19/01/2020

The critical mass and the catastrophe theory

In the field of sociology is called critical mass the amount of people from which a particular phenomenon occurs and acquires an own dynamic that allows it to hold itself and continue existing, even grow. This concept has its equivalent in physics, which considers the critical mass as the minimum amount of material needed to produce and maintain a nuclear chain reaction.

When a person stands on the street and looks skyward, usually nothing outstanding happens and the rest of the people continues its path, ignoring her. When three people stop and look at the sky, maybe some others look curiously for a moment before continuing with their own. But there is a certain number of people —in this case would depend on several factors such as culture where the scene takes place, weather or width of the street— which can make others stop and look skyward also.

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If a specific number of people look at the sky at the same time, they can get others to do the same —Image Unknown Author

Long time that disciplines such as biology, history, sociology or mathematics have been interested in the phenomenon, mainly because of its enormous capacity to generate lasting or permanent changes, as specified by the catastrophe theory, which shares field with the critical mass and was launched in the late 60s by the French mathematician René Thom and widespread later by the Christopher Zeeman studies, which applied it to the human sciences.

The catastrophe theory is especially useful for the study of dynamic systems that represent natural phenomena —whose characteristics can not be accurately described by the differential calculus— and represents the propensity of structurally stable systems to manifest discontinuity, divergence and hysteresis.

Discontinuity implies that in any system may occur sudden changes in behavior or outcome and then, at a certain point, is no longer possible to maintain the same state and undergoes an abrupt change.

Divergence is the tendency of small changes to produce big changes. If a plane can accommodate 100 passengers, a demand of 101 will motivate the need for a larger plane, and perhaps having to land at a different airport. In other words, very small variations in the starting point can derive to results totally divorced.

Hysteresis is the phenomenon by which the state of a material depends on its previous history. The tendency of a material is to preserve their properties even in the absence of the stimulus that generated them, although it is true that if the behaviors vary can lead to not return to starting position. A very simple example of a process of this type is the length of a metal rod depending on the temperature: if certain degrees are exceeded the metal rod will melt, a piece come off and it will be impossible to return to the initial state.

W_masacritica2
Slavery dates back to Antiquity —Aristotle even claimed that it was a natural phenomenon— and was common practice until the late XVIII century —Image Unknown Artist

Although these terms are very technical and relatively recent, in practice for centuries the most intrepid parts of the social mass have been starred acts that have marked the political and social future of the world, affecting the system and in some cases modifying paradigms: from the struggle of the plebeians against the patricians for their rights as citizens of Rome to the French Revolution, passing through the rebellion of African slaves across all America, to name just a few. After that, the world was never already the same.

