the long haul, has produced a very dramatic change in the promise of human history.   Past performance, as they say, is no guarantee of future returns though.   That's especially the case in humanity's clear diminishing net returns on investing in the earth.  The benefit/cost ratio is simply not what it was.    In order for the economy to climax the amount of investment needs to climax.   That's possible either at a healthy high level or after collapsing and returning human culture to a new era of feudalism.    It only depends on how persistent we are at compounding our errors.  

There are a variety of other possibilities, but those two are the achievable extremes.   There are also other issues we need to think all the way through, like population and entitlements, all the bad habits of being a successful small organism with apparently unlimited resources.   The financial system correction would have investors 'spend' their 'unearned income' so that their investments didn't multiply, relying on savings from earned income to maintain the investment pool.  It would be come self-reinforcing as investors recognized anyone who 'cheated' to get ahead of them as a cheater.   You could call it a change in the "prudent man rule".  

Some significant community of investors would only need to change their own personal habits that way, and object to doing business with others who didn't.    --    A basic model of money flow that describes the choices for financial growth on a finite planet is discussed in General Allocation Theory.   An further description of the dimensions of the problem and solution are in The One real option.. natural climax  and the science of natural economies as learning systems Hidden Life.  6/23/06 9/10/06 08/26/08


Air Current Networks. The origin of my work on scientific methods and natural systems of change was a careful study of evolving air current patterns in buildings, originally begun as a research in building climate and architectural design.  It led to discovering a large number of unusual undocumented air current structures and patterns, and the simple observation that air flow is an amazing designer of new forms in profuse variety with clearly no directing formulas involved, all in the complete absence of 'noise' and entirely out of control.   Natural air currents in confined spaces are constantly evolving complex history-dependent structures beginning with growth, "with nothing there but molecules".

Invention.   One of the unusual air current structures observed has the effect of eliminating turbulence near a  surface where turbulence would otherwise normally develop, potentially improving the efficiency of heat exchangers.  The portion of a working fluid having made contact with the heat transfer surface can be extracted without allowing it to mix with the unheated portions.    Some of my work on patents using this trick is available.   If you're at all interested you should speak with me and possibly use me as a consultant, to make sure you understand the particulars necessary for making it work.


Odd Notes - most of what I write starts with scattered scraps of paper, and there's a pile...
I'd like to find some web tool that could allow random browsing and record comments on a collection of separate notes ..

- 8/08/10 The fact that you can't know something unless you want to is good cover for those who don't want to, and little deceptions grow into big ones in a culture organized around endless growth.

-7/6/10 Ants seem to rub antenna just the way people shake hands, i.e. quite expertly and without thinking about it, for mutual recognition of complex relationships...   Wow!   Those simplest of gestures between animate beings, mutual homing of independent systems, a smile, a kiss, responsiveness without analysis, a dance with a partner experienced as becoming one.   I don't think it'll ever quite make rational sense, or be possible to program for inanimate beings.   Is there a difference between a "squeeze" and a "hug" ?   Yes, most definately.

- 4/29/10 There's something odd... about God apparently not having studied ecology, when telling his most capable creature to work like a slave to control ever more of its environment, not realizing he had made nature thrive by things taking care of themselves and staying out of each other's way.   Equally odd is that we believed that story of a world with no individual parts. 

- 2/16/10 You can't inflate a pile of dust.  You can't get a perfect image of a person to talk.  Information and things have different dimensionality in a much more stubborn way than information can express, despite the ease with which our conscious minds refer to themselves as the real thing.

- 2/16/10 Just because you're underwater doesn't make you a fish.   Men got a little carried away with carrying the water, always filling the tub, now burst, with everything along with the water carriers now deep under water.   Need something new to do.   It happens.

