Monthly Archives: August 2009

Chaos, Order, Randomness, and Determinacy

Amazing what some tweet about on Twitter.

I was having a somewhat esoteric discussion with @LLiu that started with a tweet he sent out.  @DavidPae said he wanted to see whose theory is right by proof and to share our hypotheses.  I took the challenge.


First, context.  Here is a transcript of our tweets.

@LLiu: "The simple willingness to improvise is more vital, in the long run, than research." – Rolf Potts [Don’t stop asking if u don’t understand!]

@SlkRck: Nice adage, but reality is different.

@LLiu: “How so?” Research w/o implementation & continuous improvement is just ideas. So much value trapped in MSR!

@SlkRck: Potts favored improvisation over research. Think of how that would scale….can you say CHAOS?

@LLiu: Discoveries/innovations/revolutions result from chaos, not order. Only those in power would prefer order. Progress = managed chaos.

@SlkRck: The Law of Entropy disagrees with you 😉 What you describe (e.g. discoveries, innovations) is serendipity, not chaos

@LLiu:  Chaos is essential 2serendipity -ppl need 2meet randomly, stumble upon new thoughts & ideas, & be stimulated by others around them. no, my pt is that true progress arises from empowering/leveraging chaos vs enforcing order.

@SlkRck: Progress is methodical, not random. Random != Chaos.

@LLiu: "Progress is methodical, not random." – Edison-style brute force can only go so far. Discoveries like penicillin cannot be planned.

@SlkRck: “YES, but pencillin discovery wasnt CHAOS, it *was* random. Again– Random != Chaos.

@LLiu: agreed, but I’d say Randomness:Determinacy == Chaos:Order. Hence, chaos is essential to randomness.


Next, let the proof begin.

First, definitions: 

Chaos:  1)any confused or disorderly collection or state of things;2) Mathematics A dynamical system that has a sensitive dependence on its initial conditions

Random: 1)Of or relating to an event in which all outcomes are equally likely;2)Mathematics & Statistics Of or relating to a type of circumstance or event that is described by a probability distribution.

Determinacy: 1) The quality or condition of being determinate; 2) The condition of being determined or characterized.

Order: 1)A condition of logical or comprehensible arrangement among the separate elements of a group; 2)A condition of methodical or prescribed arrangement among component parts such that proper functioning or appearance is achieved


Each time one rolls a pair of dice, the outcome is random.  All outcomes are equally likely.  I could say that the condition has been determined; it is already assured that you will get a 1/12 change of getting snake-eyes—or any other combination.  Therefore, Randomness can be the same as Determinacy in some situations.  By definition, chaos is the complete opposite of order.  So, what does that have to do with our discussion?

Improvising suggests that one makes do from whatever is available, without previous planning.  Research suggests that one studies thoroughly so as to present in a detailed, accurate manner.  Improvising takes no thought or care as to accuracy or order, the opposite of research.  The willingness to improvise, as the saying goes, is more valuable in the long run, than research.

A discovery that is revealed during research is not random.  Discoveries happen randomly but the act of doing research will result in a discovery of some sort.  The discovery of penicillin happened because Fleming noticed something during RESEARCH.  And then RESEARCHED it some more.

Research is methodical.  It is a process by which truth can be found.  It is not random, but planned; hence—orderly. 

Randomness is simply a distribution of things have happened.   It matters not what its initial conditions are, and thus is characterized by that fact.  Randomness and Determinacy go hand in hand, unlike Chaos and Order which are the antithesis of each other. 


That is enough to get the debate going.  This is my proof.

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Airlines are Evil

One would think that airlines would be more helpful these days seeing how badly they have fared over the last several years.  It has been my experience (even recently) that airline are becoming more and more callous to their patrons.  They charge now for things for which they used to not charge, for example.  This past trip to Houston accentuated this and is now embellished forever in my mind.

I purchased a ticket for Houston for which I would return in two weeks.  The project was shortened and I only needed to stay one week.  I figured that I would simply fly standby and hopefully get home earlier.  Upon calling the airline to get on the standby list, the customer service agent told me that I would have to go to the airport to be put on the list.  Furthermore, there would be a $50 fee for being put on the list!  WHAT?!!  Oh wait, she says…your ticket isn’t qualified for standby, she says.


Because your flight doesn’t leave until August 7.  You can only fly standby on the day of your original departure.  You will have to *change* your ticket.

How much is that?

$150 plus any change in airfare.

How much would it be for me to change my ticket?  She starts typing madly on her keyboard and says,


But, say I—I only paid $328 for this ticket.  How can a change cost me more than the price I paid?

It’s $150 for the change, plus the difference.

So you are telling me that the difference is $273 between the new fare and what I paid?


But..a new ticket is cheaper than that.

That is correct.  I would recommend you purchase a new ticket, rather than change your existing ticket.

sigh…ok…so.  Can I redeem the unflown portion for a flight credit?

Yes, sure.  You have $128….oh…it wouldn’t be worth it.

What? Why not?

Because I will charge you $150 to apply your unflown portion.


yes, because it is bascially a “change”.

At this point I stop asking questions, bend over, and let her have my credit card number.  All I want to know is:  when do *I* get a bail out?

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