Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fluidity: Part one: the basics

Fluidity is a fairly simple concept, and not a new idea, at least to anyone who would take the time to think about how reality unfolds it's not a new idea.

The way many people view the world can be described as segmented, divided into neat sections. Countries, states, counties, provinces, cities, towns, minutes, hours, seasons, months, gender, race, ethnicity, to name only few. Every idea I've listed here is part of the human thinking process that involves separating and dividing the world into manageable pieces, it's a very clever system that we build our lives around, and is a very efficient and wonderful system.

Except for one thing, and that's globalization. Humanity has reached the point were the vastness and availability of information far outstrips our ability to process it, and our geographical separation means we have difficulty understanding the plight of others. For instance, if you live in Bangkok India as a small businessmen perhaps, can you understand how a stock broker in New York felt in September 2008? The most likely answer is no.

This may seem to be a small concern, until you consider the other implications this separation has. If you combine this emotional inability with the highly complex and varied landscape of the world, the human mind just cannot cope. It removes any extraneous information and focuses on just a few portions of information that are relevant to that person or person's. That's why president Obama's search for a whitehouse puppy is given more attention then fighting in Sri Lanka.

This means when a person looks at events occurring at any given time, they will filter and select only a few that directly pertain to or concern them. Such a limited viewpoint reinforces the concept of rigid structure, and deceives the average individual into perceiving a simple world, ignoring the much more complex and fluid nature of it.

This can give rise to ideas of conspiracy, like the idea of the existence of a hidden world government or a so called secret society that pulls the strings behind the scenes. If you perceive the world as simple, then such an idea has merit. I will explore the idea of conspiracy in the next post.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Again, I haven't updated the blog in a while, but with the time demands of school, work and a modest personal life, I haven't had much time. But have no fear the one or two people who have read this blog before, I will have a new article out on what I will be calling "social non-fluidity", not sure if anyone's coined the term yet.

The topic of Social non-fluidity is an examination of how we view the world in tiers and separation, and how this image we have of the world is inherently flawed, and results in conspiracy theories and mental separation from government.

The article should be up by Friday, barring unforeseen circumstance, like another physics test.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not-So-Peak Oil

There is an interesting theory floating around proposed a while back by a guy named King Hubbert. It's called Hubbert peak oil, or as we like to call it now in short, peak oil.

Peak oil is a scientific method for predicting the point of maximum oil production of a given area. The idea is relatively stable - oil production in a given area will continue to rise with increased drilling activity over a given time period until it hits a certain limit. At the point where this limit is reached the production of oil from a given area will then continue to decline even with an increase in oil drilling activity. There is historical president proving this theory as well - Hubbert was able to predict the production peak of the United States between 1965 and 1970.

History has shown his theory to be true so it was only natural that many smart people began to set out on a bit of a quest to figure out just when the Earth would reach peak oil.

There was one small hitch though - Hubbert created the first peak oil models in the 1950's. Oil production has come a long way in the 50+ years since. We can extract oil effectively from tar sands for instance now, and off shore oil drilling as really caught on with huge finds happening off the coast of Newfoundland and many other places in recent history. (The oil finds in Newfoundland are so huge that Newfoundland is now giving money to the other provinces in Canada as opposed to taking cash. It's what we call a "have" Provence.)

So these new finds have thrown the whole peak oil thing a bit of a curve ball, but nonetheless the smart people pressed on and before long, they had some predictions. It was looking for a while like the pessimistic ones would be true. In early 2008, we had triple digit prices for oil however current oil prices are much, much lower(at the time of this post, they are under $40/barrel)

So what happened? As it turns out it wasn't peak oil, rather it was good old fashion supply and demand. The global economy was growing at a pace that greatly exceeded the price of oil production. Sure there were other factors along the way that contributed to the rise - 6 pipelines being attacked in Mexico, OPEC at one point having lower than expected output ect. But overall, the main factor that ultimately drove the price of the oil through the roof was a global boom that sent speculators crazy, thus giving oil it's incredibly high price.

So this is the part where I admit that for now at least, I was wrong. I predicted that the price of oil would continue to rise, and that we would see the introduction of better alternate fuel sources as a result. We're still seeing those alternate fuel sources come into play, but without the economic motivator of high fuel prices, sales of alternate energy sources will likely stay flat.

The economy is great at adapting to market unfriendly conditions. If we see 300 or 400 dollar per barrel oil, many new technologies will become vary attractive. When they reach sufficient market penetration they will become much cheaper, effectively limiting our need for oil, thus dropping the price of oil.

I think peak oil is real - we will eventually see a point where global the growth of the economy outstrips the demand and does so in a more long term fashion. When that happens, more ways of powering transportation will emerge, effectively dropping the price of oil thus keeping it at a realistic level. There are a lot of doom-and-gloom predictions about how our reliance on oil will end (often ending in the fall of the western world), but I think all of these underestimate the resilience of humanity, and it's ability to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Purporting wisdom

Turkey makes you sleepy. You only use 10% of your brain. You lose 40-45% of your body heat through your head. You can cure a hangover.

