nuet's worlds

The Creative Emergence of NU Worlds.


Posted by Laurence J. Victor on August 18, 2007

I am sorting though old floppies, to dispose of, and chanced to look at a BU file of an essay composed in 1986. The concept of “precision of fit” remains critical, and I often couple it with the concept of “sufficient action”. I copy/paste my old essay – which goes into some of the precision of physics and biology to make the point that we need to consider such precision and complexity in social systems. It was probably composed on the outliner GrandView and stored as an AskSam file.



domains[educ] domains[meta] domains[doing]

topics[pub] topics[semeh]

concepts[fit] concepts[precision] concepts[chromosome]

type[ type[essay]





title[PRECISION OF FIT] by Laurence J. Victor

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 11-05-86


This is so significant a concept, that a whole book should

be devoted to it. It is important that the concept be

experienced in detail, with many clear examples from the

sciences so that it is comprehended to a high level of

complexity, and not “just understood” with a ho-hum, “nice





This concept is important because it illustrates how

much farther we must go in detailing the design of

socio/cultural systems for them to be viable. The

physical, chemical and biological systems of the known

Universe work (are viable) because of the “extra-

ordinary” precision of fit of components with the


1. Actually, the precision of fit for these “real”

systems is

quite ORDINARY, which is the point I want to make.

It is our naive conception about complexity that is

causing the trouble. The Universe is “simply” not

that simple.


a) The physicists who are attempting to develop a

“unified field theory” fall into this same trap

(of over simplification) — illustrating that the

problem does not lie soley with the scientifically

illiterate. These physicists believe that if they

can reduce the four (known) primary forces into

one logically consistent mathematical formulation

they will have “explained everything” — that all

else will follow logically and simply from this

universal formulation.


1) What is wrong with this “application” of their

work is beyond the scope of this discussion.

2) However, their work DOES ILLUSTRATE the

precision of fit at work at this fundamental

level of physical reality: the four forces

probably will be discovered to fit together in

a precise way, which is another way of saying

their very natures are — to some extent —



2. If socio/cultural systems are as complex as these

other systems (and they may even be more complex),

then it seems logical that they will need as much (or

more) precision of fit for their components.


a) Consider one illustration at this point. The

parts that are assembled in constructing a modern

house must be shaped to fit each other. They are

also selected to have material properties needed

for strength, durability, etc. The relationship

between the parts is significantly determined by

the shape and properties of each part, designed to

functionally fit together in a larger whole — the

system of a house. The same kind of consideration

is needed when designing a large skyscrapper, the

space shuttle, or DisneyWorld.


The businesses or human systems that do this kind

of designing and construction must work with this

level of detail; the parts don’t make themselves

to fit. Their own organizational structure is

usually not, itself, of this detail. However,

there are great variations in detail in

organizational structures of agencies,

institutions, corporations and governments. Much

of this social organization is bureaucratic and

oppressive; yet the degree of organizational

detail cannot be eliminated (although it could be

organized differently — e.g. organistically

instead of mechanistically — later on this). If

what we are trying to create is a socio/cultural

system, then we must consider in detail the

precison of fit for its components (persons and



Now think on what NewAge, Humanist, futures-

oriented movements and organizations are doing.

What they are attemting to create (as new forms of

human socio/cultural organization) are naively

simple. They do not think in detail, either about

the world they wish to build or the

structure/process of their own organization. In

particular, they give little to no thought to how

they, as components of these organizations are to

fit together so that their organization can become

a viable system. They remain so highly

individualistic that they view interpersonal

relationships ideally as between two inert objects

that somehow get on well with each other, where

the “fit” is “natural” and “they” don’t need to

“do” anything about it.


