Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review by Todd I. Stark, 12/22/08

I've followed Jim Brody's forum for a number of years and remain fascinated by his unique and profound insights into the human condition. Although I find that his ideas are too rich to capture in a single book like this, it does give the flavor very well. I don't always end up agreeing with his ideas but they never fail to intrigue me and make me think deeply.

Brody's thought provoking comparisons between phenomena at various levels from mathematics and physics through animal and human behavior and group behavior reveal the grand unity of nature in a way that scientific explanations rarely mange to capture. His view of evolution has only a little in common with the usual treatment, often focusing on the way organisms take an active role in the construction of the environments to which they adapt and emphasizing our commonality with fruit flies as much as with apes. This doesn't excuse us from understanding our biological legacy, (on the contrary, it makes it all the more important) and it does change the rules by which we have often applied evolutionary theory to human beings. He then applies these kind of unique insights to the dramas of everyday real life.

This is a much needed and often brilliantly narrated picture of human life as part of the grand picture of nature arising over the eons, using the modern storytelling tools of mathematics and biology rather than those of ancient mythology.

Take a rare glimpse into the fascinating richness of the human soul as part of nature and treat yourself to this fascinating journey. I reccommend this book to anyone interested in human biology and psychology and wanting something really special to sink their mental teeth into.

It would be hard to read this book and come away seeing yourself and the people around you in quite the same way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rebellion: Putting a Frame on Neodarwinism

"New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment." Address on the 25th anniversary of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft, 10/11 January 1936. Quoted in Macrakis, Kristie Surviving the Swastika: Scientific Research in Nazi Germany(Oxford, 1993) (

1) The Selfish Gene got it backwards. Dawkins accepted Tennyson's metaphor of "tooth and claw," expressed W. D. Hamilton's ideas in plain language, worked in synchrony with Hawk and Dove fans, and reinforced the image of selfishness "learning" cooperation. (Irony: all of this happened despite tenuous degrees of kinship between the investigators!)An alternative view is that synchrony between similar players springs from particle physics, builds emergent networks, that natural things self-organize, and that "genes" are a tool that follows the same rules as everything else!

2) Strogatz (2003) and Barabási (2002)changed the order of things: that is, "cooperation" is spontaneous, found not only in elementary particle physics but also between clock pendulums. Yoshiki Kuramoto talked about fields of oscillators and the rules - similarity and mutual influence - by which they move into synchrony with each other without reference to genes: he, thus, up-ended evolutionary theory! (Bryan Daniels has a demonstration of synchrony between pendulums: it will unnerve you. Please take 10 minutes to look at it: Also read Chapters 2 and 3 in Brody, 2008.

3) Sober & Wilson (1998) didn't go far enough in their ideas about group selection. Neither do Wilson and Holldobler, 2005, when they recognize the selective advantages of "superorganisms."

4) Kuramoto's model leads to mass action, it also leads to individuation when slight differences exist between oscillators and they break into local fields of synchrony. Specialization, clustering, and focus line up with local opportunities. Emergent organizations are stabilized by the individualists within them and by those same individualists led to new opportunities. (Progressives take notice!)

5) Natural selection becomes important when resources are limited: variation diminishes in ways that are relevant to resource access. Winner-take-all (WTA) emerges in network organization (Barabasi, 2002; Csermely, 2006).. So do swarms, so do socialists!

6) Kuramoto's ideas should predict oscillation between WTA and Scale free as a function of resources. For example: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had computer mainframes, designed by a single company, that annoyed anyone who sat at a terminal. Personal computers appeared at outrageous prices in the late '70s but, despite their costs, became immediately popular. They had to talk to the mainframe but they also could do a hell of a lot more, not in terms of volume but personal choice. The contest between computer mainframe and PCs replay the contests that Hayek (1994) describes between traditional and contemporary liberalism, between progressivism and conservatism. (Pinker, 2002, traced this contest back 2000 years! Something fundamental must lie beneath it and possibly at levels that are below genes.) Swarms are a response to scarce resources, invaders, disease, and climatic changes - conditions that also make us more vulnerable to the claims of madmen.


1) Genes are a way to achieve certain outcomes in particle physics.

2) Bianconi and Barabasi(2000) applied Bose statistics to emergent networks and found three stages. Bose-Einstein statistics allow of molecular fusing so that large numbers of bosons act as if they were one. (There may be limits to how many socialists - if they were fermions - can be put into a room. On the other hand, there is no limit to the number of socialists who can hold identical opinions. Take away their money and the ideas of socialists become bosons! These possibilities may allow use of a different math for study of social changes...especially in regard to resources, invasions, droughts, famines, heat, radiation, poisons.)

