Abnormal Physics

[From Bill Powers (931221.0820 EST)]

I predict that from now until June, the motto will be "Light,
more light!"

Martin Taylor (931221) --


From me:

Control systems create abnormal physics.

From you:

Why is this abnormal physics?

                          Abnormal Physics

Balance a broomstick on end (the bottom of the unstable
broomstick moves instead of the top).

Stand up in a gale (you lean into the wind instead of away from

Hold a bucket under a faucet until it's full (the supporting
muscles shorten instead of the bucket descending as its weight
increases to stretch the muscles).

Keep a marble spinning halfway up the side of a bowl. (Pick
marble off table and put it in bowl. Pick up bowl. Move bowl in
circle to make marble climb wall and circle at constant height.
Maintain as long as you like).

Prevent a vortex from forming (Stick your finger in the middle).

Make the vortex spin half as fast (Stir gently with your finger).

Make an arm behave as if it had a different mass and as if the
muscles had a different spring constant (Spinal control systems)

Climb a hill.

Drive a car 20 miles through traffic to a specific parking place.

Drive a car from Pagosa Springs to Alamosa over the San Juan
mountains (Wow! Sure is lucky there was a road there. Sure is
lucky the car stayed on it).

Put on a shirt and button it (highly improbable).

Arrange a shelf of books alphabetically by title, author, or call
number. Or by color. Or by size.

Find some food and eat it (Note that the "energy stream" does not
maintain itself).

Do a scratch spin on ice-skates and end up on one knee facing the

Make a bed.

Make a chair.

Pump up a swing.

Sort socks into pairs.

Flip a coin and put it down showing heads 50 times in a row
(probability 10^-15)

Shake a coin in a bottle so it ends up heads 100 times in a row
(stop shaking every time you see the coin at the bottom showing

From a bowl containing 1000 white beads and 10 black beads,

remove all the black beads without removing any white beads.

Place 100 beads in 200 bins with a bead in every second bin.

From a shiffled deck, deal a bridge hand in which each person

ends up with Ace through King in a single suit.

Write your name.

Make a rubber ball rise off a table at constant vertical speed,
make it pause 5 sec, and make it return at constant speed to the
tabletop without bouncing.

Heat a pan of soup, with all objects in the room starting and
finishing at a temperature lower than that of the soup.

Get out of a locked, barred room without picking the lock or
breaking the bars (pay the fine).
All these abnormal physical behaviors of physical objects are
made possible by the fact that you can sense things without
disturbing them, and produce an action that will cause parts of
the environment to behave in ways contrary to what would have
happened if you not acted to control your perceptions. As a
control system, you can produce acts which are not caused by
antecedent forces, and hence are not simply part of a normal
physical interaction. You can cause physical variables to covary
with other physical variables in ways contrary to natural law. Of
course the free variable in all these acts is your own behavior,
your ability to create arbitrary forces unrelated to the forces
that naturally occur. These forces are not caused in the normal
way, but are based on extremely low-energy sensing processes
which by themselves are incapable of producing any actions. Your
thoughts and intentions cause the environment to exhibit unlikely
relationships and outcomes, none of which would exist if it were
not for the presence of living control systems.

There is one condition that is tacitly agreed to in doing any
valid scientific experiment, in physics or elsewhere: hands off!
If you're checking a chemical assay by weighing the products,
keep your thumb off the scale. If you're timing the swings of a
pendulum, don't breathe rhythmically or otherwise on the swinging
bob. If you're using a mass spectrometer, leave your magnet at
home. Scientific experiments are supposed to run by themselves,
without the need for anyone to keep looking and nudge them along
if they're not progressing right. To take any kind of purposive
action during an experiment (other than designing it, setting it
up, and turning it on) is cheating.

But we cheat all the time. The pictures on the wall didn't get
there by any ordinary physical process. Breakfast doesn't appear
on the table through any normal set of physical or chemical
interactions. Lab equipment isn't a natural outgrowth of natural
deposits of minerals. The oranges in the geometrical stack at the
supermarket didn't climb up and arrange themselves. The
probability of practically anything you find in your environment
being what it is and where it is is incalculably close to zero.
Abnormal physics. It's everywhere.

Bill P.