In several pieces--Natural Order; Natural Equilibrium; Duality and Multiplicity in Nature; Social Order; and Duality and Multiplicity in a Society posted earlier – we have tried to see all that happen around us in Nature and Society in terms of the duo of: cause-effect, force-response, action-reaction, excitation-restoration in the reversible pattern of balancing acts – according to the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. But, we have also seen in the Entropy and Everything Else that there are processes which are not reversible--in such cases, the one-way transference of energy takes place according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Apart from this, when the triggers: cause, force, action or excitation happen in overwhelmingly intense episodes – resulting from transformation and high concentration of energy within a very short period of time or in short space – the nature of dynamic characterization can best be described in a different framework.
In this piece I like to introduce a concept – new in characterization and interpretation, and a very powerful one – to describe this framework. It refers to the scientific processes that happen in systems of Nature, Society, and Engineering and Technological applications. The concept relates to the two phases of the universal processes of a circle (or a sinusoidal wave, representing the work processes of upslope climb and the spontaneous processes of downslope descent; see Entropy and Everything Else) – the Upslope Events (UE) and Downslope Processes (DP), defined in the contexts of asymmetry, spectromatics and one-way processes. In addition, UE is a way of venturing into uncharted territories, to unknowns, therefore to uncertainty – while DP is manageable to modulate and control its processes to veer it toward the right direction.
I will attempt to explain this concept in work/energy terms. I am with Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) in saying that the principle of looking at things in terms of energy – explains or has the potential to explain everything – in the unification of the sciences of Nature, Society and in the applications of these understandings to Technological development and Engineering solutions. Energies propagate in waveforms, describable in intensity, amplitude, phase and frequency – from the visible physical-mechanical types to the visible/invisible spectra of electromagnetism (EM). The latter not only defines high speed energy propagation and information processes as waves – or equivalently as the wave-pattern of uncertain motions of particles or quanta (see The Quantum World and Einstein’s Unruly Hair), but also the behavior of mind in all sentient beings. The EM processes are responsible for the mind to act, in coordination with other sense organs – as a receptor, mentor/coordinator and projector in social interactions. Let us try to see these interesting energy behaviors in simple easily understandable terms. To illustrate the topic in a metaphorical sense of UE, I have selected a painting – The Great Wave (1829 – 1933; image courtesy: British Museum reprint) of famous Japanese painter, Hokusai (1760 – 1849).
What is the concept of UE and DP terms? Let me try to define them before entering into their elaborations. The key word defining the two terms is slope. The concept is powerful, because the identification of slope gradient – positive (more to come) phase or negative (dissipation is on the horizon) phase – lets one predict or expect what is likely to happen next – and in what directions things will go. Perhaps the simplest and the most straightforward way to understand them is to imagine a wave – all of us are so familiar with – like the attached Hokusai painting. The upslope rising limb of the wave, from trough to crest is an indication of energy transformation geared toward UE buildup until it reaches the pinnacle at the crest. Once at the crest, UE is best poised to trigger DP – representing the downslope falling limb of the wave from crest to trough. Triggers could also happen, for all different reasons during the different phases of the upslope climb. And DP happenings continue in downslope phases from the time of trigger to the trough when all energies are dissipated – giving birth to something else – something of a pattern of equilibrium and stability.
Moving upslope and reaching its pinnacle means imparting energy or doing work against gravity – or in general terms against whatever pulls one down. Moving downslope implies release of the imparted/accumulated energy – and together with gravity – giving birth to myriad of processes. Upslope happenings are termed as Events – because they involve high infusion/accumulation of energy – that is released within a relatively short period of time or space. One important implication of UE is its intrinsic inclusion of some degree of Uncertainty and Risk – comprehensible in the perspectives of unknowns, when and how UE will unleash DP. DP is synonymous with consequences – the impacts of which depend on how one defines the threshold distinguishing a resource from hazard (see Environmental Controls and Functions of a River). With this understanding of the terms, and together with the definition of work – outlined in the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in micro and macro interpretations – let us move further forward.
