Sunday, April 17, 2011

TW3 - Critical Mass

Nuclear Reactor Test Facility
I admit I am on a bit of a science bent these days. I love science if I do not have to pass a final exam in it. I love the theories but hate all those Latin words. For decades I took the magazine Scientific American and so am probably armed with too much information and not enough real knowledge.

A critical mass is the smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction in case you were wondering. But when I Googled critical mass this morning looking for an image and a definition I cam up with the international bicycle event, swarms of people during rush hour in Tokyo, and army ants dripping off a tree. And, of course, the mushroom cloud. All of which got me thinking of tipping points. A tipping point is the point at which an object is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium into a new equilibrium state qualitatively dissimilar from the first. All of which ties in with my blog on cascade failure and angle of repose.

 But what prompted this particular dark look at the critical mass was Facebook's friend finder. A step beyond where I generally go in that social platform. I accepted a friend request this morning and wound up there. Normally it suggests four or five other people I just might know in part because I know the person I just accepted as a friend. That could be an erroneous assumption. In point of fact I accepted her because we share mutual friends. Facebook seems to be aware of this tendency and came up with what appeared to be a plethora of people I share mutual friends with. Which of course reminded me of six degrees of separation.

And there we are back at Critical Mass.

Out of perverse curiosity I began to scroll down through the row after row of people that I share at least 3 mutual friends with. Note: the list went beyond that point. I was shocked at the number of people on the list I knew and felt comfortable inviting to be friends. And the number of people I had known as children of friends who were now grown. And that I actually share mutual friends with some news icons. Which got me wondering at what point in time does everyone belong to Facebook? And everyone in Facebook is connected by at least 3 mutual friends with everyone else?

Fortunately it probably will not produce a toxic nuclear mushroom cloud like the nuclear reactors in Japan which are approaching critical mass. Japan led to earthquakes and the instability of the Pacific plate. How many earthquakes come before a major shift of relationship of the plates on the earth?

Maybe it is just that it is spring and spring brings with it expectations. The earth is waking up (back to those earthquakes) and all things seem possible (even those things which we would hope are impossible). Today is Palm Sunday and tonight is the full Pink Moon. I feel my winter depression lifting and sense a paradigm shift in what I believe is possible.

Sorry about the physics lesson.


  1. Critical mass always reminds me of the initial experiments in nuclear fission where people were merrily plonking bits of uranium together to see whether they could cause a nuclear reaction... it is an awesome power and its consequences are mega-bad, as we have seen in Chernobyl and Fukushima (not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

    Six degrees of separation is what the latter part of your post reminded me of, with a friend of a friend of a friend recently pointing out how she knew me (without me knowing her) - spooky!

  2. I can see that you're definitely into 'deep thinking' at the moment. (Yes I'm back - just about!)

    I have to say that at this point I'm not sure about it not producing 'a toxic nuclear mushroom cloud' - we can live in hope and hopefully nit die in despair.

    Don't apologize for the lesson - I'm sure you're aware of Retrograde coming up - if it already hasn't! And I cannot make head or tale of the cryptic word that I have to copy to get my comment onto your page!


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