Tuesday, May 26, 2015

autosimilarité dans la nature, invariance d'échelle

figure de Lichtenberg en plastique, produite par décharge électrique

           La forme la plus connue de ces énigmatiques figures sont des décharges électriques à haute tension que décomposent un matériau isolant. La décharge se fraie un chemin à travers de l'isolant. On voit ces figures brûlées dans les corps des gens frappés par la foudre.


         À ne pas manquer (lien ci-haut): le court vidéo d'une frappe de foudre (à terre). On voit comment la charge électrique envoient des tentacules à haute vitesse dans tous les sens. L'un de ceux-ci deviendrait le chemin de décharge propre: c'est le fil lumineux qu'on voit figé entre terre et ciel.

    frappe de foudre sur un terrain de golf, États-Unis

            Les figures de Lichtenberg ont une propriété répandue dans des processus naturels: l'autosimilarité (ou, si vous voulez, l'invariance d'échelle). La figure reste "la même" - ou "similaire" selon certains critères statistiques - indépendamment de la taille de la surface (ou volume) étudiée. On fait un "zoom" de rapprochement et la figure reste sensiblement la même. Un petit morceau vu sous une loupe ressemblerait un gros pan vu du loin. On voit des formes similaires chez les végétaux (petites tiges ressemblent aux grosses tiges qui ressemblent aux rameaux..), chez les animaux (branchements du système vasculaire ou pulmonaire) et même dans les formes inorganiques (branchements des rivières, failles tectoniques, givre, flocons de neige..)

          rivières séchées, Baja California, Mexique 

          C'est bel et bien une figure de Lichtenberg qu'on voit! Les processus physiques de diffusion sont mathématiquement identiques (ou semblables) pour la diffusion d'électrons (frappe de foudre) ou de l'eau (basin de rivière)

former Dept of Fisheries and Oceans scientist spills beans on suppression of science

          The Harper conservatives won on a platform promising governmental transparency.To date this commitment has not been honored. In fact, the Harperites are probably the most secretive, paranoid, control freaks this country has ever elected. Obviously, all such generalizations are, at best, approximate. Still, the general trends are there for all to see and, at this late date, have become unequivocal if not notorious.

Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? Mark 8: 18

          Thus environmental science as it impacts the federal government's jurisdiction is, to varying degrees, "muzzled": research centers, libraries are closed, defunded. The excuse, of course, is provided by the neocon / Free Market idiotology: cut social services (education, aid to the poor or disempowered, the environment..) in order to "stimulate economic growth" which will then "trickle down" to lower socio-economic classes. The problem is that despite decades of following neocon economic gurus, the wealth she just ain't a trickled down no where, folks. In fact, the gap between rich and poor both within and between nations has, contrary to predictions, continually increased. Normally, when one tries a policy (or tests a hypothesis in science) and it produces results more or less contrary to those predicted, one scraps the policy (or hypothesis). This has not happened with the neocon / Free Market idiotology. Why?


           Check out the audio link - the "Listen" button. The interview with recently retired Dept of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Steve Campana begins at about minute 2 of the audioclip.  (Campana, be it noted, is not "retired" for reasons of age. In fact, he seems hale and hearty and is working in Iceland where the air, apparently, is a bit freer.)

internal blog links: keywords: censorship

This link gives numerous internal blog links to suppression of environmental science by the Harper government


Sometimes the neocon government spending cut mania leads to tragedy, for example when deregulated industries - left to "self-regulate" - prove to be menaces to public health and safety.


A series of 6 articles on Lac Mégantic train wreck of July 2013 is accessible using the keyword: accident. On that terrible night, 47 Friday night partiers were burned alive when a runaway, driverless train carrying shale oil careened into the town center, overturned and burst into a sea of burning oil. The deregulated rail industry (and the government who took part in that deregulation) are, in very large part to blame for this mass collective homicide (not intentional murder but literally "homi-cide" = "man killing"). Also to blame, more indirectly, our collective failure to develop green energy when we still had cheap energy to burn. Wind towers if they fail do not envelope people in seas of flame..



This one goes back 3 years, so the policy of muzzling science that is inconvenient for a "business-as-usual" economic, social and technological agenda goes back quite a way!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Which society is more transparent, USA or Canada?

