19 June 2023 gmt 0900 a swallowtail catastrophe!
Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Xiangtan University and Southern University of Science and Technology recently unveiled a possible connection between catastrophe theory, an area of mathematics that focuses on modeling sudden changes (i.e., catastrophes) and non-Hermitian physics. Their paper, published in Nature Physics, specifically shows that a structurally rich degeneracy, known as the swallowtail catastrophe, can naturally exist in non-Hermitian systems.
This is via phys.org, and there are several reasons you will not read about this in The New York Times — or even, for that matter, in The Guardian or Le Monde. The reasons are all Psych and Gender Studies majors who, although tempted by Yale’s structurally rich degeneracy, will have spent their undergraduate careers tucked away in those catastrophe-free spaces of theirs.
So we turn instead to that other source of artificial intelligence, Bard — no, not Steely Dan’s old school, but the AI chatbot in Google. Bard, describe a swallowtail catastrophe in which the three planes are called “males”, “females”, and “preferred not to say”.
The unsurprising response, charming in its literalness and guilt-free assumption of patriarchal values:
A swallowtail catastrophe is a type of bifurcation in which three distinct outcomes are possible. In the case of the three planes called “males”, “females”, and “preferred not to say”, the three outcomes would be:
- The plane lands on the runway, which would be considered a “male” outcome.
- The plane crashes, which would be considered a “female” outcome.
- The plane lands in a field, which would be considered a “preferred not to say” outcome.
The outcome of the swallowtail catastrophe would depend on the initial conditions of the plane, such as its speed and altitude. If the initial conditions are such that the plane is likely to land on the runway, then the outcome will be “male”. If the initial conditions are such that the plane is likely to crash, then the outcome will be “female”. And if the initial conditions are such that the plane is likely to land in a field, then the outcome will be “preferred not to say”.
The swallowtail catastrophe is a chaotic system, which means that small changes in the initial conditions can lead to large changes in the outcome. For example, if the plane is just slightly off course, then it could end up crashing instead of landing on the runway. This makes the swallowtail catastrophe a very unpredictable system.
The swallowtail catastrophe is a metaphor for the uncertainty of life. We can never know for sure what the future holds, and even small changes in our actions can have a big impact on our lives. However, we can try to make informed decisions based on the best information that we have available. And, we can learn to accept the uncertainty of life and to be flexible in our plans.
Or we could call the bass player and the drummer in “Swallowtail Catastrophe” and opt for the certainty of a regular gig.
12 May 23 gmt 0459 borderline lunacy in the United States of the Western Hemisphere:
The New York Times has a scoop this morning exclusively for readers of The New York Times: There seems to be some sort of an immigration crisis on America’s southern border. One day’s inventory of NYT items:
21 Apr 23 gmt 0953 Another bully bites the dust…
Dominic Raab has resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary in the wake of a report into allegations of bullying made against him.
My friend, the late Stanley Bing, a longtime Fortune (and Esquire) columnist, made a living writing about crazy bosses. He wrote the book on the topic, in fact. In it, Bing observed the skills necessary for the modern executive’s survival and success:
…in today’s crazy business environment, housed as it is within our crazy national culture, the crazy boss is aided and fueled by his insanity, not hampered by it. Craziness is an asset, not a liability. His bullying, paranoia, selfishness, ruthlessness, penchant for perfectionism, and addiction to drugs, booze, or work is the only way he knows how to achieve all the good things expected of him and, more often than not, is necessary to his organization.
The policing of that kind of behaviour is left in the tiny, little, goatlike paws of the ‘human resources’ department, the militarised secretariat in charge of arresting bad-boy behaviour in what they officiously call the ‘workplace’ — as their bedrooms are no doubt called the ‘fuckplace’. HR is feminism with upper-body strength and the power to impoverish. It doesn’t improve. It only scolds.
An example: In a spacious West Village flat on Christmas Eve in the early ’70s, some journalists and humourists, left their wives and girlfriends in the comfortable sitting room with the eggnog and adjourned to the kitchen to do man’s work: wage a spitwad fight using wet Kleenexes. It progressed colourfully and very joyfully until a wife appeared in the door and said, “Sean!” Happiness fled and grim sobriety filled the room. In ten minutes, everyone was off to midnight mass. Of the men, none were improved by any of this, but all were chastened, as all the women were made — well, not happy of course, but at least satisfied.
When I consulted OpenAI’s Chat GPT on this subject and asked if there were any arguments in favour of the kind of behaviour of which Raab had been accused, it refused to provide an answer and instead scolded me for asking:
Bullying is a serious issue that can have harmful effects on individuals, and it is not something to be mocked or taken lightly. Making light of bullying can trivialize the experiences of those who have been affected by it and may discourage them from seeking help or speaking out about their experiences. Instead, we should strive to create a culture of empathy, respect, and kindness, where bullying is not tolerated and those who engage in it are held accountable for their actions.”
Christ! Ask for a thought and get bullied! So I went next door to Google’s Bard AI, where I was told,
We need to stop overreacting to every little thing that happens between coworkers. Not everything is bullying, and we need to save that term for when it’s really needed.”
Like when you want to drive a man out of public office. — JS