- 2/16/10 So where did the thong that the first weapons were made with come from, tying the stone tool to the wood shaft?  Was it from the woman's amulet around her neck everyone so long admired, or the way she tied her hair?  Or did it come from the sling discovered one day when both ends of a piece of gut were tied to the kill and it freed the hands to put it over the shoulder?   Those original "string theories" probably all came at once, the way technology radiates, along with knotting and weaving.  The Venus figurines mostly seem garbed in fancy threads...  Were those the first killer app's of technology, 20k, 100k or 200k years ago?

- 2/16/10 Statistics generally come long after the fact, accumulating many beginnings and endings and he silence of being over and done.   Leading statistics come in many styles but the highest confidence one with potential to let you join in or nip off what's happening is emerging continuity of proportional change.

Some things to fix?:

  • What if we read the meaning of "fiduciary duty" as written?  It's unqualified, and where it matters would hold those accountable to the interests of others and not support misleading acts or speech?  One might argue that an obligation to not be misleading defines a more truthful measure of "the whole truth" than is actually used in court.   Maybe it could be used there too...

  • What if all software came with a command line window.... where typing a command name runs it and adding a "?" explains it's normal uses and where to find it on the menus?

  • What if politicians tried to impress people with better information about their world rather than promises they can't fulfill?

  • What if online adds a narrow check box bar at the bottom, with one click for Truthful? Y, N  Helpful Y, N?

  • What if Google let you choose what bias to use, the Kids view, the Women's view, the Scientist's view, your Tailored view... a Neutral view...??

Concept & Comment:   .....little essays 
(see my blog for some comments, posts & letters worth recording, and  article & forum list)


Odd Facts 

- 8/10 The one practical way to stop adding our burden on the earth is to stop adding the profits from it to the principle for expanding our investments in it, as you do with any successful project to end its expanding on itself to its role in the world as you complete it.
- 02/10
The true energy source of the future is learning to get along with nature, as learning the system has always been the real source of energy.
- 06/09  How nature builds things is generally illogical because building up physical system connections uses complementary parts that link through their differences, unlike how logic connects through equalities.    As for building a house, neither foundation or roof look at all like a place to live, though they're start and end to making one.
- 06/09
What we perceive is a simple culturally reinterpreted mental image of physical things being looked at of quite different kinds and much greater complexity, explorable but not fully comprehendible in any part.
- 06/09
Models that imply approaching instability mark systems that won't continue, and times when new form will emerge.
- 06/09
Being constructive a matter of logic, but using complementary things that make different sense to link into wholes.   Foundations can't be lived in and look NOTHING like a house, nor does a roof or even walls really, but a house without them is unlivable.
- 02/09
A telescope may not look much like a universe...{but lets you see one)
- 10/08
Environmental systems don't follow the past but diverge from the present, on continuous branching paths of accumulative change (making ways  to watch where they're going and see the complications they're running into)
- 7/08 If you find yourself having to fix ever bigger problems, you're fixing the wrong problem...  (and the real solutions maybe just look ridiculous)
- 5/08 A main issue now is how the parts of growth systems as they run into natural limits all run into each other, in conflict - 2/08 All kinds of natural systems are little worlds, having internal design and behavior of their own
- 7/08 "The media" refers to form of conversation that seeks the "passionate assertion of the opposing point of view" for entertainment, not any form of successive exploration and validation of anything. 
2/08 If you see as pattern of continuous divergence, there's there's a little multiplier inside.. and then you need to decide if you should try to: a) turn it off,  b) get out of it's way, or c) let it go to it's own level of comfort to become a partner in your world.
- 2/08
Absorbing CO2 produced by average spending w/ trees, add ~1acre of mature forest per $150,000

- 12/10

Some philosophy in a phrase: 7/14/06... 12/09/10

... It doesn't need to spoil the music to know it's just vibrations on a string.

... To enjoy the trip and avoid the trees, watch your path, not your past.

... The Lion sleeps a lot and the eagle soars, but this other top predator on earth is so busy busy busy.