Background: about a year ago the New York Times published an on-line interactive map of US census data. You could look up stuff like median income, unemployment, life expectancy,.. Here's a link:


         Well, prof Mark Jarvis of the Mowat Center (School of Public Policy and Government) at the University of Toronto saw the NY times map, showed it to his coworkers and everybody agreed it would be a good idea to do one for Canada. They even dreamed of improving the map's performance by introducing more search items such as local facilities for mental health care, the handicapped and the obese.

          The researchers at the Mowat center were quickly surprised to find that much of the data they were looking for was simply unavailable! There were large holes in the Canadian census data, especially in rural and northern Canada, geographical voids where information simply didn't exist (or was unaccessable). The prairies seemed most affected (ironic, as we'll soon see, because the data holes are due to policy decisions on the part of the Harper government which aims it's right wing rhetoric at - you guessed it! - rural populations). 

          The following Canadian Broadcasting Corp podcast contains an interview with prof Jarvis, between minutes 40 and 50. 


          Professor Jarvis blames the Harper government's elimination of the "long form" census report in 2010. The flimsy rationale provided at the time was that people objected to a purported "invasion" of personal privacy by Big Brother. Here, once again, we see the Conservatives playing the populist, hairy-chested individualist card to their rural community base. Subsequent investigation demonstrated that the rationale was a lie: very few people actually did complain about the census' purportedly "invasive" nature - but it played well to the peanut gallery..

internal blog links: keywords: long from, census


         The real problem here of course is not just the petty, perennial problem of politicians pandering to the lowest common denominator to get the vote out: populism, scape-goating, smoke and mirrors (diverting attention from real issues), rabble-rousing, threats..

         The real problem is an ideological one. The Harperites have set out to remake the Canadian political scene in a foreign image, based on a radical American-style neoconservative, free market ideology. This vision, despite its down-home, folksy rhetoric and appeals to "traditional values", actually favors Big Business over democracy, environmental health, public safety and social justice. One suspects that Harper intends, not just to scoff up populist, anti-government votes in rural Alberta and Ontario, but to destroy the very basis upon which viable "progressive" social programs could be founded: he wants to destroy the information flows that such programs require both for their implementation and their on-going administration. What an ironic end for a government that was voted into power on a platform which promised governmental "transparency"! They serve masters that are not the people (megacorporations and their elite). They peddle "patriotism" but introduce foreign models of the social contract that negate traditional Canadian "middle of the road" progressivism (Health Care..) They, more than any Canadian government I can't think of (outside of war), have done more to suppress, spin and control information flows.

         The irony does not end there. Professor Jarvis of the Mowat center contacted the guy who did the New York Times interactive census map. In typical liberal American style the Times journalist expressed surprise, assuming that, of the two societies, Canada was the more liberal, the more transparent, the more open. American liberals often make this mistake, harking back to the "good old days" when, on many matters, Canada generally tended to the left of the US. American liberals seem to have failed to take note of the damage that, first, the corrupt, divided and corrupt Chrétien Liberals did to this country and second, the profound deepening of that wounding of the body politic and ethics by the Harperite neocon wanabes.

the moment of creation

The moment of creation (full moon, early may, 2015, Montréal)      

I come to ground zero, the quantum void.
An old intuition, maybe wrong           
links quantum void and mind..           
Both are spooky, and slippery, and hard to define.
Both are vacuous, birthing infinite worlds.

The mind holds all within its grasp,
yet is no thing,
and lighter than the wind.

Oh Powerful Ones! Self-proclaimed 
masters of the universe, mighty ones, 
know that we, we who have lost all,
we of the zero, of the negative tao,
we hold the power, the infinite power of the void,
the void from which sprang all that is.

Janis J understood all when she sang:
"freedom is having nothing left to lose".
Then you feel, oh, so truly free!
You have no home you say?
No attachments, no place to hang your hat?
So make the universe your home
and all its creatures, family,
for you are finally free (having nothing left to lose).
You walk the Via Negativa, the way of loss,
the path of the great unburdening.

