Simfish/InquilineKea's Thoughts

December 14, 2009, 10:48 pm
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10/24/2008: (as that dude once said, Nothing in biology can be understood except under the light of evolution). in other subjects you have “motivations”; in biology you have “selection pressure”. ya. And in chemistry you have “most stable structure” which corresponds to “lowest energy level” or if u want to get really theoretical (statistical mechanics) you have entropy and “which permutation is MOST likely”. so that’s the motivation for chemistry. the motivation for physics is something like that too – statistical mechanics. HAHA. nothing in physics can be understood except under the light of statistical mechanics. SAME FOR CHEMISTRY!! and for biology it’s the same too! cuz evolution is really statistical mechanics. And then what of math? nothing in math can be understood except under the light of the arbitrariness of the axioms lol. that’s right! okay. and then what else? oh yeah social sciences. those are really just huge amounts of data. which all reduce down to statistical mechanics at the end. because in the end, the vast majority of permutations will be permutations of the heat death of the universe anyways

common “key words”/distinctions/tradeoffs
December 14, 2009, 10:19 pm
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– mathematically rigorous vs. intuitive (many physicists sacrifice mathematical rigor for intuition; opposite for mathematicians)

– ad hoc (okay I wrote this some time ago but have to dig it back up)

– “clever” solution vs “messy” one. It is often the case that a “clever” solution is the easiest solution to understand and use (once dreamed up), but also the solution with the most “genius” to dream up.

– “lucky”. example: nyquist sampling: one can make a perfect reconstruction if “lucky”. statistics often tries to control against such luck. Otherwise people are prone to overgeneralizing from freak accidents (that could be “luck” or “unluck”)

– axioms/assumptions, rules of logic/operators, …

– “elegant”. see wikipedia entry for “mathematical elegance”

– (in talent recognition) tradeoff between creativity and risk. high creativity is often associated with higher risk. risk is often associated with

– (in evolutionary biology) tradeoffs are numerous. mammals and birds are rarely poisonous since they usually have the mobility (from being warm-blooded) and intelligence to quickly kill prey (or escape) without relying on poisons. One must wonder how many animals manage to “hold in” poison without the poison affecting their own tissues

– (in military history): Military history is often popularized as the celebration of “genius” that uses consistently clever strategems used by the winning side. Sometimes it almost seems as if the winning side had near-perfect information of the motives of the losing side. But information is very rarely perfect. Sometimes people have survived due to gambles. Yet some people have survived through repeated gambles. Of course, there will always be winners even in the repeated gambles, and the winners will be the most recognized (no matter how unrepresentative they are of reality, no matter how a perfect system [under limited information] would fail most of the time if it took the same decisions). Though those who make the “best” decisions out of imperfect information will be disproportionately represented among the victors.

– (in economics): tradeoff between fairness and efficiency. Might add that democracy is deliberately inefficient. Fitness-wise, a “perfect” autocracy will have “higher utility” than any democracy. But “perfect autocracies” often degenerate to “catastrophic autocracies”. Why is that? Imperfect information of successors. Also senility (or personality changes) with increasing age, and the failure to adopt what increases utility the most (often since people are psychologically predisposed to be stubborn and include axioms that involve more than the definition of utility – but also – means to maximize utility that aren’t the best means to maximize utility in a different environment)

– (in optimization): optimization, by definition, involves tradeoffs. In fact, the combination of optimization and evolutionary algorithms would probably explain the existence of all of the above

– Environment1, environment2, …, environment n. Person1, person2, …, person n. Interestingly, personality psychology has a major flaw – people can be drastically different in different environments – but their environment happens to be so integrated with the environments of others that they effectively stay in environments that are of limited “distance” from any other arbitrary environment. Their personalities can changed when released into environments whose characteristics entail sufficiently “high” distance from the characteristics from the union (or intersection? both might work) of other environments (e.g. stanford prison experiment). If i had to put a bet though, I would still put in a common “personality factor” through all environments.


Multiple categories:

– inhibitory neurotransmitters/excitatory neurotransmitters. it is really the receptors that determine whether they are inhibitory/excitatory.

– where do nonlinearities in biology come from? delayed rectifiers (of K+ current), thresholds (is it a bifurcation?). all “thresholds” are a different in magnitude and not of quality, but some may seem like a difference in quality, however, it is all probabilistic. the “threshold” of no return may just be a sharp increase in slope. theoretically speaking, one can create a representation of energy and matter across space-time, which would reduce everything into a difference of quantity (the differences between the coordinates would be the only difference of quality, since the values of one set of coordinates do not have to be absolutely correlated with the values of another set of coordinates)

– there is no conservation law for acids/bases.


other random thoughts (I won’t categorize for now):

– economics is the study of incentives, of which money is only a subset of all possible incentives. Freakonomics really brings this distinction to light.

– with massively increased energy, the price of energy will be cheaper, which will make it more economical to transmutate elements. Possibly including elements that could be transmutated into rare earth elements.


distinctions that aren’t as stark as they seem:

– adaptionism vs. punctuated equilibrium. a recent paper has put in support for the “punctuated equilibrium” theory of genetic variation. i would intuitively find that it makes more sense – it just happens that I used to be more sympathetic to the sociobiologists (who also happen to be right on a lot of things).

common inequalities that seem like equalities
December 14, 2009, 10:11 pm
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– neat != organized. one can be organized and still be a mess. having things on the floor may be one way to prioritize the most important things (as long as one is careful not to turn the mess into a disorganized one)

– self-centered != reluctant to share. a self-centered person can be incredibly generous in sharing things – after all – this makes him more well-known to others

– unconscientious != doesn’t work hard. the unconscientious often have to work harder to achieve the same results as the naturally conscientious

– nice != unselfish. being nice is actually incredibly useful in getting people to do things for oneself. it just happens that selfishness tends to be correlated with lower levels of self-control and higher levels of meanness