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Sep18-03, 07:46 AM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,641
Understanding the Science of 'Sync' : Cornell Daily Sun

Originally posted by Integral (I think this may be an instance of the syncing phenomena)
I read the article (thanks Ivan,
more than usually interesting to
me) and your well expressed obser-
vation of the tendency of drivers
to "clump" when there is no obvi-
ous cause for it (like traffic
lights), and thought about it.

Chroot, accurately I believe, has
pointed to herding tendencies to
explain the traffic "clumps".
This makes me wonder how far the
authors of the book are willing
to go when it comes to human
psychology and their Science Of
Spontaneous Order
? Is the herd
mentality accounted for by their

Strictly speaking I think the
traffic situation that would fall
squarely into their "Science Of
Spontaneous Order" would be one in
which all the cars on the road
inexplicably sought out the mean
point between the car in front and
the car behind them. This would
result in a situation where traf-
fic would always be observed to
be seeking regular spacing of the
vehicles at play at any given

But if they embrace exclusively
psychological phenomena as also
falling into their "Science", then
the urge to herd is an example of
what they're talking about.

I see a potential problem with the
whole thing, also for psycholog-
ical reasons, but at a different
level: Order is often in the eye
of the beholder. Some would say
the traffic is in chaos untill
all red cars are clumped together.
Others would require all Hondas
to be driving in the same direct-
ion at any given time, never in
both directions at once. A third
might require that all six-cyl-
inder vehicles must pass every
four cylinder vehicle they happen
to overtake, and all eight
cylinder vehicles must pass all
four and six cylinder vehicles, in
order for "sync" to be said to

Integral saw "order" in irregular
clumping because statistically
there should probably have been
instances of regularly spaced cars
interspersed with the clumped
ones, which he did not observe.
Was this because a different
"order" (herd mentality) was gov-
erning the situation?

Is there, then, a way to distin-
guish what might constitute, I
hate to use this word, but nothing
else comes to mind, "objective"
order, from what we might call
"idiosynchratic" order?

Recall, if you will, the Feynman
story where he expresses mock
amazement at having spotted a
liscence plate: ARW 357, and says
something like "What were the
chances of that!!??, Of all the
plates, I happened to see THAT
one!" or words to that effect.

He was adressing a different issue
but I think it fits here as well,
because we always have to ask our-
selves if the order we percieve is
idiosynchratic to our own person-
ality, or if it is something we
could think of as (again, I'm not
happy with this word) "objective".

I am intrigued by this book, and
will see if the library has it.
(I'm leary of the choice of words
"Spontaneous Order", but I'm not
sure why. Maybe because it calls
the term "Spontaneous Human Com-
bustion" to mind.)