Here one is creator, sitting in the center,
like the spider in its web, at the null point.
Here there is nothing, no-thing,
Here springs light, leaps sight
into momentary creation of form and life.
Here is all that was, as is and ever will be.
This is the moment of creation.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

reclaiming citizenship - draft 2

reclaiming citizenship

This text is a 2nd draft of a text published march 19. Unfortunately I forgot to note that it was a first draft and so apologize to those readers who were not forewarned (ouch! - it makes me look like a duffer, too...) As was my original intention, I invite readers comments,  suggestions, criticism and questions. 

The New Responsibility: citizen self-empowerment, taking responsibility for the little piece of turf I stand on. There is nothing novel in this idea. Its roots go back to the Revolutionary ideologues of the Enlightenment who brought us the French and American Revolutions (and later, the Russian, Spanish, and Chinese Revolutions). The term "citoyen", citizen, was made a term of honor. (footnote 1) As citizens, all should be considered equal (at least before the law). Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité! Libertad, Igualdad, Fraternidad!

                         American Revolution, the "Betsy Ross" flag

           In periods of systemic breakdown such as we are living through, the cultivation of virtue in our backyard is all that could reasonably be expected. If virtue retreats from the public space - and the public space itself disappears under neocon ideology (note 2) - then virtue must, of necessity, retreat to its most sheltered refuge: the individual the family, the neighborhood.

          "Conquering New Worlds" is the project of another age: been there, saw that, now suffering the hangover from.. Our time of transition makes different demands on us, offers different opportunities. 

         One of the more surprising of these new opportunities: our real (physical, living) world has a near infinity of ecological niches and few of these have been really explored or understood in any detail. Think of how the microscope opened up a whole new universe to human comprehension - all without moving a step, without crossing a sea. The "new" world of microbial life was literally hidden under our noses all the time! We simply didn't have the means to perceive it. Today, we need a new mental microscope to perceive the opportunities - and challenges - of the post cheap fossil energy world we are entering. The need to develop such a mental tool led to my reconsideration of the old right wing buzzword, "responsibility"..

            Taking responsibility for one's own piece of turf means different things to different individuals. The existentialist philosopher, J.P. Sartre held that life is a "project" that we are responsible for:

"L'Homme est absolument libre, il n'est rien d'autre que ce qu'il fait de sa vie, il est un projet. Sartre nomme ce dépassement d'une situation présente par un projet à venir, la transcendance."

from http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Paul_Sartre

Wo/man is absolutely free, s/he is nothing other than what s/he makes of life, s/he is a project. Sartre considered this capacity to move beyond one's current situation via a future directed project a form of transcendence. We transcend a current undesirable situation by projecting ourself mentally into a project and then physically acting so as to bring the project into reality. Our projects provide us with significance, meaning, self-expression, creativity, adventure, dignity, status..

           One recalls here Nietzsche's idea of "self-overcoming", of aiming high to hit high..

            Given the state the world is in, taking responsibility means the creation of Cultural Refugia to save the best fruits of the last 6000 years of Patriarchal Culture: calculus, the Periodic Table, the scientific method, the ideal of citizenship, democracy, human rights, feminism, Enlightenment Universalism. All the good stuff we want to save from the barbarian hordes.. All the good stuff we payed such a heavy price to obtain! (note 3)

            Taking responsibility for one's own piece of turf implies, for an occidental, re-empowerment of the citizen. To be blunt, the citizen must take back control of our democracies which we have stupidly turned over to corporate interests in return for the cornucopia of mass produced goodies they have delivered us.

            One definition of fascism reads:

control or seizure of the State by the corporate elite

                          guess who?

            Democracy means rule of / by the People. If we take this definition literally we must admit that, as citizens of democracies, we have let ourselves be brainwashed by the corporate agenda which is to maximize profits. Hyperconsumerism maximizes profits. The advertising industry is a form of psychic manipulation targeting the (hyper-)consumer, inducing him to consume above and beyond his needs in order to maximize corporate profits. Large multinationals - owing allegiance to no country or citizenry - are the biggest, most competent and influential players in this game: think coca cola, auto manufacturers, electronics, food, media, publishing - just about everything today! For these corporate behemoths, questions of long-term sustainability, national security, public health play, at best, secondary or tertiary supporting role to profits. If proposals do not maximize short term profits these "public good" concerns are quickly jettisoned, remaining as pious - but empty - words to hypnotize those who are only too willing to believe the hype. 