... When it's appropriate to say "Oops", putting off the face saving might be a lot more planet saving!
... It's that the circle remains open that there is any place to connect

... Discovering things that just can't make sense prove you both must be

... What knowledge seems to be good for is reaching for reality, not being reality

... What actually matters is the gracefully possible

... the "gold" rule: Trusting that gold can forever multiply is a perfectly fatal rule.

... Life benefits from the Zen art of finding you always have the right tool already in hand

... If you don't look up, you won't see the horizon, nor hear of the path that leads to and beyond

... It's not the truth that sets you free, it's the true questions that take you there

... it's not finding what people say interesting, but finding what's interesting in what they say

... again, the truer model is the one you look through, not the one you look at!

... every good idea seems to need a little fixing

... When multiplying things until there's trouble, it's not what  we're paying attention to that misbehaves!

... the problem with deciding who's right is that everyone is, from a different point of view

... one reward for facing hard truths is finding a place for your deep values

... things that absolutely can't be avoided must be on your path, and good for SOMETHING !   

... government doesn't cause interference.   It’s interference that causes government.   It  simplifies government to face approaching realities, and complicates everything to chase them after they're gone.

... finding what science has been missing makes the Earth boundless, unexplored and mysterious again.

... a funny thing about how science has studied 'emergence', searching for the rules for what does not follow them,  and ignoring the individual processes by which it develops.

... Faith is having permission to go do it your self

... "Free Will" is a simple gift, the necessity of choosing to engage in exploring to find new choices

... If you choose to hate your enemies and not learn from them, you've lost the battle.

... I  whisper in the ear of God day after day, hoping he gets the message

Personal Bio

- 03/08 8/10 11/10  4/12/11 That every way to tell the real story points to both the connections and is full of things unexplained and is one way to tell it's real.   It's a reader pausing to wonder about those gaps that makes the tale about its subject, and keeps it from being mostly about itself and its teller.

This nice old sketch is from the late 70's, when I was doing my early experiments on identifying the workings of uncontrolled systems.    I've changed some since, actually again and again, both inside and out.    I was born in December 1946 and grew up in Hamilton NY, a small college town (1300 in the village and college each) in hilly central New York dairy farming country, Chenango county.   My dad was the head of the Colgate physics department.   At the family dinner table physics wasn't considered a fit topic of conversation, particularly Sunday dinners.   Dinners were family time.  My mom ran the household, with my dad did the work, and my sister, brother and I as well as my Dad all walked home both mid-day and evening for a simple and fine meal together, doing chores as needed, going to church, community activities, but otherwise on our own.    My dad and I spent endless hours working on things in his lab or in our shop at home, and talking about little observations of this and that, in the garden or looking out the window, about how the world worked.   In the early years the rest of my time, it seems, I was 'out', roaming the village with my neighborhood friends, playing  in the fields, and building forts around the creek that ran behind our house.

From the view of August 2010, 50 years later, when I was 63, What happened to wreck my life was having had my curiosity stimulated by a wonderful upbringing and education, and discovering a set a beautiful explanatory principles for the uncontrolled natural systems that dominate the animated behaviors of our world, but then for a fifth time seeming to be exhausting my last ounce of stamina for searching for a way to communicate it.   I knew very well what the problem was, that people heard what I said as being largely clear headed and sensible, but not realizing I was referring to a way to shape our ideas to agree with the natural world rather than new ways to persuade people to adopt my social values.   Six months later I'm not so troubled, cautiously hopeful perhaps, but  I don't know today if I'll ever get the idea across.   It's not that I don't have lots of progress to point to.  It's that I always had lots of progress to point to, nearly every day for the past 35 years, but have been consistently misled by it.   It has almost always seemed that the simplicity and validity of the approach, and small shift in perspective, would be recognized with my next call or letter.

