Reflecting on those lonely days

Many years ago, I came across a famous quote of Albert Einstein’s that has since stuck in my mind:

My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a “lone traveler” and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude.

From my earliest days to well into my thirties, I often felt achingly lonely, an oddball.  Einstein was my childhood idol.  It was his life story that inspired me to start down the road of becoming a physicist.  His self-description as a “lone traveler” was  solace for me.  I used to hope that one day I’d grow up to be as special and singular a figure as Einstein.  (No lack of ambition there, eh?)

Part of growing up for me is to accept that I am no Einstein (nor even a journeyman physicist for that matter).  A side effect of  self-acceptance:  I no longer feel so lonely.   I am really like the people around me. I’m also so blessed to have the love of family and friends who accept me for who I am, in spite of  my unrealized ambitions.

Deep Simplicity and Iterations

I’ve been reading Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity by John Gribbin. I was hoping to glean more insight into the whole “levels of organization” problem
that has long fascinated me. I also used one of Gribben’s examples of
what many call a “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” to use my
computer to plot the results. I was considering using Matplotlib / pylab – matlab style python plotting (plots, graphs, charts) but instead used Excel, which did the job fine.

What was the task in question? It was to iterate the function 2x^2-1,
where x is in between -1 and 1, to see how even a small change in an
initial x leads to diverging values as we go through the iterations.
That is, the small differences are magnified by the feedback loop of
iteration. (I know that the last two sentences are not terribly well
written alas….)

Besides getting to play with mathematically oriented computation, did I
actually glean any more insight about why there seem to be distinct
levels of organization in our cosmos? I don’t know. At first, I was
going to write that the sensitive dependence on initial conditions can
give rise to boundaries — but I can’t say such a statement makes any
sense to me. Hmmm….back to the mental drawing board.