Calculus for History Majors

As we discover the huge role complex natural systems have in change of all kinds, we’re finding that evolving systems are our environment, the whole context and much of the shape of history.

It’s high time history majors learned about the best method available for reading their changes. A most curious and revealing thing about complex systems is that the first evidence of emergent change is often a display of the physical property that corresponds to the central mathematical idea of calculus, continuity.

In a mathematical function you can define a slope, and the same is true of almost any real change in complex systems. Complex systems evolve through progressions, and applying a logic like that of calculus to measures of change over time shows you where the progressions emerge from the noise and when they shift.

It reveals a great deal about the nature of a system because it provides direct evidence of it’s creative behavior as a whole.

Continue reading Calculus for History Majors

Phil’s state of the planet 06

Last week I had a rare privilege to be exposed to some of the best of the visionary hard science and planning for saving the Earth from its more glaring human catastrophes. There’s a very bright picture, with an unusually dark side. Were in genuinely deep trouble. The conference was put on by Columbia Univ. Earth Institute, Jeffrey Sachs director and leader.

The bright side is that there does seem to be a path for changing energy consumption technologies in the developed world to keep ocean levels from rising more than 3 to 10 feet in the next century, holding it to a quarter of what it might well be, if we follow a fairly tightly scripted science-led and politically driven global program. Continue reading Phil’s state of the planet 06