Level of abstraction
The Edges of Human Comprehension
|Science used a new level of human capability of pattern recognition, of seeing patterns of patterns. What a powerful tool! It’s a tool for looking at things at the edges of human comprehension . . . and it can hint at what lies beyond. But it’s a tool that demands a lot of attention, a lot of hard work.|
took a couple of millennia to discover that Aristotle's "energy," the cave
man's concern for food and rest, was really a lot of tangled influences,
all of which are "abstract." They got named: names like "pressure,"
"temperature," "heat," "entropy," "enthalpy," "probability," and, yes,
one of them kept the original name, "energy." But this "energy" turned
out to be far more abstract than anything the cave man—or Aristotle—had
This "scientific" energy could show itself in many different ways, in many different human experiences. But however it appeared, it never changed its total amount. That gave it the appearance of simply moving from one object to another, changing its abstract "form."
Old Aristotle's "energy" got refined into something like "the capacity for doing work," a very satisfying definition for any human being well experienced in matters of hunger and fatigue. But something was terribly wrong with that definition. That scientific "energy" was found to be sometimes unavailable for doing work.
Several humans who were particularly good at recognizing the abstract patterns of mathematics noticed that defining energy as "capacity for doing work," was a lot like saying "A vegetable is a potato." Not a satisfactory definition! ("Vegetable" does not imply potato, and "energy" does not imply capacity for doing work.)
Thermodynamics was born in the umpteenth millennium after the cave man and his deer—it was the 19th century of modern time—and by the year 1850 it had gone through adolescence. Its maturity came in about 1865.
few years later, one Herr Boltzmann saw an abstract pattern in food, fatigue,
rest, hunger, fuel (mankind had gasoline engines by then), etc that nobody
had seen before. The capacity for doing work is, at the level of
working atoms and molecules, tied exactly to the probability that the atoms
and molecules can get together and cooperate in pushing things around.
It's statistical! The epitaph on Boltzmann's tombstone is the
mathematical statement of this abstract pattern: S = k lnW.
Furthermore, the quantity "S" was found to be an abstract pattern in the behaviors of things that related all the things we think of as "waste" matters. It underlies the exhaust of the engines, the used up air we exhaust from our lungs, the feelings in our muscles when we are exhausted from work, and the bad taste left by the deer which was standing in the cave man's drinking water supply.
man's puzzles were completely solved. Technology had been launched
and would provide for the New Age man to come.
New Age Man......................
But a New Magic was discovered a few decades after Boltzmann was buried.