Popular wisdom is constantly fed to us day in and day out without anyone ever questioning it's origins, usually purported by a friend or acquaintance whom you believe only has every one's best interests in mind. The problem is that it is a rariety for someone to actually back up such a claim with any supportive evidence.

In a series of two articles published by the British Medical Journal, two professors known as Rachel C Vreeman and Aaron E Carroll have compiled a list of common myths that refute the claims at the beginning of this article with evidence and several sources. The articles are available here, as Part 1 and Part 2.

The reason for this article wasn't simply to link to an article, but to make a point. People (And I do mean anyone, academics and doctors as well as plumbers and housewife's) perpetuate claims that can be harmful or just useless without ever researching the origins of these claims. It is a silly and dangerous exercise, and yet we continue it without regard for the consequences of our action.

It is not primarily a human endeavour to misinform others that trust us, but it seems that individuals will actively repeat claims to others that have a modicum of respect for the individual as a way to actively define themselves in their own conscious, or simply to benefit themselves through an active exchange of supposedly helpful information. which explains why your doctor will tell you you need eight glasses of water a day, or why your grocier will always tell you the most expensive cheese is the healthiest.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lack of posting

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I've been experiencing serious writers block, and coupled with final exams I haven't been updating the blog. new articles to come soon.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Popular distortions

Today's post is just a simple reflection on how society distorts perceived truths to make them more palatable, and make life easier for the individual by effectively reducing the psychological impact that it is negligible.

A simple example is the way society looks at hell. We're told that it's a dark place bad people go, but only bad people, not you. The devil is a red man with big horns and takes joy in poking you in the orange flames while twisted little black pixies laugh and giggle as they poke and torture you, and that if you do end up there from your nights of debauchery, you can just find all your damned friends and party in hell, or even take it over from the devil.

This seems to be a rather enjoyable fate when you compare the biblical definition of hell. The biblical definition is a much more frightening place, you're immersed in absolute darkness, there is absolutely no light, there is no sound, you are alone, immersed in black sulfurous heat, with no one, not even the devil to keep you company. Also, that's not even technically hell, hell is actually more of a holding room until your thrown into what is normally considered to be hell, the lake of fire.

The devil is also a much different character then what we consider him (if you'll allow me to, I will continue to refer to the standard gender definition of the devil to be male) to be, we, again, see him to be a red man with big horns who enjoys partying, encourages everything that we enjoy and is basically the guy you want to party with.

The biblical definition, is, again, different then the one we perpetuate. The bible does refer to him as satan, but there is no reference to a pitchfork, red skin or horns. In reality, the only image we have of him is before his fall from grace is really one of something in direct contradiction to the popular image of satan, in it he is considered to be radient, glorious, and the most beautiful of all of god's angels. It's not hard to imagine, if we take the christians point of view, that he has changed much, sin lives in the heart, not the skin, as they believe. And as christians believe, the devil does enjoy your partying, but not because he likes people partying, but because he knows that people who disobey god will be taken from god, and left to suffer in the lake with him, to burn in darkness and crushing solitude for eternity.

It's no wonder that we would distort such a concept. The question is, is this a good thing? Is it alright for us to distort a (perceived) truth in order to live a easier life?

If we apply this only to a religious difficulty, then we would seem to only have to worry about our immortal souls, which many don't believe in anyway, and few would argue that it makes better people. The problem is we keep using it, we used it to mock Nazi Germany both before and during the second world war, it was applied to demonize the Vietcong in the 1960's, we are still using it today, although it's no longer a state spnsored activity unlike it used to be in the 1940's, to insult and diminish Muslim individuals and practices so that we don't have to feel so bad about attacking and killing other human beings.

But the problem isn't that the methods don't work, they work spectacularly, propaganda against the third reich in world war 2 did allow the public to feel good about bombing and killing thousands of soldiers and citizens, but then it also made the German public feel good about murdering the gay, jewish and roma. It's a double sided sword, it enables us, yet it also degrades us.

Distortion, it can be argued, is necessary for a society to live. But what sort of society is absolutely required to distort it's surroundings for it to survive? It seems that after examination, it's not that there is a certain form of society, but that in order for there to be a society, we have to demonize others.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Evolutionary model as applied to world economics

  Evolution can be defined as a system in which the organism that is most adept to survive it's conditions will outlast those that are not as adept as it, or simply, the fittest survive.

 There's also a concept called Punctuated Equilibrium, which attempts to explain large expansions of speciation in the fossil record in certain periods of time. 

 The question I wish to give, is it possible that the latest crises is an example of the evolution of our financial system going through something similar to punctuated equilibrium? The world economic system in it's entirety can be likened to an evolutionary system, where hundreds of different forces affecting it's system force the components of the system ill-suited to it's surroundings die off, and the parts of the system best suited to the surroundings will survive.

 Tell me what you think.