If individuals change, it must be as to their

personal self-interest; certainly not to “fit”

into a larger system, even if it be a marriage or

family, let alone a community or society. Harmony

comes from good feelings and intentions, not by

“doing” anything. This sounds a bit harsh, and

with intention of caricature. Later we will

explore the reasons for this avoidance of

precision and what we might be able to do about




My interest in precision of fit and quantitative detail

goes back a long way to my early interests in physics

and my reading of the philosophy/physics of Sir Arthur

Eddington in high school. Eddington, professionally a

reknowned astrophysicist, was also a “general systems

mystic” (before general systems was invented). His

views on FUNDAMENTAL THEORY have never been accepted by

the physics community, and whether they are “true” is

not really an issue. His ideas continue to stimulate

vital thinking much the way Kepler’s discovery of the

HARMONY OF THE SPHERES did to earlier planetary




Eddington believed in an ordered Cosmos. He

speculated that the detailed structure or the micro

world — of atomic structure — was intimately

intertwined with the detailed structure of the macro

world — the expanding universe of galaxies. He went

so far as to develop a detailed mathematical theory

for this ultimate fit. a) A metaphor often used to

illustrate one nature of this fit,

was to a bug crawling on the surface of a regular



1) Now, there are only FIVE regular solids in this

Universe (a marvel itself). A regular solid has

faces that are congruent (same size and shape).

The cube (with 6 square faces) is the best

known regular solid. The tetrahedryon has four

faces that are each equilateral triangles. The

other three regular solids have 8, 12 and 20

faces, two with triangular and one with

pentagonal faces. Why there are only five is a

consequence of space being three dimensional –

a very deep example of fit.


2) Incidently, Kepler’s 6 spheres circumscribed

and inscribed the five regular solids, each

sphere representing the orbit of the six

planets around the sun, with relative

distances-from-sun the same (to the accuracy of

measurement of Kepler’s day) with the relative

radii of the six spheres. This discovery

“blew” Kepler’s mind !


b) Back to our bug. Imagine it comes to one corner

of a regular solid and makes measurements of the

angles at the corner. Then the bug creatively

assumes that it is on a regular solid, and from

the measurements of one corner can decide which of

the five regular solids it is on, and the exact

number of corners without having to go to them.


c) Eddington took the hydrogen atom in vacuum as one

corner of a model of the “regular” universe (he

called it a Uranoid -a cosmological universe with

a uniform density of hydrogen atoms everywhere –

actually not a bad approximation). The

measurements of that corner were the properties of

the hydrogen atom. From this, using his model,

Eddington computed the “exact” number of atoms in

the Uranoid. He opened one lecture with writing

that number on the board, 80 digits long. What is

to be of interest here, is that the formula for

his computation contains the number 137.


d) In another domain of his model, Eddington was an

epistemologist, wondering how the knower

influences what is known. He uses the following

metaphor to illustrate this.

1) Imagine a scientist as an ichthyologist (a

student of fishes) who dips his net daily into

the ocean and carefully measures each catch.

Eventually the ichthyologist arrives at a

universal statement about fishes >> they are

all longer than two inches! BUT, is this not a

condition of the weaving of the net, and not a

characteristic of fishes ?


2) Eddington set for himself an ambitious program

to consider how our theoretical pre-

suppositions about reality (systems with

components) acted to influence our scientific

“discoveries”. His initial model was a simple

one, considering only two-body systems

(hydrogen atoms) in a statistically expanding

universe (Uranoid) >> which lead to a matrix of

possible structures for which there were

exactly 136 degrees of freedom. Using this

model Eddinton deduced that ALL the laws of

physics AND all the unitless parameters of

scale were “filter factors”, characteristics of

our scientific methods and NOT characteristics

of the universe (except that we are within and

of the universe)!


a> Obviously this conclusion did/does not fit

well with our contemporary beliefs on the

empirical-deductive model of the scientific

method. To ridicule Eddington, physicists

have pointed out that he first selected the

number 136 as his “fine structure constant”,

and at the time he did it, the empirical

value was very close to 136. Later the

value shifted slightly upward to 137.009 .

Then Eddington said that he forgot to

include one more degree of freedom for his

system, that was the whole universe itself.