(03/08 cont)   I think my favorite place of all time was the clump of big old willow trees along the creek called Fallen Timbers, where the old trunks had leaned over on each other to form various ladders and bridges on which my friends and I could play Robin Hood or Peter Pan.

Well, that was many years ago, and my son Jonathan is now 20 and in college.   It seems my easiest duty and greatest pleasure is to give him as much as I can of the enormous sense of freedom with close friends and fascination with the world that I was so privileged to enjoy myself.

In high school and college I was a football player.  I went to St. Lawrence, majoring in math and physics, then did some post-graduate work in mathematics at Stony Brook and then Columbia.  After a great couple of years living with friends in Brooklyn I took an evening course in architecture at Columbia and then decided to go to the Univ. of Pa. in the school led then by Louis Kahn for my masters.   I began my serious independent research in evolving microclimates of buildings and the general theory of natural learning systems shortly after that, while living in Denver.  

My other source of vision about natural form, other than Kahn, would seem to be Ken Boulding, my dad's best friend when they were junior professors together.  It was odd though, I never knew what his work was, or what a visionary nut he really was, until after I'd developed most of my ideas and written papers for the radical exploratory community he had a part in founding, the old Society for General Systems Theory.   I must have just overheard some passing comment from him on the front porch, or maybe heard some grudging concession from my dad at the right time that just possibly not everything in the universe was completely logical.   I don't know why else the paths would be so separate and similar, toward finding that there can be no self-consistent model of anything in the world except one for asking better questions.  Because nature is full of independently organized and behaving things you just can't avoid surprise!  ;-)

The sketch is by Terri A Storer, 1976, from my Denver 'heydays'.  She was one of my  five early spiritual guides, in the upper left.   I really could not have gotten anywhere at all without them.   Johnny and Gerry, upper center and right, were earlier friends, Chantal and Butch, below left and right, a little later.  When Terri did the sketch I was just out of grad school working as a carpenter and contractor, beginning my traveling micro-climate research, living in a big old "tumbledown" house with a group of friends and  my strange solar experiments on the lawn.  Financial and medical problems led to returning to Hamilton and then back to NYC, where I've been practicing architecture, writing, pursuing the convection patent and the study of change.

While I've published various papers over the years, my main work as been exploratory research on methods of identifying independently organized natural learning systems and discovering their surprises.   It's been a large technical task involving new math and software design, but that didn't make it useful to others, leading to the failure of my best and most complete effort in about 2001.    I think after 10 submittals, of the plankton paper, I failed to find a single reviewer to recognize the clear question being raised by the clear evidence of evolutionary change following growth curves, indicating an additional mode of evolution.   After that I stopped every effort in disillusionment, but in 2004 I think, started thinking I could just do it for fun, and not for any purpose, and that would be OK.  I slowly started writing down some notes again and browsing more widely for ideas to combine with it, and reconnected with some old correspondents.  

That also coincided with the "surprising" emergence of interest in our present long foreseeable suite of erupting combined environmental crises, the interest in 'sustainability' to relieve their growing threats, and my perceiving the increasing danger they represent people clearly didn't understand.   So having fun putting pieces of different people's ideas together, buying lots and lots of used books online and going to conferences on hopeful solutions, helped me create lots of language experiments for discussing it.   Still, I found it exceedingly difficult, and painful, to perceive the unmanageable dimensions of it, and find it just impossible to help others ask the right questions.   The learning was much more personally satisfying than before, though, broader and more complete, but I was still quite unable to find ways to begin writing about it again.  Everyone wanted it in their own exclusive language and I needed it in everyone's common language,... somehow.    I also did some good architecture and enjoyed new and old friends, so long as I didn't expect them to understand what I had to communicate.