The macro UE mostly occurring in the scale of extremes – impose new boundary conditions on a DP system – to dissipate the accumulated energy toward restoring equilibrium. DP takes a period of time – the length of which depends on the size of the system as well as on the strength of processes. The two are rather skewedly related – in a sense that UE is the driver/initiator, while DP handles all the consequences associated with the impact. On its own or without the infusion of external energy, UE → DP phase is clear and emphatic; while the materialization of the DP → UE phase depends on conditions and circumstances, and is not certain.
Let me attempt to clarify the relation between the two through a simple example. An earthquake in the scale of extremes – is a UE, because it ushers in widespread infrastructural damage/destruction and losses of lives – and could trigger tsunami if the quake happens to originate in the ocean floor. The aftermaths that follow is the DP, the recovery/restoration processes. Thus UE → DP is clear. Let us attempt to look closely how an earthquake is triggered. Colliding Earth plates in horizontal and vertical directions build up stresses at the collision interfaces. This building up of stresses takes place in DP, giving the gradual birth to UE. At a certain point during the processes, an earthquake is triggered by a sudden rupture; thus DP → UE. Therefore, if one sees beyond each of these, the two can be characterized as UE ↔ DP. Another vivid example of DP → UE is the formation and explosion of volcanic activities. But one has to understand that a certain DP → UE is not the same or similar to a previous DP → UE – implying that they will not reach the same goal, or the same level in space and time – thus the definition of the Arrow of Time comes into existence. In this piece, I will try to explain the power of this concept to elaborate some happenings that occur around, and affect us.
Science of Nature
Science of Engineering & Technology
The job of scientists, engineers and associates is to create resources from Nature’s abundance, and mitigate the consequences of hazards or aftermaths. Therefore, the role of technological developments of products, and engineering services and solutions is to reverse (disorder → order) the Natural processes by doing work. Without this gift, civilization as we know it would not have been possible. The works amount to turning DP → UE. But, as with all UE they are also accompanied by the creation of probabilities of Uncertainty and Risk. There are many examples of engineering & technology works that one can think of. Let me attempt to explain two.
Science of Social Interactions
Before going into this discussion, I like to begin by revisiting the Leadership and Management piece posted earlier. Because the distinction between a leader and a manager can perhaps be better visualized in terms of UE/DP. A leader mostly generates or creates UE, while a manager mostly runs the DP. However by the nature of interactions, the relationship boundary or demarcation between them is rather thin. The reason is that managers help infusion of energy into the building up of UE, while leaders set the guidelines and monitors the direction and progress of DP.
The Koan of this piece: why look for tunnels when the canvas is so wide. I like to dedicate this piece to the victims of most tragic global event that happened in our lifetime – wishing all survivors a happy prosperous time in the future. The COVID-19 is a menace of deaths, of more deaths despite the enormous sacrifices of frontline workers – and in time to come, it is only about to unleash further suffering, untold miseries and hardships for many. It may sound cynical, but as always happened in history, there are many out there about to fish in troubled waters – in the process of shining their weapons to take advantage and pounce upon the vulnerables. Perhaps it will not be surprising if one witnesses such actions – because despite prosperity, and science and technological progresses, humans have advanced very little in the downslope processes of positive social interactions. Perhaps it is more than a wakeup call – that an invisible infectious smallest microbe which have no idea that it is killing people regardless of type – can cause such a pandemic and trouble – while mighty humans boast so vainly about conquering the space – about amassing sophisticated weapons of mass killing and destruction. Coming together is ever so important to ride over the surges of havocs – from biological virus to malicious computer virus to the infestation of misinformation/disinformation. If such Upslope Events do not make us humble – do not let us discard the path of mistrust and animosity – do not make us strong – then what will?
Let me finish this piece by quoting the great Japanese painter Katsushika Hokusai, whose famous wave painting image I have selected. He signed his paintings in old age as The Old Man Mad About Drawing. In his insatiable urge to create and paint, he wrote: If heaven had granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter . . . at 73 I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants . . . at 100, I shall be a marvelous artist, at 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before . . . The last wishes of Hokusai never came true – he died at the age of 89.
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- by Dr. Dilip K. Barua, 6 April 2020