Eddington also had a calculation correction

that he applied to empirical values to

adjust them to the Uranoid — taking into

account the the measuring instruments are

themselves within the universe. When this

correction is applied, ALL the constant

parameters of the physical universe fit

Eddington’s model.


2. As some of you may have already recognized, my power

number is 137. It is my ID number on PCNC, and has

coincidently appeared at many times in my life. This

is called the FINE STRUCTURE CONSTANT (actually, it

is the reciprocal 1/137 that is often given this

name). In conventional physics, it is the ratio of

three other most significant parameters of the

physical universe.


FSC = h x c / e2 = 137


h times c divided by e squared (e times e)




h >> Is Planck’s constant, a measure in quantum

theory of the ultimate uncertainty of measurement



For example, the product of the

uncertainties of measurement of the location and

movement of a particle must ALWAYS be greater than

this number. This is the “scale factor” for the

empirical knowlability of the universe. (Actually h

divided by 2 pi).


c >> Is the velocity of light in vacuum, which is the

“scale factor” for our ability to interact and



e >> Is the charge on the electron, the fundamental

“scale factor” for forces, that leads to all other



In this ratio, the measurement units (e.g.

centimeter, seconds, etc.) all cancel out and leaves

the ratio a PURE number.


3. None of the above is explicitly relevant to the issue

of precision of fit, which would exist had there been

no Eddington and no Fundamental Theory. His work

“smacks” of mysticism and numerology (of which

“normal” physicists accuse him of). When at Yale I

was deciding between two PhD thesis projects. One

was to unpack Eddington and attempt to update his

work (he died in 1945 before completing the book,

Fundamental Theory, not having written the general

introductory or summary chapters). I even have a

collection of his earlier drafts and unpublished

manuscripts. I just didn’t have the fortitude of

scholarship into another’s work. So I chose my

second option: to challenge Einstein’s claim that the

velocity of light was a limiting velocity for ALL

interaction. Even this was eventually defeated by

disciplinary politics.


Yet, this early work set the

stage in my mind to appreciate complexity, relativity

of perspective, and holism — in the sense of

Eddington’s attempt at a mathematical theory for the

ultimate fit: micro within macro within micro with

macro. And, that this fit was not a “wishy-washy

right-brain, Eastern holism in resistance to explicit

conceptualization”, but involved complexity,

precison, and attendence to detail. I often

transcend this detail, and experience the UNITY IN

DIVERSITY holistically — with an intensity that

depends on the deeper patterns of analytical thought.




Although I am opposed to the contemporary concept of

“definition of terms”, I do wish to comment on some

evolving ideas that are often labeled by the terms:




I will talk around this concept in metaphor. The fit

of a key into a lock is an excellent example of

precision. If the key duplicator is sloppy, there

will be no fit, meaning the lock and key will not

work as a functional whole.


a) Note that when a key is copied, the “master” is

used as a “template” for the duplication process.

One does not make “measurements” of “quantative”

aspects of the key. However, if your high

security strong box arrived in New Zealand and had

to be opened within the hour, and it was designed

to resist the efforts of locksmiths, you would

have to communicate a quantative description of

the key to a keymaker in Auckland. Quantification

occurs ONLY when we need to communicate precise

pattern — more on this later.


b) How different can keys be to work in the same

lock? Mass production in industry occured only

after we were able to machine parts to a

sufficient precision that they could be inter-

changable !

1) In elementary particle physics, one type of

particle –the Fermion, of which the electron

is a member — are cosmologically

indistinguishable. This fact is taken into

account in the theory and is confirmed by

experiments. Electrons are ABSOLUTELY

indistinguishable from each other (which leads

some to speculate that there is only ONE

electron that has “reflections” in many

different places.


c) The lock-key model is popular today. Neuro-

transmitters are small protein molecules (three

dimensional structures) that serve as “keys” into

the receptor sites (also protein molecules on the

receiving membrane of the synapse). When enough

keys are inserted into locks, “circuits” are

activated, that catalyzes a pulse to start moving

doing the neuron.