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array(4) { [0]=> object(WP_Post)#1712 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(7035) ["post_author"]=> string(4) "2046" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2014-09-08 00:01:22" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2014-09-07 22:01:22" ["post_content"]=> string(8371) "El paternalismo de Estado está llegando a su fin. La consigna institucional de ‘protección a los buenos ciudadanos’ está perdiendo credibilidad en todas sus formas de persuasión. No ha sido capaz de protegernos de las estafas mundiales orquestadas por la banca ni de los abusos de las multinacionales para obtener ventajas frente a los pequeños empresarios. Por el contrario, los casos crecientes y extendidos de corrupción en el seno de los mandatarios hacen pensar cada día más que es de ellos de quien debemos protegernos y a quienes debemos enfrentarnos. El Estado hoy es un ente con intereses propios que trata al ciudadano como un cliente al que debe satisfacer mínimamente para proseguir existiendo en su poder. Los partidos compiten entre ellos para sus propios intereses. En este delicado intercambio con el pueblo, satisfacen unas necesidades ociosas, económicas y de identidad, para no perder los privilegios que se han agenciado. Hoy ya no escandalizan estos comentarios. El bienestar, la palabra mágica para comprar el alma de los ciudadanos, es la moneda de cambio. Pero la propia dinámica social está socavando esta pretendida seguridad que el Estado avala con su sello para el ‘buen ciudadano’. Uno de los signos de esta revolución social son las nuevas formas de organización ciudadana que van surgiendo. Lo lamento por aquellos devotos ciudadanos insertos en el sistema de control orquestado por las instituciones oficiales, pero hay que caminar a favor de la sostenibilidad y el aprovechamiento los recursos naturales. Compartir es el nuevo paradigma de la economía colaborativa, que las nuevas tecnologías están dejando aflorar. Es necesario reconsiderar el papel intrusivo del Estado, escondido bajo esta falsa seguridad al ciudadano. No es menos sorprendente el nivel de fiabilidad que subsiste en estos nuevos tipos de intercambio social. Si hubiera habido muchos casos de fraude ya nos lo hubieran hecho saber por sus informativos. W_elfindelpaternalismo
Internet ha supuesto una revolución muy rápida a muchos niveles, y a menudo los gobernantes se ven atropellados por acontecimientos que todavía no cuentan con una legislación clara —Imagen Unknown Author
En mi barrio, so pretexto de barullo para el vecindario, no se dan licencias para apartamentos turísticos. El incivismo de algunos y la incapacidad del ayuntamiento para gestionarlo no deberían saldarse con una normativa que capa la libertad de los ciudadanos para compartir su vivienda o cederla a cambio de unos ingresos. Comprendo que el trust bancos-estado-grandes empresas esté atemorizado ante la amenaza de esta economía que tiende hacia la sostenibilidad; tal vez en números enteros signifique un decrecimiento, pero en calidad medioambiental no dudo que significará un significativo crecimiento. No es ningún secreto la presión de los hoteleros para erradicar de los barrios en lo posible este tipo de transacciones. El que alquila una habitación, está optimizando el aprovechamiento de los recursos naturales y el esfuerzo humano para construir su piso. El que comparte un viaje en coche optimiza el aprovechamiento del carburante que emplearía igualmente viajando solo, o quien alquila su piso se desplaza a otro piso más pequeño o lo comparte con otros. De este modo visto en conjunto, con menos recursos naturales y menos agentes contaminantes, puede preservarse mucho del consumo necesario. Es más sostenible y créanme, esto se siente en el espíritu de las personas que participan de estos nuevos modelos. Estoy de acuerdo, hay que crear nuevas regulaciones adecuadas para proteger al ciudadano de abusos y de posibles infractores en este nuevo tipo de organización social. Hay que minimizar los perjuicios y fiscalizar las nuevas formas de economía. Considero que este debería ser el papel de las instituciones en su misión esencial de optimizar la convivencia de los ciudadanos. Compartir automóviles, rentabilizar los pisos y cuantas formas surjan para mejorar la sostenibilidad son un adelanto para la supervivencia humana en este planeta.The paternalism of State is coming to an end. The corporate slogan of 'protecting the good citizens' is losing credibility in all forms of persuasion. He has not been able to protect us from global banking scams orchestrated or abuses of multinationals to gain advantage over small businesses. On the contrary, the growing and widespread corruption within the leaders cases suggest, reality shows us that we need protect ourselves from them, and is of them to those we must need to face. Today, the State is an entity with its own interests which treats the citizen as a customer, the State must minimally meet to continue to exist in its power. The parties compete with each other for their own interests. In this delicate exchange with people, the State meets the our needs of leisure, economics and identity, to thereby keep their own privileges acquired. Comments like these, nowadays no longer scandalize anyone. Welfare, the magic word to buy the soul of citizens, is the currency. But the social dynamics itself is undermining this false security that the State guarantees his seal to the 'good citizen'. One sign of this social revolution are the new forms of civic organization emerging. I feel sorry for those devotees citizens inserts in control system orchestrated by official institutions, but we need to walk in favor of sustainability and use of natural resources. Sharing is the new paradigm of collaborative economy that new technologies are letting emerge. It is necessary to reconsider the intrusive role of the State, hidden under the false security to citizens. No less surprising is the level of confidence that exists in these new types of social exchange. If there had been many cases of fraud, we would know  the situation, through its information and news. W_elfindelpaternalismo
