Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Clepsydra

It looks like I became a character in a comic book!

Last year, I gave a talk in Basel, invited by the "Nature Addicts Fund". I spoke about several subjects, but one that seems to have had an impact was my description of how complex systems tend to dissipate energy potentials as fast as possible. I used the metaphor of the "hourglass," based on the "Self-Organized Criticality" model developed by Per Bak and others. A model that explains a lot of how and why collapses occur.

You can find a document about the whole Basel meeting at this link. Below, the two pages dealing with my talk. Note that they use the beautiful name of "clepsydra" for an object normally called "hourglass". Literally, clepsydra means "thief of water" and it refers to ancient water clocks.

To read the text below, enlarge the images by clicking on them.


  1. Just an aside, on the pictures you chose...

    I was thinking about demonstrations and protest marches.

    90% of the energy of people who "oppose the system" goes into organising demonstrations...

    I can understand the idea of lots of people marching on the enemy headquarters and taking it over (see Russia 1917, Iran 1979, etc).

    Then I can also understand why people of the same idea find it fun to get together, take a walk through town shouting, laughing and enjoying themselves. As long as they recognise this has nothing to do with politics, power, etc.

    On a third level, I can imagine a ritual of deambulatory magic, on the model of knocking down the walls of Jericho in the Bible. If you walk enough miles, shout loud enough, then impossible things may happen. I like the idea, but the people that do it should at least believe in it, otherwise it might not work!

  2. Many years ago I got of work at midnight is downtown San Francisco, usa, and walked out into a riot. The protest start with a peaceful but angry group who were largely gay and lesbian. This was long before the transgender thing was on anyone's radar. It ended with a full scale riot of every disenfranchised person in the city. My brain remembers the police goose stepping up the road. I'm sure they were just doing normal riot control. It was a grain of sand all started with one too many Twinkies consumed by one upset policeman who just had to walk into city hall and shoot two people. One who happened to be gay. No telling how many ripples came out of the riot over San Whites "conviction".



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014). His most recent book is "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017)