             Unfortunately, we humans find it more convenient to displace responsibility for our moral failures than to assume blame. More unfortunately still, the false "innocence" we gain is achieved at an exceedingly high price: our dignity as responsible citizens and adults. The corporations "program" us to consume regardless of the cost to the environment and future generations. But if we take the definition of democracy seriously, we, the citizens, are ultimately responsible for the results because, under democracy, the citizen is king..

             Today, if we are to save some of the furniture from the fire (my Cultural Refugia), we - citizens - must reclaim our authority from the corporate usurpers and the craven politicians who serve them. Reclaiming responsibility means reclaiming authority: "authority" implies responsible use of power - responsibility. Responsibility without power in meaningless: only scapegoats can be simultaneously "responsible" and "powerless". By assuming responsibility for the turf s/he stands on, the citizen also self-empowers, assumes the robe of authority..

             In practice, this leads to the odd situation where a left wing critique of society leads - "paradoxically" - to a right wing conclusion: accepting responsibility in our personal life, in our personal relations with the people around us, accepting responsibility for our little piece of turf. If things are going to change, I must become the local center of change from which all change ripples outwards. The Buck stops with me..

              In practice, this is not an easy message to accept! People on the Left or Center of the political spectrum - even those of the moderate Center Right - accept that at least some of the evils of society are structural in nature. They transcend individual actions or volition. Evils such as racism existed before my birth. They form part of the structure of social reality I was born into. If leftists feel they are losing ground, as today, it becomes tempting to  throw in the towel with the cry that "the System is rigged!" and we are its victims.

              Victimization is a sordid human reality (and probably always will be). But a sense of victimization combined with powerlessness to change the situation can create the toxic social environment we inhabit today. Researchers studying jihadist terrorists who were born in Western countries have noted that some of these people are acting from an intense sense of injustice at the evils inflicted on the Muslim world by the "Crusaders" of the arrogant West. We may choose to dismiss such indoctrination as mere "propaganda" but such an attitude misses the point! The brainwashed youth who joins ISIS may be doing so from noble motives: to avenge wrongs done to innocents (with whom they identify). It's hard to find sentiments more noble than that..

             The common sentiment of powerlessness, of lack of control over our collective (or individual) destinies is, I suspect, a major breeding ground for the various forms of fanaticism and extremism we see around us, from  Global Warming deniers to European neonazis, American militias and jihadist martyr-terrorists.

             How else can we counter these toxic byproducts of the sense of powerlessness, than through the (re-)empowerment of the Citizen, who is each one of us?

                 In order to regain any efficacy at all, the Left, in the coming increasingly turbulent decades, will have to address the question of individual responsibility and its relation to larger social goals. We need to face the question of the relation of the individual - his rights and duties - to his society. We will need to examine the nature of citizenship itself  in this dawning millennium.  

 internal blog links:






1 - (translation follows) Citizen / citoyen: definition, from http://www.toupie.org/Dictionnaire/Citoyen.htm

"Etymologie : du latin civis, celui qui a droit de cité, citoyen.

Historiquement, un citoyen est un membre d’une cité-Etat grecque, disposant du droit de suffrage dans les assemblées publiques. Il participe aux décisions de la cité relatives aux lois, à la guerre, à la justice, à l'administration...

Pendant la Révolution française, le terme "citoyen" a été réutilisé par opposition au "sujet" (du roi). Il permet de désigner tout homme sans notion de hiérarchie, par opposition à la Noblesse. A noter que, durant cette période, les termes "citoyen" et "citoyenne" ont été utilisés pour remplacer "monsieur", "madame" et "mademoiselle"."

etymology: from Latin civis, one who has right to the city, a citizen

Historically, a citizen was a member of a Greek city-state, possessing the right to vote in public assemblies. He {only males had full citizenship} participated in municipal decision making relative to lawmaking, war, justice and administration.