1) The CHROMOSOME can also be visualized in a

lock/key model. The basic component of the

chromosome is the nucleitide, a binary molecule

composed of two bead molecules. A bead

molecule is really a multi-nucleated atom

(rather than our usual view of molecule as an

assembly of atoms) where the electrons are

truly shared by all the different nucli in the

bead molecule. The nucleitide has two parts,

let me call them the “base” and the “prong”.

For all nuceitides, the bases are identical.

The bases are capable of attaching to each

other into a chain, with the prongs sticking

out as prongs on a single side of a zipper.


There are four different prongs, let me call

them A, B, C, D. Now prongs A and B are shaped

so that they fit together (in 3-D) as lock and

key (which is the key and which is the lock is

not relevant). Likewise for prongs C and D.

AND, the lengths of the whole system A+B and

C+D are EXACTLY the same.


The chromosome is then an advance lock-key

system, with two single strands “zippered”

together. When transcription occurs, a

segments unzippers exposing the prongs as a

template onto which “free” nucleitides attach

making a “mirror image” RNA copy of the DNA



What is important here, is the role played by

“precision of fit”. This is a very intricate

system, far more dependent on precison than our

industrial technology for mass production.


2) PROTEINS are the basic threads in the tapestry

of cellular structure. Proteins are a family

of chain molecules, which are folded into

definite 3-dimensional shapes. Proteins are

chains of bead molecules, of which there are 24

different types, where each of the 24 can link

into a chain with any other of the 24,

including itself. This is like 24 letters to

an alphabet, where there is no limitation on

what letters can be together forming “words”.


There is an awesome “fit” between the proteins

and the DNA in the chromosome. Given the four

“letters” of the DNA alphabet, we can make 24

triplets (AAA, BBB, CCC, DDD, ABA, ABB, ACD,

DCA, etc.) — exactly 24 by the combinational

rule: 4x3x2. In the cell, each of these RNA

triplet FITS precisely with only one of the 24

protein beads (called amino acids). In the

cytoplasm of the cell are ribosomes (woven

fabrics of protein) that take in RNA copies of

DNA genes (sequences of inheritance language

coded with a four letter alphabet into three

letter words) and assemble proteins from the

RNA-AminoAcid pairs in the vicinity.


After the protein chain is formed, it “folds”

according to its “sequence of amino acids” into

a 3-dimensional structure that has a specific

role to play in cellular functioning (a role

played by the “fit” of its shape with the

shapes of other proteins).


3) This precision of fit is everywhere there is

life ! The structures composed of proteins

(called organelles in analogy with organs of

the physiological body) are finely tuned

systems dependent on the precise fit of their

protein components. The recent literature on

molecular biology is truly awesome. The

complexity of cellular membranes to regulate

the flow of many different types of molecules

in and out of the cell makes a typical factory

operation appear simplistic. The ion pumps

that enable pulses to move down neural fibers

is another example of an intricate system that

works ONLY because of the phenomenal fit of its



The immuneological system of the body/blood and

the organization of the brain itself are other

examples. Occasionally one mispelled gene

gives rise to a cascade upward of dysfunction

to the whole organism, another example of the

critical nature of precise fit.


d) I will not go on in further detail here. I

believe that to fully UNDERSTAND this precision

within complexity, each person must study a few

real systems in detail. Then they can appreciate

this level of precision in all systems in the

Universe. If no systems are actually experienced

at this level of detail, the person is really

unable to aprreciate the universe AS IT IS, and

instead attempts to impose their simple-minded

views on the rest of us.




There is much confusion today between the concepts of

the “qualitative” and the “quantative”, and I won’t

go deeply into it here. What is important is a new

view that there is NOT a “qualitatively” sharp line

between the two. QUANTIFICATION does NOT ALWAYS

involve the use of NUMBERS.



