Principles of Nature: towards a new visual language
Wayne Roberts © 2003-2008

The sea - as a giant scale structure

A drop of water seems so insignificant, yet an ocean consists of 'conjoined drops' of water. As the Chinese proverb says, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (a saying which resonates with the same idea).

The excerpt which follows is from my book, Principles of Nature: towards a new visual language (W Roberts, 2003, p.25)

Consider a complex dynamical system like the sea . We can view this from a scale-structure perspective, and regard the ‘structural facet’ to be the surface form of waves and wavelets. The crests and troughs of waves literally are the result of adding up all of the myriad contributions made by the tiny forces upon (and applied by) all the trillions upon trillions of individual molecules of water that make up the ocean. We could never work out such a horrific calculation, but if we took a photo of the ocean surface at an instant in time , we could ‘see the answer as calculated for us by Nature’—in the precise form of crests and troughs frozen in the moment recorded by the camera. The net macroscopic form of the waves at any instant is the result of an astronomically large summation of countless microscopic (even infinitesimal) forces and momentums of water molecules, fish, the inertia of rocks and reefs, the churning of a ship’s propeller, etc. Nature does not accidentally ‘forget’ to add in the effect of even a single droplet of water… .
(W. Roberts, 2003, p.25)

Examples like these begin to convey a feeling for how Nature is so incredibly interconnected: the shape of the shorelines encompassing the ocean, the winds, the currents, the shape of the sea floor bed, and more... all these are in dynamic interaction and interconnection. The resultant macroscopic forms of waves and troughs represent a kind of scale structure—a gigantic 'continuum of integrations' or a taking-into-account of all contributing elements and forces (no matter how small or large). The macroscopic effects and forms reflect this 'super-inclusiveness'.

Thought-experiments concerning water and flow?

Zeroing-in upon a single water molecule (H20), it seems it may be an interesting geo-marine experiment [in extending Einstein's (and others') work on Brownian motion], if we could somehow safely 'tag' or uniquely identify individual molecules of water (without affecting their geometry, weight, or behaviour) and have the ability to track them from vast distances. Imagine releasing hundreds or thousands of these (together at the same location and time) but also to repeat this at various locations (geological coordinates) around the world, and to then map their individual and collective paths within their new capacious oceanic 'homes'. How far might a single molecule of water travel? Is there a 'group pattern' which emerges? If so, might such patterns morph into other patterns after temporarily 'dissolving' (into apparently chaotic states)? Might such patterns and their dissolution or morphing into new patterns (motion paths, frequencies of molecular oscillations, evaporation, freezing, precipitation, passage through life forms, etc) contribute to a greater understanding of ecological interdependence and natural rhythms, allowing us to monitor and anticipate or even avert weather and other macro or micro changes that threaten certain species or ecosystems before these occur and while they are at a manageable or preventable level?

What new 'classes of dynamic patterning' (cf. a flock of birds flying and suddenly changing direction in unison) might be discovered in 'the journey of a water molecule' and could these relate to world and macroscopic weather effects? Might a path or new kinds of patterns and behaviours emerge when considered from a new perspective or paradigm? And how might such patterns vary according to geo-marine location, ambient temperature, and change over shorter or longer periods of time? Is there a loose or strong connection to other functions such as the seasons, temperature dynamics (rates of change) , El Niño activity, etc? Is there a 'tuning-in to a path', like a migrating bird, or does it meander and jiggle in an apparently random manner? If new patterns and understanding were to emerge from such questions, could these be used to help understand and better predict weather patterns?

Perhaps we could begin on a much smaller scale and under controlled conditions—in the laboratory— studying the behaviour of water molecules in contained distilled liquid form, in heterogeneous solutions (including dissolved salts, for example), in conditions of weightlessness, studying the orientation and motion of H20 molecules within droplet formation, and in the semi-regular spiral flow from a tap..

Perhaps some of this suggested experimentation has already been done (certainly I am aware of work in the study of El Niños, global warming from the 'greenhouse effect' etc) but I include this brief 'aside' here to challenge the reader to tune in to the broader topic of this document—universal interconnectedness as manifested in the many resonant scale structures of Nature. And to ask new questions arising from these principles, and applicable within their own fields of study.

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