4) Orphan data challenge traditional neodarwinism: monozygotic twins should compete ferociously with each other for limited parental resources. They do the opposite (Segal, 1999). Also: similarity rules mating: characteristics with greater heritability - including psychopathology - are more likely to show up in good friends and in married couples. Clusters of peculiar people emerge. Also: cooperation springs freely between all sorts of unlikely organizations. For example, my house and I push and pull each other with the seasons.

5) Individuals (weak links) are the stabilizers and guides for the swarms around them. Individualism is essential for collectivism to survive.


Universes fail to emerge if they do not operate according to Kuramoto's ideas about synchrony. Or I'm mad...

Barabási, A-L (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks. NY: Perseus.
Bianconi, G. & Barabási, A-L (2000) Bose-Einstein condensation in complex networks. arXiv:cond-mat/0011224 v1 13 Nov 2000.
Bianconi G (2002) Quantum statistics in complex networks. ArXiv cond-mat/0206433 v2 13 Sep 2002.
Brody J (2008) Rebellion: Physics to Personal Will. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.
Csermely P (2006) Weak Links: Stabilizers of Complex Systems from Proteins to Social Networks. NY: Springer.
Daniels, Bryan C. (2005) Synchronization of globally connected nonlinear oscillators: the rich behavior of the Kuramoto model. Physics Department: Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio. Demo at
Dawkins R (1976/1989) The Selfish Gene. New York: Oxford.
Hayek FA (1944/1994) The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press. (See also Goldberg J, 2007, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. NY: Doubleday.)
Garas, Antonios, Panos Argyrakis, and Shlomo Havlin (2008) The structural role of strong and weak links in a financial network. arXiv 0805.2477v1 [], May 16.
Kuramoto Y (1984/2003) Chemical Oscillations, Waves, and Turbulence. Orig: Springer. Reprint - NY: Dover.
Pinker S (2002) The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. NY: Viking.
Segal N (1999) Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior. NY: Dutton.
Segal N & Hershberger S (1999) Cooperation and competition in adolescent twins: Findings from a Prisoner's Dilemma game. Evolution and Human Behavior. 20(1), 29-51.
Sober E. & Wilson DS (1998) Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Strogatz S (2003) Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. NY: Hyperion.
Wilson EO & Hölldobler B (2005) Eusociality: Origin and consequences. Proceedings National Academy of Science, September 20, 102(38), 13367-13371. Published online before print September 12, 2005, 10.1073/pnas.0505858102.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rebellion: Chapter Summaries

Rebellion's 1st Quarter: From Numbers to Stubbornness

I mentioned to an Indian gentleman of my generation that aspects of statistical physics are part of his common sense and, for that matter, underlie it.
He seemed startled: "How can that be?"
"You are immersed in the same rules that manage the stars. Statistical physics appears to be tough because of all the squiggles that people invent. Einstein had a rough time with gravity but, most of the time, you and I handle gravity just fine. Physicists, after all, complicate nature to the point they no longer understand her."

