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Credo in picture

A picture can translate a music, a poem... and why not a creed?
Here is what the Christian credo could look like:

(Click to open the file with explanation labels)

Exergy and Emergence, the two universal forces


19th century's physics explained that all closed systems must evolve into states of higher disorder. This disorder can also be also seen as a dilution of matter and energy: electric charges migrate toward lower potential, radioactive atoms disintegrate into more stable isotopes, high pressure expand into broader space, motion causes friction and converts kinetic energy into thermal energy, heat dilutes into matter of lower temperature... Physics quantifies this amount of disorder-dilution by entropy (from Greek τροπή, change) In any closed system, entropy has to increase. This 2nd law of thermodynamics dictates the time direction in which systems will evolve. This arrow of time cannot be reversed, unless no dilution occurred, or if more entropy is produced elsewhere.

Another way to look at entropy is to measure exergy. It is the opposite idea of entropy, short from of "extractable energy". When entropy is created, exergy is destroyed. Energy cannot be destroyed, it is conserved and converted into diverse forms. (In the case of nuclear reactions, following e=mc2, one considers energy and matter altogether as conserved.) Exergy is the extractable, or "useful", fraction of energy in a system, which can be extracted to produce work and drive motion. Electrical and mechanical energies are virtually 100% exergy, but heat, pressure, and chemical potential depend on how they differ from the surrounding. 1m3 of air at 1bar is useless on the Earth, because it is surrounded by the same pressure, but in outer-space is could produce work by dissipating into vacuum. After all exergy is taken from a system (battery, air tank, fuel, etc.), this system is at equilibrium with the environment and cannot dilute further. This can be compared to a spring of energy and matter which expands and dilutes.

It is to be noted that exergy can be destroyed without any "practical" use (e.g. an electric heater in the ocean..). The definition of exergy pertains to physics and is not anthropocentric, but rather independent from human cultural judgement. (I've discussed it in this 2008 article (in French) )

First conclusion: mass and energy dilution, causing exergy consumption, drives the motion of the universe. It fuels all physical reactions which build this movement into... more complex structures.


Emergence is the name given to the phenomenon whereby the complex interactions of many simple elements generate new overall behaviours and entities. For example: life emerges from biological systems. Life involves behaviours such as metabolism, reproduction, adaptation, which are all new compared to the underlying chemical systems, and could not have been predicted by the study of the chemical level. I've discussed this in a 2012 note, linking scientific fields in Russian doll emergence. I proposed the historical generation: Physical => Chemical => Biological => Psychological => Social. We see a rise of abstraction, and gradual irrelevance of "hard sciences" to study higher levels, replaced by humanities.

We can distinguish that the 2 necessary ingredients of emergence are the multiplicity of the entities (quantitative), and their specialization (qualitative). Hence emergence moves on through Zig-zag evolution, gaining complexity through both moves.

Emergence produces entities which survive when the underlying components disappear. For example, in a population of bacteria, if one individual mutates with a new better suited DNA trait, it will be inherited by its offspring and gradually become a trait of the whole population. It will survive in the population even after the death of the first new DNA bearer. An invention or an artistic style can still exists after the death of the civilization that made it.

A time goes by, more complex systems arise, which unify smaller components into a whole. Across history, civilizations consist of several societies, made of individuals. A person unifies organs, which unify countless cells, in turn unifying countless molecules, made of atoms.

Second conclusion: emergence federates the motion of small items into larger, fewer, harmonious, and novel entities. Like a pyramid building bottom-up, higher abstract levels gradually come into existence.

What our History-Universe might look like, from A to Z.

Both principles coexist:
...the destructive dispersing impulse of exergy,
...and the creative unifying rise of emergence.

Following the intuition of the Jesuit palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, we could call Alpha the space-time origin of exergy (probably the so-called Big Bang) and Omega the final unified emerging state of the universe. (I do mean "state" and not "point". This ultimate unification will occur at a given future time, but would probably encompass the whole universe itself.) This model does not imply that a god kicked the alpha and attracts us to the omega... but why not? At the bottom line of a complete picture of the universe, science and spirituality must be in agreement.

PS: Gravity seems to be a bump on the road to entropy... since it tends to aggregate things together, and to sediment solids from liquids, seemingly creating order. In case the universe lacks of momentum, gravity would make it end up in a Big Crunch, all would go back to the Alpha square one! Hopefully we got enough exergy and time to reach Omega, and a godly handshake.