The Internet has meant a very rapid revolution at many levels, and governors and rulers are often run over by events that do not have a clear legislation yet —Image Unknown Author
In my neighborhood pretext of a big din, does not  licenses are given to rent or share apartments. The incivility of some and the inability of the council to manage it, should not be paid with a rules that restrict the freedom of citizens to share their property or transfer it to  income change. I understand that the trust banks-been-great companies are frightened by the threat of this economy that tends towards sustainability; in integers numbers perhaps mean a economic decrease, but  in the environmental quality, without no doubt, this way of economy it will mean significate growth. It's no secret pressure from hoteliers to eradicate possible in the neighborhoods such transactions. Anyone who rents a room, is optimizing the use of natural resources and human effort to build your floor. Anyone who shares a travel in a car optimizes the use of fuel that also employ traveling alone, or who rents his apartment and moves to a smaller or share it with other floor. Thus viewed together, with fewer resources and less pollutants can be preserved much consumption. It is more sustainable and believe me, this feels in the spirit of the people who participate in these new models. I agree, create new laws and rules adequate to protect citizens from abuse and potential offenders in this new type of social organization . You have to minimize the damage and monitor new forms of economy. I believe this should be the role of institutions on its core mission of optimizing the coexistence of citizens. Share the automobiles, share the apartments, and any ways to improve the sustainability are arising, and this fact is an advance for human survival on this planet." ["post_title"]=> string(98) "El fin del paternalismo del EstadoThe end of State paternalism" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["ping_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(28) "the-end-of-state-paternalism" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2020-02-18 23:54:49" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2020-02-18 22:54:49" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(29) "http://whatonline.org/?p=7035" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [1]=> object(WP_Post)#1694 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(4613) ["post_author"]=> string(4) "2049" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2013-04-15 00:01:01" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2013-04-14 22:01:01" ["post_content"]=> string(2684) "'La libertad como la conocemos hoy, sin límites, no va a existir en 30 ó 50 años'. Economista jefe y líder del equipo regional de Desarrollo Humano y Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio en la Dirección Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del PNUD —Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo— en Nueva York, George viene del Instituto Alternativo, donde condujo investigaciones sobre desarrollo económico, sostenibilidad ambiental, pobreza e inequidad en América Latina. Previamente fue miembro de la sociedad de Líderes Globales de la Escuela de Asuntos Públicos e Internacionales Woodrow Wilson, en las Universidades de Princeton y Oxford, donde su investigación estaba enfocada en nichos de crecimiento económico dentro de economías de bajo crecimiento. Fue también investigador asociado del Centro de Investigación sobre Desigualdad, Etnicidad y Seguridad Humana —CRISE— de Oxford y miembro del Centro Diálogo Interamericano en Washington. Entre 2004 y 2008 fue coordinador del Informe de Desarrollo Humano PNUD en Bolivia, y contribuyó al Informe de Desarrollo Humano Global durante 2008 y 2009. Fue director de la Unidad de Análisis de Política Económica del Gobierno Boliviano —UDAPE— y director del Programa de Maestría en Política Pública de la Universidad Católica de ese país. George tiene además un doctorado en Filosofía y Política de la Universidad de Oxford, un máster en Política Pública de la Kennedy School of Government de la Universidad de Harvard y un pregrado en Economía y Antropología de la Universidad de Cornell.'Freedom as we know it, without limits, will not exist in 30 or 50 years'. Chief Economist in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at UNDP —United Nations Development Programme— in New York, he is currently working on poverty and inequality research in the region, middle income challenges and measurement of subjective well-being. In his home country, Bolivia, he was the coordinator of the Bolivian Human Development Report Office and the lead author for four National Human Development reports, between 2004 and 2008. From 2002 to 2004, he was director of the Bolivian Ministry of the Presidency’s social and economic think-tank, UDAPE —Unidad de Análisis de Políticas Sociales y Económicas—, and Coordinator of the Catholic University’s Public Policy Master’s Programme, MpD from 2000 to 