During the French Revolution, the term "citoyen" was re-employed in opposition to "sujet" (a "subject" of the king). "Citoyen" designated any man without reference to position in the social hierarchy.. During the revolutionary period the terms "citoyen" and "citoyenne" were used to replace the traditional modes of address: sir, madame, mademoiselle,..

2- disappearance of public space under neocon idiotology:


3 - among the challenges the world faces: climate change, overpopulation, breakdown of essential ecosystems and the natural services they provide, depletion of non-rewewable resources, failure to make a speedy transition to renewable resources and energy systems when we still had time, over-exploitation of renewable resources (thereby functionally converting renewable resources into non-renewable, depleting, ones), the rebirth (or renewed vigor) of racism and religious fanaticism..

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

La plus ardue question

           Le monde va mal. Où allons-nous? Qui sait vraiment? Et si l'on n'attends pas le messie, quoi faire?

           Dans La Méthode, Edgar Morin écrit que nous devrions nous diriger vers un "société hypercomplexe" où nos différences, au lieu de servir de causes de guerre, seront célébrées. Elles deviendront des outils pour mieux comprendre un monde complexe et évolutif. Ayant des connaissances plus complexes, nous ferons une meilleure gestion du monde. (voir note 1)

L'auto-organisation dans la nature: une "murmuration"  d'étourneaux.

           Considérons les cultivars (semences) traditionnels. Les anciennes semences sont moins productives mais plus robustes que les variétés homogénéisées, mondialisées, par les géantes de l'"agriculture" industrielle. Elles recèlent plus de variations génétique que les variétés commercialisées. Il faut sauver leur patrimoine génétique précieux! Leur richesse génétique sera fort probablement utile pour adapter aux changements climatiques déjà en cours. La diversité - génétique dans ce cas - est une richesse. Edgar Morin a eu la sagesse de le voir..

quelques variétés autochtones de la pomme de terre (Amérique du Sud) !!

           Mais revenons à la situation du monde.. Partout, on voit la recrudescence de la vision étriquée. De plus en plus, il me semble, nous voyons le monde en noir et blanc. Il y a des "bons" et des "mauvais", c'est "nous" contre "eux". 

          Je pense pense aux fanatiques religieux qui pullulent un peu partout: le Moyen Orient, la France, les États-Unis, en Asie (il y même des bigots bouddhistes qui battent et tuent des gens.. franchement..)

          Des analystes disent que c'est la première fois en 400 ans que la religion a pris tant d'importance. La dernière fois était les guerres de religion en Europe, post-réformation.

          On pense aussi à la récente épidémie d'hommes noirs tués par la police  aux États-Unis. Ces hommes qui portaient pas d'arme, étaient flingués (étouffé pour l'un d'eux) en sang froid. Pendant que j'écris la ville de Baltimore, état de Maryland, est en sang et feu. Les citoyens noirs sont débordés par le racisme, la pauvreté, la discrimination et le harcèlement policier continu. Un autre homme sans arme flingué en sang froid, c'est la goute qui fait déborder le vase, c'est tout..


            On dirait qu'on est bien loin de "célébrer nos différences"! On dirait même que la pression monte dans la marmite sociale globale à tel point que ça commence à exploser un peu, ici et là. Des petits éclats. Des vitres brisées, des commerces brûlées, on se défoule. Puis on se calme jusqu'àu prochain éclatement. Peut-être on ne voit que des signes avant-coureurs? Le plus gros est à attendre..? Je n'en sais rien.

             Le pire est que ces tendances actuelles nous conduisent dans le mauvais sens, vers plus de confrontation, plus de concurrence pour l'espace vitale et les ressources. Et puis.. la population mondiale continue à croître.

              Nous continuons à gaspiller nos ressources, à la fois les ressources non-renouvelables (pétrole, gaz, charbon..) et - ce qui est criminel, moralement indéfendable - les ressources renouvelables (poissons, forêts, terres arables, biodiversité..) Ces dernières, ressources renouvelables, sont, avec un aménagement adéquat, en principe, non-épuisables. Pourquoi on tolère leur épuisement par la sur-exploitation profiteuse qui ne pense qu'à la petite échéance? Pourquoi les masses ne se soulèvent pas?