11/10 - So, what they say, a lot of water under the bridge.   After those four decades of repeatedly working myself to exhaustion exploring and trying to communicate the remarkable "unhidden pattern of events" I had found, while having my efforts collapse over and over, I found it wasn't that I was "saying it wrong".   It was that I was becoming more and more of an embarrassment to all my family, friends, professional, political and activist peers... saying things they really objected to my suggesting they think about.    Finding interesting problems no one wanted to be solved, wherever I turned really, which started to upset business deals and causing problems at work.    So as that was happening in 2007 and in the run up to the collapse in 08, while architecture started its sever contraction, and my professional roles just vanished.   I was also becoming able to perceive how, even when others seemed to understand exactly what I was saying, I'd usually then watch them being evasive in avoiding the implications.    The classic case was with my whole network of sustainability designers and intellectuals, who couldn't grapple with our main problems coming from, not being relieved by, our traditional solutions. In a world at the limits of growth, pushing the whole system into conflict, increasing investment in solutions creates faster growing complications instead,... but everyone still wanted to solve those complications with increasing investment.

At that impasse I figured I should do something else.. and needed to have some fun again... and found that cutting ties with all my painful relationships left me looking for nothing but a little comfort and a way to continue watching and enjoying my world, casual acquaintances and ideas again.   So, one thing led to another and I found being "one of the girls" in my neighborhood, a gardening volunteer, meeting everyone afresh, gave me "something to do" to fill my days and was just delightful.    Stepping outside of the society that had been rejecting what I had to offer in every way also seems to give me the clearer view and freedom of thought I needed too perhaps.   It's been great.    It wasn't till late 2009 that I began to find a way to start writing things others would find useful, though, but now I have a few. 

02/11 - Outside I may still look to many like I'm not a woman, but inside I feel entirely so, and grateful for the comfort that being fem brings me.   It was much the happy accident it seems, discovered as a secrets about ways of living much more the exact opposite of what I would have ever imagined for myself.   What you discover when confronting another dead end in your life can be like that, forcing you to look where you hadn't before, with great potential for either good or not.   I was experiencing total rejection for my clear thinking, from my entire network of personal and professional relationships, again.   I just couldn't go though more years of deep depression over it, for actually a fifth time.   The happy ending I think, despite some losses I do hope are temporary too of course, is something a bit better than just finding this reasonably practical total escape from the disregard I'd felt.   It's having the experience the life of the joyous gender from the inside, seeming like more than a fair trade!    At the time I had been thinking deeply about the ladder of natural design options as nature was first selecting new body forms in the Cambrian, and sort of just out of curiosity, and since my old one had clearly run out of rope, tried a new one.




Images from the start...

Life, Tools, Arts & What interests me

Odd Notes
One of my main habits is writhing myself margin notes on little scraps of paper, on all sorts of subjects.  What I have published are in my OddNotes directory .  A sample is my May 2009 hand written notes and selected transcriptions

Desktop Photo Collection
(go to web albums for large images formatted normal & wide) (F11 to view full screen)..

NYCity & Florida

Flora & Country

Interesting fantasy stories by a young writer (Jonathan H. - at 11)

A question concerning the nature of change, ... 3/22/01

I used to paint some, this in from about 1985, called 'ManOnEarth'

Tools and things - 10/2000 to 7/02/06

Natural science has long been my actual main work, which I've supported with architectural design.  Occasionally both have been worth all the trouble it takes to do them well.   I’m presently responsible for finishing the public spaces design and detailing all of a $110 million US courthouse for Jackson Mississippi.   Other recent architectural work includes significant roles in the design of  New York's  Bronx Botanic Garden visitor's center, Science, Industry & Business public library (SIBL), the Grand Central terminal renovation, reconstructing St. Agnes cathedral, renovating the Metropolitan club, Jewish Theological Seminary, the Coney Island Steeplechase Ball Park,  Grand Rapids Public Library, Niagara Gorge visitor center, SOPAC in South Orange and other projects. Now I'm working at H3, back with old friends.   It's good work, and nice to have clients that expect enough to make it fun.    I first changed to architecture when physics didn't satisfy my interest in arts and human values, and was then brought back to physics when my study of abstract form in air currents led to finding the curiously obvious unnoticed patterns of locally emergent systems, an opening to the great questions and contradictions of science and nature.