Nature's shelters give physicists and psychologists their most interesting set of problems and solutions. Physicists must abandon common sense in order to describe peculiarities such as quantum phenomena; psychologists, on the other hand, find common sense itself to be peculiar because they neglect the events studied by physicists, chemists, and biologists.
Regardless of a Designer, there are designs.
That is, some parts of physics are so woven into your nature that, when noticed, you will find them obvious, comfortable, and dependable unless you happen to be a physicist! Your common sense—things that you do that were easy to learn, shared by most of your relatives, and difficult only when you try to resist—rests in principles that also guide water to become ice or steam or that infl uence two pendulums to move as one. Your experience of ambivalence, confusion, danger, and even the different roles taken by the average woman or man closely overlap with the behavior of phase transitions, oscillations, synchrony, emergent networks, and exploratory systems … all familiar things with strange names. Eventually, the match between the physics in your mind and that in your universe draws your notice as surely as a flame draws a moth. We study Mother and reflect back to her what we see and she gains self-awareness through her children.
1. To Do or Not To Do: Most of the time, you use instinct, emotions, and logic to complicate or to simplify what you do. When bored, you take on tough projects, needy partners, and a stray cat; when overloaded, you abandon responsibilities, mates, children, and finally that cat. You also, if you are wise, enjoy intervals of "maybe" when you consider a choice between bad or good, fast or thorough; notice the separation between yesterday and tomorrow; and appreciate, ignore, or complain about a member of the opposite sex.
2. Sync: You Do My Thing and I Do Yours. If two pendulums tick at the same instant, they are in " ." Sync describes partnerships between electrical generators, connections between transistors. It applies, also, to the chirps of cricket and flashing lights of fireflies, and, surprisingly, to the resonance that exists between two lovers, renters and apartments, artists and paintings, or singers and audiences. Sync may even be a string that holds up the yo-yo known as ambivalence and sync could have been the driver in evolutionary theory if Charles had watched clocks instead of birds!
3. Emergent Networks: Life Organizes in a Tinker-Toy Way. Statistical physicists discovered emergent networks , sociologists adopted them, and you can now spot networks in parlor games, professional sports, and the clusters of gossips on the evening news. Emergent networks exist in societies of termites, dolphins, movie actors, or scientists. They also occur in the organization of one cell, in clumps of neurons, or in your vocabulary , obsessions, hallucinations, and demonic possessions. Animism lives again but wears a lab coat.
2nd Quarter: The Pattern-Maker— Are Made to Read!
You run your life by the same exploratory tactics that led to flies and film stars. That is, your left cortex handles routines, your right organizes novelty. You expect averages but are drawn to particular arrangements known as power laws . You also have some African refinements to your common sense that guide your friendships, marriage, and sense of beauty, and—contrary to popular scientific belief—the brain was made to read!
4. Exploration : Keeping What You Have and Getting More. " system" applies to the growth of immune systems, neurons, blood vessels, suntans, muscles, and minds. Living organizations—including your brain—change size, detail, longevity, and toughness to match demands and opportunities in their settings. Exploratory system also describes the growth of children, vocabularies, and problem solving. Even parenting is an exploratory tactic. Evolution itself is one, whether seen in galaxies, jungles, or a flea infestation.
5.Harrison Bergeron: The Outside, the Average and the Outstanding. First, your attempts to solve a problem usually begin with putting your fingers in it. Further, your curiosity about " there" has always come before your curiosity about "here." Second, statistics in biology and psychology reflect your comfort with average things even if you seldom find them. Third, many characteristics that you assume to fall within a bell curve simply do not. You not only encounter but are drawn to dynamic organizations that are described by power laws: indeed, you are one such arrangement. You evolved according to power laws and you notice and make collections—whether of concepts, theories, or an album of stamps—that fit them. Your work, whether as a mom, teacher, or physician, requires you to spend eighty percent of your time on twenty percent of your problems. Your preferences for truth and beauty also lead to assemblies that are not random but emergent, and power laws might be the stage crew for a work by Seurat, Brahms, or Joyce. They also may be the unseen lens through which you judge the match between you and a prospective mate.
6. Common Sense : Humans and other primates left each other during the last ice age, the Pleistocene, which started roughly two million years ago and ended about 11,000 years ago. Brains and social organizations grew in sync with each other as your ancestors became taller, ran longer distances, lost hair, and became physically weaker but more clever. You still enjoy most the " Fs of fighting, fleeing, feeding, and reproduction" but now you do them with greater imagination and more varied companions, toys, and results. In Loren Eiseley's memorable phrase, "… a Devonian fish managed to end as a two-legged character with a straw hat." (Eiseley, 1957, 47–48)
3rd Quarter: Genes, Sync , and Disputes
The next three chapters first introduce you to twins and to the idea that you are one. Second, there are rebellions, even prenatal ones, against your parents, siblings, friends, and those strange people next door. Third, the spats between your parents split you up your middle and for all of your life. Fourth, biographical material becomes prominent in Rebellion, including the story of a young Jewish woman in northern Italy who counted cells on microscope slides while the Nazis hunted for her in the daytime and the English bombed her town at night!
7. We're All Twins reviews identical twins and non twin siblings. Your mirror shows a tiled variation of your parents and grandparents. You may remember them best as they were in their thirties and forties and discover your twinship with them when you reach your own thirties and forties. When you glimpse what you became, you see aspects of what they were. When you see how they are, you find hints about what you might become. When you rear your child, you often meet a twenty-five percent copy of your father or mother as they were at the same age.
8. Conceived to Rebel. Children are not "born to rebel" but do so from conception. That is, the birth order effects that Frank Sulloway attributed to conflicts between siblings may have their onset in the peculiar prenatal events of genomic imprinting. Some of your mother's and father's genes arm-wrestle before you are born and influence how much she spends on you and how much she saves for your next sibling's use. It could be that her running out of assets that defend her tends to make later siblings, especially sons, more impulsive and, therefore, more rebellious.
9. Your Divided Self looks at your internal squabbles that fill your mind while you wait in traffic or at a diner's counter for your roast beef, canned gravy, and mashed potatoes. That is, the templates from your mother sometimes do not get along with those from your father and you relive your parents' sync . It is possible for you to act like your half of one parent in order to infuriate your half of the other one!
4th Quarter: Regression, Suicide , and Free Won't
In different ways and to different extents, after mating's psychosis goes away, while your skin wrinkles and your nose and earlobes sag, preadolescent quests again fill your thoughts. Second, you not only collect assets but also trim waste, including sometimes yourself when you lose your connections to the future. Finally, your personal will is a curse and a protector, a demon and a seducer, a restraint and an inspiration.
10. Old Dogs, Young Tricks highlights the tendency for many of us in old age to return to the pursuits of preadolescence. You were one twin of yourself until your fifteenth birthday but a hormone made you, for the next twenty years, a different twin of yourself. As you approach age thirty-fi ve, madness wanes. You rediscover your own versions of "more whiskey, faster horses, and younger women," and pursue them if you have a little "money."
11. Suicide and Apoptosis: Mother said, "No." explores suicide as a decision that comes from within rather than a reaction to something outside. Suicide is another example of how human lives repeat strategies that nature uses elsewhere: assemble lots of materials and later cut away anything that has not found a purpose. Furthermore, suicide may compensate not only for having too little but also for having too much talent.
12. Free Won't finds personal will to be inevitable and addictive, both a cross that you carry and a wine that you sip. Every one us applies his or her unique combination of talents and liabilities from parents and grandparents. Such is true for the residents of an asylum, a great scientist, or for a small town seeker, one who, surrounded by traditionalists, questions whatever she is told! Like these individualists, you find your own opportunities and temptations. You also discover that you have many chances for success, not just the desk where you now park your feet.

