Who is Mars Joh. Pictor Florifulgurator?

Portrait des Meisters im selbstgemalten Anzug (ca. 1999)
[· Portrait of the Master in Selfpainted Suit ·]
(© Martin Gisser ca. 1999)

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I am not Jupiter Fulgurator (the lighning bolt throwing god). Florifulgurator means “Man fulgurating flowers”, fulguratio being emergence in Konrad Lorenz’ language.

Once in pre-Internets age I got named Florifundator by my friend Glorionestus Vastarius von Teisenberg…

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Dianthus Deltoides, wild and cultivar
Dianthus deltoides: Wild (pink) and cultivar (red). Dunno if the busy bumble bee brought in the genes of the wild one – or perhaps it just back-fulgurated from the cultivar. The wild one is much more beautiful and blooms longer. The cultivar is missing the characteristic white spots. A typical product of Homo S “Sapiens”. Why do they produce and sell such BS? (Update: Blume des Jahres 2012)

I don’t actually fulgurate flowers. I let them fulgurate by providing them opportunities to do so. Same goes with brain stuff.

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I learned the term “fulguratio” from Konrad Lorenz’ charming book Behind the Mirror: A Search for a Natural History of Human Knowledge (1973). At least the German original is a charming read. Excerpt:

Theistic philosophers and mystics in the Middle Ages invented the term fulguratio to denote the act of creation. By an etymological accident or perhaps through deeper, unsuspected associations, this term is far more appropriate than … for designating the coming into existence of something previously not there. If for example, two independent systems are coupled together … entirely new, unexpected system characteristics will emerge of whose appearance there was previously not the slightest suggestion.

Lorenz then illustrates this with coupling a coil and a capacitor to “fulgurate” an oscillator. Well, that’s perhaps not a perfect example, since the oscillator’s characteristics are to be expected from the theory of electrodynamics.

In his famous article “More is Different” (1972) P.W. Anderson gives some more elaborate examples… Here is a paper giving a mathematically rigorous example: “More is Really Different” (2008). Quote:

The question of whether some macroscopic laws may be fundamental statements about nature or may be deduced from some ‘theory of everything’ remains a topic of debate among scientists [S. Weinberg, R.B. Laughlin]. In this article we strengthen Anderson’s claims by proving that standard notions of reductionism cannot generally hold in a widely studied class of collective systems, the infinite square Ising lattice. We show that for a large class of macroscopic observables, including many of physical interest, the value of those observables is formally undecidable, i.e., cannot generally be computed from the fundamental interactions in the lattice.

Stuart A. Kauffman also makes the case for emergence (in the strong resp. ontologic sense) . He has a short essay, “Beyond reductionism: Reinventing the sacred” (2006) and a similarly titled book (2008), not yet read (like many others) — I will come back to this in a different part of this blog.

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2 Responses to Who is Mars Joh. Pictor Florifulgurator?

  1. Leroy says:

    Hi,

    Very interesting topic, emergence. I also like the rigid approach of Mario Bunge. Will you write more about this topic?

    Leroy

    • Hi Leroy,
      thanks for reminding me of Mario Bunge. Alas I haven’t yet read anything of him. I guess I should at least have a look at his book Emergence and Convergence.

      Other must-reads that I haven’t read yet:
      * Harold Morowitz: The emergence of everything: How the world became complex (2002).
      * Ilya Prigogine, Isabelle Stengers: Order out of Chaos: Man’s new dialogue with nature. (1984)

      A book on emergence that I actually did read is Robert B. Laughlin: A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down (2005).

      It’s a bit too chatty for my taste (and the German translation didn’t make it better) and has a smack of the typical physicist’s arrogance. (Well, he got that Nobel prize. Some physicists say that was mostly luck… – indeed his ignorant climate essay suggests he’s a 2nd rate thinker, prone to the Dunning–Kruger effect. (Reactions here.))

      From P.W. Anderson’s review of Laughlin’s book:

      For many years I have thought that a book such as this should be written, and have been urged to write it myself. I didn’t do so, and couldn’t possibly have written one as suited as this is for its target audience. A Different Universe is a book about what physics really is; it is not only unique, it is an almost indispensable counterbalance to the recent proliferation of books by Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking and their fellows, who promulgate the idea that physics is a science predominantly of deep, quasi-theological speculations about the ultimate nature of things.

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