              Un petit exemple. La beurre d'arachide que j'achète au supermarché se vend dans des bocaux en plastique fait du pétrole. Le pétrole! Précieux lubrifiant. Même si nous délaissons nos automobiles pour les transports en commun qui roulent sur l'hydrogène nous aurons besoin de lubrifiants pour les faire rouler. (À moins que nous poussions des plantes à huiles lubrifiantes sur les terres arables, laissant des gens crever du faim..) Le pétrole! Précieuse matière primaire pour les industries pharmaceutique et chimique. Pourquoi ce gaspillage idiot d'une matière si précieuse? C'est fou. Mais personne conteste! Pourquoi?

            Est-il possible de "renverser vapeur" en temps de prévenir le désastre?

            Et si la réponse est oui, comment?

Nous, des hypocrites? Nous sommes hypocrites. Tout le monde - ou beaucoup - se disent vert. On est, bien sûr, "pour" un environnement propre et sain, un avenir luisant pour nos petits-enfants, etc. Reste que des Partis Verts ne tiennent pas les rennes de pouvoir - c'est plutôt la ploutocratie des corporations multinationales, les pires pollueurs de l'environnement, qui tiennent les rennes. Pourquoi cet énorme contredire, cet abîme béant entre parole et geste? Pourquoi?

            Ma ville, Montréal, est un bon exemple. Ici, au Québec, on se dit volontiers "vert". On s'en vante même. Néanmoins la population automobile de la ville croît (légèrement) plus vite que la population humaine. Est-ce être vert? Il y loin de la coupe aux lèvres..

           Et pire encore! Dans les rues, on voit pas mal de VUS, véhicules stupides conçus exprès pour consommer plus de matériaux et d'énergie fossile bon marché: obsolescence programmée oblige! (note 2) Faut que les roues le la machine économique tournent de plus en plus vite pour rendre des profits (sinon le profits ne se rendront plus et les investisseurs n'investiront plus). Aujourd'hui, nous - les citoyens - existons pour le marché. Le marché n'existe pas pour nous. Nous sommes devenus des idolâtres de Mammon, démon biblique symbolisant ou incarnant l'avarice.

            Récemment une pensée m'est arrivée (oui, ça arrive parfois!) On entend souvent: la technologie résoudra tous nos problèmes tôt ou tard. Traduction: la technologie nous sauvera de nos folies. Elle est notre Messie!
           Cette idée est complètement fausse. Et dangereuse. Il s'avère que la technologie n'est ni le problème (comme croire les technophobes), ni 
la solution (comme croire les chantres béats du Progrès).

            Dans La Méthode, on lit comment la société crée des homme qui créent, à leur tour, la noosphère, le monde d'idées. Le monde d'idées forme, en son tour, les hommes et leur société (y compris la technologie). Le boucle se ferme sur lui-même. La société est comme un être vivant en ce sens: il se créent, se (re-)produit, se maintient contre les fluctuations venant de l'extérieur, etc.

            Dans ce flux, les idées influent sur et trans/forment la technologie qui, à son tour, trans/forme la société.

            Si donc, nous voulons transformer la technosphère pour qu'elle ne détruise pas la nature, il faut apprendre à mieux "programmer" la technologie.

            La technologie ne fait que ce que nous, humains, la programmons à faire.

            Si nous n'aimons pas ce que la technologie fait, il faut changer programmes, c'est-à-dire changer nos valeurs, nos buts, nos façons de faire, changer nos façons de penser qui programment la technosphère.

            Il arrive enfin que la responsabilité tombe sur nous, simples citoyen(ne)s.

             Ce qui impose la question la plus ardue: qu'est-ce que je ferai, moi..

entretien avec le Dr Morin


1- Edgar Morin: La Méthode (Seuil), 6 tomes C'est le chef d'oeuvre du grand philosophe / sociologue francais. Traité sur l'émergente philosophie, science ou métascience de l'Auto-organisation: l'évolution biologique; l'organisation sociale chez le microbe, l'animal et l'homme; l'évolution des idées et des cultures


2- obsolescence programmée:

Stratégie industrielle élaborée dans l'Amérique d'après-guerre, visant à programmer une durée de vie limitée à un produit non consommable dans le but d'en augmenter la fréquence de remplacement. (L'internaute dictionnaire)