My major work is on the physics of natural learning systems, called a physics of happening.   I think my two principle contributions are a reliable method of  identifying emergent natural systems, and using the tools of physics backwards to study them.   I use the same mathematical and logical tools as physics, but to detect and watch events develop in the things themselves, carefully exploring autonomous and unstable systems rather than making simplified models of them.    In the case of natural learning systems it seems all models are simplistic.

I've always loved a good shop and tools, with large and small piles of sawdust and metal shavings. Now I just use a computer (well,.. and occasionally get to fix things).  I also write a little.  I guess, other than my guiding loves,  my greatest pleasure when I was young was skiing and as an adult the endless hours of reading to my son and guiding him and his friends in new experience.  

Software tools, AutoLisp is the text programming language of AutoCAD, a widely used graphical database for engineering, manufacturing and design.  Macro is a library of general purpose drawing utilities and productivity tools. Curve is the library of analytical tools used in derivative reconstruction.   I'm trying to convert to R but it's slow doing it by myself with lots of other things to do too, so it probably won't happen till I get some help.  The AutoCAD platform is missing many valuable statistical tools but also does things that simply can't be done in conventional statistical packages, like record the history of one's successive treatments of a data set, or use data sets with irregular time lines as variables in data equations....

A question...ed 3/22/01

...any physical event, a wink or a collapsing star,  is a chain of natural events combining a myriad of others spanning a tremendous range of scales, propagating multiplying effects in flowing patterns, taking time and development to proceed.  Mathematics isn't what is happening, though that's one of the best tools we have for describing it.  The scientific name for it is 'local emergence'  [well, not the Santa Fe variety, ed.2/06].   It's so much a part of events might we also just call it  'change', or 'happening'?

Does all change Evolve?

Take the formation of a crystal. It begins small, around some seed, and proceeds at an increasing speed as the crystallization fringe expands, first more and then less rapidly, until it approaches its natural limit. Then there's a crystal, a new steady state, the result of a swelling and waning pattern of history dependent events, a flow. This same general acceleration and climaxing sequence is evident in complex successions of innumerable kinds, and may be present in change universally.   Some of its parts are always strictly local in origin and action.   Everything that happens seems to happen that very same way, so why's it a mystery?

These chains of events follow a strict sequence, speeding up and then slowing down.   They absolutely never start in the middle, with slowing down for example, but always start at the beginning of the succession and end at the natural succession's end.  No matter what you do you can't get either a physical or intellectual model of a process of change to work properly without the tell-tale these little start-up and shut-down sequences that mark its departure from a past form and a final arrival at a new one.

Scientific tools can partly test the question by allowing us to take direct measures of change to see if transitional curves, developing rates, are to be found connecting steady states. Such growth rate curves are a sign of history dependent processes and locally developing causation.  It is not so much whether a sequence of measurements fits a growth equation. It's whether there's any process at all connecting the end points of change. What is commonly found connecting steady states are the ever-present logistic ('S') curves, frequently regular, but non-steady state, smooth transitional progressions connecting changes in kind.

Logistic curves are unusually pervasive in the measures of transitional events of every scale and duration. They occur precisely during the time intervals where fundamental change is occurring, where the past and future formulas do not apply, and where it is especially hard to describe what's going on. This coincidence is a marvel of nature that goes relatively unnoticed in the body of science. I don't believe there is a chapter in any physics text simply called 'change', 'happening' or its equivalent. We work around it all the time, but never really address the subject. The question is, what do those easily observable orderly in-between periods represent?

Are they the evidence of evolving systems, exploding and fading successions of events too complex for us to yet understand, the smooth and silent workings of radical transformation, the pervasively evident but completely mysterious way it all works?