2002. George holds a BA in Anthropology and Economics from Cornell University, an MPP in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a DPhil in Politics from Nuffield College, University of Oxford." ["post_title"]=> string(124) "WHAT ABOUT: El futuro por George Gray MolinaWHAT ABOUT: The future by George Gray Molina" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(43) "what-about-the-future-by-george-gray-molina" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2021-05-05 15:07:49" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2021-05-05 13:07:49" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(29) "http://whatonline.org/?p=4613" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [2]=> object(WP_Post)#1713 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(7296) ["post_author"]=> string(4) "2049" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2019-12-18 21:30:42" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2019-12-18 20:30:42" ["post_content"]=> string(2958) "'El futuro ha de ser, como dicen en Latinoamérica, del buen vivir' —Arcadi Oliveres es economista y profesor universitario de la Universitat Autònoma de Catalunya, participante activo en movimientos sociales desde su juventud y reconocido activista de Justícia i Pau, una organización por la promoción y defensa de los derechos humanos en todo el mundo y de la que desde 2001 es presidente. Conocido por su labor divulgativa en economía política, análisis de las corporaciones y propuestas para el consumir responsable y sostenible, es también especialista en las relaciones económicas norte-sur, deuda externa y precio justo. Gran crítico del sistema capitalista liberal contemporáneo, con su participación activa en el movimiento 15M —en su representación en la acampada de Plaza Catalunya en Barcelona en 2011— sus ideas y discurso se dieron a conocer aún más. Su condición de activista empieza con las luchas estudiantiles contra la dictadura de Franco en los 60 y se consolida con los movimientos antiglobalización y con su defensa de las teorías del decrecimiento. Participó también en la creación del Foro Social Mundial en Porto Alegre y del movimiento de los indignados 15M. Actualmente continúa con su actividad como docente en la UAB y como pensador y divulgador que transforma la economía en política, la política en sociedad y la sociedad en humanidad y justicia.'The future has to be, as they say in Latin America, the good life' —Arcadi Oliveres is a Catalan economist and UAB university professor and an active participant in social movements since his youth. Also is a recognized activist in Justice and Peace, an organization for the promotion and defense of human rights around the world. In this organitzation is the president since 2001. He is known for his divulgative work about political economy, corporate analysis and proposals for responsible and sustainable consumption. Also specializes in North-South relations in international economics, foreign debt and fair price. Great critic of contemporary liberal capitalist system, with its active participation in the 15M movement —in its representation in the camp of Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona 2011— his speech became more known. His activism began in his youth with the student movement against the dictatorship of Franco in the 60s, it was consolidated with the anti-globalization movements and their theoretical conceptualizations and defense theories of degrowth. He also participated in the creation of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and the Indignados movement (15M). Continues its activities as a teacher at UAB, and activist, thinker and promotor, we hope that his work will not cease, and leave us for many years, this light provided by this economist, where the economy is transformed into politics, politics into society, and society in humanity and justice." ["post_title"]=> string(119) "WHAT ABOUT: El futuro por Arcadi Oliveres WHAT ABOUT: The future by Arcadi Oliveres" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["ping_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(40) "what-about-the-future-by-arcadi-oliveres" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2021-06-13 18:23:18" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2021-06-13 16:23:18" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(29) "http://whatonline.org/?p=7296" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [3]=> object(WP_Post)#1872 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(5033) ["post_author"]=> string(3) "420" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2013-07-22 00:01:44" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2013-07-21 22:01:44" ["post_content"]=> string(7858) "Se denomina 'obsolescencia programada' a la determinación del fin de la vida útil de un producto, de tal forma que, tras un período de tiempo concreto decidido por el fabricante, ese producto se vuelve obsoleto, inútil, inservible. Lo que se persigue con esta práctica es el lucro económico: en algún momento el producto fallará, y obligará —aunque esto es siempre relativo— al consumidor a comprar otro. Y así, sucesivamente. Este sistema de producción genera una ingente cantidad de residuos, lo que provoca un problema medioambiental, debido, en gran parte, a la falta de una gestión adecuada de esos desechos. Cualquier producto es susceptible de quedarse obsoleto prematura, programada y planificadamente: desde un móvil hasta la ropa que 'se pasa de moda'. Aunque todo comenzó con una bombilla.
Esta bombilla californiana lleva encendida desde el año 1901 —Imagen Unknown Author
