Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Saturday, July 5, 2008day link 

 Self-Organized Criticality
picture Self-Organized Criticality (SOC) is a theory about some principles that seem to pervade nature and which seems to explain various kinds of complexity very well. One of the most clear explanations is found in the book How Nature Works, by Per Bak, a Danish theoretical physicist who had an important role in developing the theory.

SOC has been applied within a great number of disciplines, but it seems to remain a controversial subject for many scientists. You can guess that from looking at the reviews on Amazon for the book I just mentioned. Half the people absolutely love it, and the other half are bending over backwards to try to discredit it. It is indeed terribly ambitious to try to present a principle that covers so many natural phenomena. The mere attempt of doing so will rub anybody the wrong way who favors reductionism, i.e. reducing the world to smaller pieces that follow clearly defined laws that can be observed repetitively in clearly defined ways. Could of course also be bacause Bak was a pretty obnoxious character who didn't hesititate to tell other scientists off.

Self-Organized Criticality says basically that there are certain dynamic systems that have a critical point as an attractor. I.e. that they "by themselves" will move towards a critical state. There are certain characteristics to such a system, but more about that in a moment.
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