QUANTIFICATION. As discussed above, precision

itself does not involve numbers, only 3-D fits

between locks and keys. Only when we want to

describe these fits, do we need mathematics and

numbers — which are characteristics of symbolic



b) “Mathematics”, in this context, is but a family of

specialized human languages, specifically designed

for describing, thinking and communicating about

specific types of systems where precision is

critical. Each different mathematical language

(and many do not involve numbers) have structures

that enable the precise structures of real systems

to be represented within the language. The

symbolism of mathematical languages are concrete

(real marks on paper, that can be manipulated) and

thus enable us to represent abstractions in

material forms that can be perceived thru the



c) The design of and planning for new systems that

involve the precise fit of components requires the

use of quantification, requires attending to

detail. In the “real world” you can’t just slop

together anything just because it feels good and

expect it to work.



The concept of “fit” seems inseparable from the

concept of “precision”. At least, above, we used the

METAPHOR of fit (lock/key) for our explication of

“precision”. Is “fit” a primitive, or is there more

to be said about it ? Where does this “fitness” come

from — to some it appears as evidence of a creator,

to others it demonstrates the power of emergent




What was discussed above was primarily the fit of

two components of a system, as lock/key, to form a

functional whole. Many of these were dyads, while

it was implied that many components could mutually

fit together to form a more complex wholes.



This is the fit to the role a component of a

system must assume to be a functional member of

the whole. This is manifest in the component-

component fits, but the many component-component

fits together are organized that give “meaning” to

the concept that the components are functional to

the system as a whole.



This can be viewed a just bumping up component-

system fit another level. However, we want to

imply here that there can be “fit” in the system

“mediating” a functional relationship between the

components at one (inner) level and the

environment (metatsystem at an outer level).

Fitness in the evolutionary sense of organism

within species within biome may be examples at

this level. It should be emphasized the “survival

of the fittest” has much more to do with “fitting

in with the whole”, rather than being superior in

component-component competition.


Here we might consider the fit (role) a holon

plays in the “whole” eco-holarcy. COSMIC





As stated in the first section, our purpose is not to

educate about biological or molecular systems, but to

examine the role of attending to detail re complexity of

systems and the precision of fit as it relates to human

efforts to organize their thoughts/actions to create a

better world-system. However this need for percision

cannot be appreciated without seeing the awesomely

significant role it plays in the Universe.




We often act as if we are. We were put here to

exploit the universe, and we might need to know her

laws so as to better exploit her, but we need not

consider ourselves part of the universe or need to

obey her laws. Thus, we humans are exempt from the

need to attend to such “left brain” detail. Indeed,

it is such attention that has got us into such a

pickle already. Relax and flow with your “feelings”,

insist that the universe be squeezed into your narrow



2. This is not the PRACTICE of those social systems that

must work within the real world. If we want to

travel in the air, we must be be concerned with the

precise details of flight. If we want to make a

profit on a business venture we must attend to the

necessary details. It is no mystery that the

academic discipline of BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION has a

math requirement into advanced statistics and the

calculus (the natural languages for thinking with

complex systems).


a) The problems with these systems is that they have

considered only component-component and component-

system fit, and have ignored component-system-

metasystem fit (worker/consumer-firm/market-

society) and holarchical fit (ecological and



3. There are many people who are concerned with those

types of fit ignored by contemporary societal

practice. However, they somehow feel that they

can/should not be concerned with precision of fit at

the “lower” levels. They naively attempt to move

mountains with thimbles and good intentions.


4. I propose that any serious venture in the humanist,

NewAge, futures-oriented movement must consider their

internal organization within an evolving system that

will eventually (soon) be MORE sophisticated than the

systems of NASA ! We have ample of what it takes to

get there, we only need the realization of the true

magnitude of the task, and then set for ourselves the

goal. Dreaming that somehow the universe will do it

all for us is denying our knowledge of how the

universe works. How we go about doing this will be

the topic of other essays.






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