Addenda 2016-07-25: After reading (at last!) Hawking "Brief History of Time", i understand that gravity represents negative exergy, so that the total exergy of the universe is always zero. During the spacial dilution of energy and matter, doubled by space-time expansion, a large share of the original exergy is transferred into gravitational potential exergy. I find dubious that that entropy would be already maximal when the universe will start to contract back again. I'm pretty sure we'll still have few more billion years to surf on the exergy waves and build further the pyramid!

Once again i found that illustrating entropy merely as "disorder" is misleading and limited. A blank hard-drive has more thermodynamic order than the one containing Beethoven's symphonies. One shouldn't confuse the levels of the emergence pyramid. Biological or aesthetic order are far beyond thermodynamics. In that sense, the so-called Theory of Everything would be humbly relevant only to the bottom of the pyramid.

PPS: Vincent Mignerot summarizes (in French) ideas from François Roddier and Eric Chaisson, and pessimistically proposes that emergence is only a mean to creates structures able to destroy exergy even faster. Hmmm.. maybe yes. Then it's a race: I use you to grow up, you use me to blow up.

L'article a été mis sur Facebook ici.

Idea: Universe creation framework

I've been thinking for a couple of years how the ideal creation framework could look like. Of course it depends on the type of creation. In my case, I would like to combine and interweave:

  • Drawings and paintings representing places, events, characters
  • Music, for various places or contexts
  • Texts and poems, describing places, stories, feelings
  • Cooking recipes, technology descriptions

The main building material would be the drawings, forming full-pages of visual environment. On these drawings there would be some URL links. Some would lead to other connected pages (moving to a nearby area, zooming into a particular region, zooming-out to the upper level), while some others would link to content, such as music or recipes, open in popup windows.

In practice, the universe creation would very simple:

  1. Upload a full-page drawing.
  2. Write a text narrative besides it.
  3. Put tags on it like in facebook, with URL linking to content (mp3, pdf, etc.) or to other pages.

The advantage of such framework is to aggregate the creative content into an interconnected system, that can grow organically from any of its parts! The visitor becomes an explorer who somehow interacts with the universe by choosing where to go and what to look at. It is inspired by the RPG-adventure video game style (Zelda, Final Fantasy, etc.).

Ideally, the framework would also feature comment threads on each page to let the visitors give feedback.

Now, comparing to what is available: Facebook allows to easily upload pictures and very intuitively place tags on it, but only to identify peoples. If those tags could contain any URL, that would do it! But no... DotClear allows pages in WHTML format with comments, but the width seems limited to the blog page, and placing the tag on the picture would be difficult...

Any other software suggestions to enable this creative boom? Thanks!


Quelques calligraphies

L'année dernière, voyant que j'avais particulièrement plaisir à écrire le chinois, je me suis offert pinceau et encre, et quelques paquets de feuilles mal imprimées du bureau ont permis de compléter l'équipement ! Cette année pour Têt, j'ai calligraphié le nom de chaque employé, et en voici des extraits choisis:

阮 correspond à l'omniprésent "Nguyễn"
禮 a servi à traduire mon nom (Mattithyahû: "don de Yaweh": 天禮)
神 a servi à traduire le nom "Michel" (Michael: "qui est comme Dieu?": 谁如神?)

Verdi - Dies Irae (triptyque)

L'idée de triptyque me trotte depuis longtemps, il s'agit de combiner une musique, une image et un texte.
Ici la musique est déjà prête, tirée du Requiem de Verdi :

Continue reading...

Monitor Lizard

Mon patron m'a récemment donné un nouveau rôle qui se résume en un mot : "Monitoring".
Je m'occuperai de toutes les phases opérationnelles de nos projets, phases durant lesquelles on doit s'assurer du bon suivi des performances pour pouvoir réclamer en bonnes et dues formes les précieux certificats de réduction d'émission carbone.

Comme pour moi la clarté du sens passe par la clarté du visuel, un bon modèle c'est un bon diagramme, un bon concept c'est un bon logo ! Voici donc le sceau qui résume mon job.

Couleur "teal" sur fond indigo, cette créature est à mi chemin entre un dragon chinois et un bon gros "monitor lizard" comme on en a vu à l'île de Tioman en Malaisie. Des gros lézards dont certains grattent le sol pour attraper des insectes, et d'autres lézardent sur un rocher au soleil avant de plonger dans l'eau pour jouer les techniciens de surfaces. J'aime particulièrement leurs pattes avant avec les coudes vers l'extérieur qui leur donnent un air gaillard "pom-podom ouais c'est moi".