rebellion is now available through Barnes and Noble and will soon be listed by Amazon, Borders, and other major retailers.
There are also approximately 1500 posts on topics in evolutionary psychology, behavior genetics, emergent networks, and current events at

Saturday, March 22, 2008

rebellion: Intended Audience

Rebellion’s first half describes events in the physical sciences that make the stage, curtains, drops, and spots for the scripts of you commonsense. Its second half works from behavior genetics into the absolute necessity for nonconformity, skepticism, and individualism. While most scientific books lay out theories about similarity,this one finds that our particular universe features—and possibly thrives on—variation! This variation, whether in solar systems or in humans who shout “don’t tell me what to do!” may be seen as “noise” or as the most interesting ingredient in whatever it is that we have here. Thus, Rebellion’s cover features schematics of emergent networks, it also features the tattoo of a phoenix between the shoulder blades of a young girl, one who, in her words, gets knocked down a lot and needs a reminder to get back up as herself.

I have also tried here to keep three audiences awake: those of you who a)insist on freedom in a rule-governed universe, b) offer help to your children, students, parishioners, and clients but want an outlook consistent with natural laws, or c) are in school and need to find a thesis topic! Rebellion, therefore, must have some practicality, anchored both to common sense and to research. Those of you who want more of the former will find many suggestions that are embedded in the text; those of you who want more scientific evidence will find that many paths start here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

rebellion: Availability

Available now from Barnes & Noble:

And from Amazon:

And from Borders:

$21.95 if you pay sticker...several discounters available...

rebellion table of contents

Foreword xi
Preface xiii
Acknowledgements xv
Introduction to Your Life’s Story xvii
1st Quarter: Your Cradle, from Numbers to Stubbornness 1
Chapter One Phase Transitions: To Do or Not to Do 5
Chapter Two Sync: You Do My Thing and I Do Yours 20
Chapter Three Emergent Networks: Life Organizes in a Tinker-Toy Way 37
2nd Quarter: Pattern-Makers—Brains Are Made to Read 57
Chapter Four Exploration: Keeping What You Have and Getting More 61
Chapter Five Harrison Bergeron: The Outside, the
Average, and the Outstanding 80
Chapter Six Common Sense 96
3rd Quarter: Chosen Environments: Sync, and Disputes 113
Chapter Seven We’re All Twins 117
Chapter Eight Conceived to Rebel 137
Chapter Nine Your Divided Self 152
4th Quarter: Old Dogs, Suicide, and Free Won’t 169
Chapter Ten Old Dogs, Young Tricks 173
Chapter Eleven Suicide and Apoptosis: Mother Said "No" 187
Chapter Twelve Free Won’t 207
Trusted Sources and Notes 223
Bibliography 239
About the Author 277
Index 279

Epigraph: rebellion: physics to personal will

“One exists in a universe convincingly real, where the lines are sharply
drawn in black and white. It is only later, if at all, that one realizes the lines
were never there in the first place…a blink at the right moment may do
it, an eye applied to a crevice, or the world seen through a tear. Then, to
most of us, the lines reassert themselves, reality steadies out. It is better so.
Every now and then, however, there comes an experience so troubling
that the kaleidoscope never quite shifts back to where it was. One must
then simply deny the episode or adjust one’s vision.” Loren Eiseley (1975)
All the Strange Hours: The Excavation of a Life. NY: Scribners, 105