Antes de que los fabricantes adoptaran la obsolescencia como norma, allá por la década de 1920, se fabricó una bombilla en junio de 1901... que sigue funcionando hoy en día, más de cien años después. Se encuentra en una estación de bomberos de Livermore, California, en Estados Unidos. El artilugio despierta mucha curiosidad, por inusual, hasta el punto de que han instalado una webcam para seguir los años de vida de esta 'anomalía'. ¡Y no es la única! Hay más bombillas centenarias funcionando, aunque no tan longevas. Esta bombilla eterna inspiró al español Benito Muros, presidente de OEP Electrics, para crear una bombilla LED que no se gasta nunca. Muros, además, ha emprendido una encrucijada contra la finitud de los productos de la economía actual. Creó el Movimiento SOP —Sin Obsolescencia Programada— como 'una nueva manera de pensar, de hacer las cosas. De crear un nuevo sistema en que los productos estén diseñados y hechos para durar para siempre y que no nos obligue a gastar innecesariamente, y ser más respetuosos con nuestro planeta', según relata el propio Muros en una entrevista en La Vanguardia en 2012. Como es fácil imaginar, la bombilla de Benito Muros tiene dificultades para entrar en el mercado. Según cuenta en la misma entrevista, 'las distribuidoras nos dicen que viven de las que se funden, y los grandes almacenes nos proponen duplicar su precio, a lo que nos hemos negado. Hemos tenido ofertas millonarias para no sacarla al mercado y amenazas de muerte, que están en manos de la policía'. La idea es sencilla: si los productos no tienen fecha de caducidad, no se generarán residuos. Las voces que apoyan la obsolescencia argumentan que su desaparición colapsaría el sistema, ya que miles de personas perderían su puesto de trabajo. Lo cierto es que en el planeta ya somos más de 7000 millones de personas. La cantidad media de basura que generamos cada uno de nosotros es de más de 1 kilo al día, según la oficina de estadística Eurostat. Es decir, en un día producimos más de 7000 millones de kilos de basura. Muchos de estos residuos no son biodegradables, y otros muchos son, además, contaminantes. La situación se revela insostenible. El documental 'Comprar, tirar, comprar', de Cosima Dannoritzer, analiza el tema en profundidad, y ofrece una singular solución: arreglar en lugar de comprar. Una reflexión interesante.It is called 'planned obsolescence' to the determination of the end of life of a product, so that, after a certain period of time determined by the manufacturer, the product becomes obsolete, useless. The aim of this practice is the economic profit: at some point the product will fail, and force —although this is always relative— the consumer to buy another. And so on. This production system generates a huge amount of waste, causing an environmental problem, due in large part to the lack of proper management of these wastes. Any product is susceptible to planned obsolescence: from a mobile to the clothes 'gets old'. Although it all began with a light bulb.
This Californian light bulb is on since 1901 —Imagen Unknown Author
Before manufacturers adopted obsolescence as a rule, in the 1920s, a light bulb was made in June 1901 ... which is still operating today, over 100 years later. It is located in a fire station in Livermore, California, in the United States. It's so unusual that they have installed a webcam to see how this 'anomaly' still works. And it's not the only one! There are more centenarians bulbs working, although not as long-lived. This eternal bulb inspired spanish Benito Muros, president of OEP Electrics, to create a LED bulb that is never spent. Muros also began a fight against this practice of the current economy. He created No Planned Obsolescence movement as 'a new way of thinking and doing things and creating a new system in which products are designed and made to last forever and they do not make us spend unnecessarily, and be more respectful of our planet', as related by himself in an interview in La Vanguardia Journal in 2012. As you can imagine, this new bulb has difficulty entering the market. In the same interview, Muros told that 'the distributors tell us that it's their way of living, and department stores offer us increase the price, to which we have refused. We have been offered a lot of money to not remove the market and death threats, which are in the hands of the police'. The idea is simple: if the product does not have an expiration date, do not generate waste. The voices that support the obsolescence argue that their disappearance would collapse the system, as thousands of people will lose their job. The truth is that we are more than 7 billion people living on this planet. The average amount of garbage we generate each of us is more than 1 kilo per day, according to the statistical office Eurostat. That is, in one day we produce more than 7 billion kilos of garbage. Many of these wastes are not biodegradable, and many are also contaminants. The situation is unsustainable. The documentary 'Buy, throw away, buy', by Cosima Dannoritzer, discusses the issue in depth, and provides a unique solution: fix instead of buying. An interesting reflection." ["post_title"]=> string(80) "Fabricado para romperseManufactured to break" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(21) "manufactured-to-break" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2020-03-03 12:20:14" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2020-03-03 11:20:14" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(29) "http://whatonline.org/?p=5033" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } }