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A case of Brinkmanship?

  1. Apr 3, 2004 #1
    I have a question that I am sure is easy to answer.

    I am looking for a word used to describe a state of Teetering or Brinkmanship.


    Trying to balance a sharpened pencil on it's tip. The pencil is always teetering.

    Paying golf, the ball in flight is always suseptable to any wind changes etc...( damn that wind)

    A rocket is fired to travel 1,000,000 light years but ends up 10,000 light years off course because a small meteorite hit is 1000 kms into it's journey.

    A pendulum on a string swings to it's highest point and at this point neither wants to go up or down.

    I am sure you get the drift of what I'm looking for.

    I've been calling this effect a "Teetering" point in that the object is constantly in a state of potential movement.

    Any ideas???? :confused: :wink: :cool:
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2004 #2


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    There are several terms for the kind of thing you describe. "Sensitive dependence on initial conditions" - one of the characteristics of Chaos - is one of them. Instability is another.

    And in special circumstances they use a term very close to your "teetering"; they say "tipping point". When you pile up a sand hill grain by grain, the sides of it will be stable for a time, but finally when you add the next grain, the side will collapse in an avalanch. That is the tipping point.
  4. Apr 3, 2004 #3
    I may be confusing myself here, but:

    On the molecular level I believe these are called zero point energy fluctuations. These fluctuations produce a "jittering" effect (Zitterbewegung is the offical name for it I think). This probably just applies to particles on the quantum level (like the atoms on the tip of the pencil), and probably not something like a golf ball in flight.

    I guess maybe it could also be viewed as a state of equilibrium. It is stable until certain conditions affect it, thus causing the equilibrium to shift to a different position.
  5. Apr 3, 2004 #4
    could a global statement like

    "The universe is in a constant state of "teetering", "tipping over", verging on instability"

    To me it suggests that the universe is extremely "reactive". Maybe this is stating the self evident.

    Cause and effect is a reactive state but I question just how reactive?

    Could a value be given? Infinitely reactive.......finitely reactive?
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