Friday, April 08, 2011

Advice for DIY Irreducible Complexity

This is an addendum to the previous blog, "Do-It-Yourself Irreducible Complexity". Here I give advice to anyone who wants to construct, demonstrate, or experiment with the 4-stick weaving illustrated in the previous blog.

(1) To construct the 4-stick weaving, begin by holding a V in each hand, with the left-leaning stick on top for each V, as shown in the next photo. Keep your index fingers free, because you will need them later. That is, use the thumb and the lower three fingers to hold each V.

(2) Next, make a W by overlapping the two V's a bit, with the left side of the right V underneath the right side of the left V, as shown in the next photo.

(3) Next, pivot the V's, bringing the tip of the left side of the right V over the left side of the left V, and the left side of the right V over the right side of the left V, as shown in the next photo. The basic principle is that each stick will have an alternating over-under-over or under-over-under pattern.

(4a) Next, pivot the V's some more, bringing the two tips at the top of the configuration closer together. The tip coming from the right will naturally be on top, but you will need to reverse this. Here is where you need your index fingers. With your left index finger, push up on the middle of the left-most stick, and with your right index finger, push down on the middle of the right-most stick. Now, as you pivot the V's, the tip coming from the right can go under the tip coming from the left, as shown in the next photo.

(4b) BUT BEFORE letting go or putting it down, check that all six overlap 'joints' are secure and equally spaced. Because you can't let go yet, you need to use whatever fingers are closest to the joint that needs adjusting.

Extra Challenge

Those practiced with crafts such as origami will feel more comfortable using all fingers individually like this. If you have this kind of dexterity, you may want to accept the challenge of 'evolving' the design into the 5-stick weaving shown in the next photo. Or you can get a partner so that four hands can be used together. To truly emulate evolution, you must add the fifth stick without the configuration 'dying' (coming apart). And strictly speaking, you must do this without a plan (so I'm not giving you one), because evolution is supposed to be mindless and without even a goal, no less a plan. (So partners are not allowed to talk.)

If you succeed in assembling the 4-stick weaving, and especially if you could assemble the 5-stick weaving, you will have noticed that there is absolutely no way for the sticks to fall together this way. In fact, many simultaneous forces at very specific positions and directions and sequence were needed -- in other words, INFORMATION was needed.

An Abstract Analogy

This exercise also provides a rather abstract analogy of a problem encountered in biology. Proteins are made of peptide chains that are folded in specific ways, and often multiple folded chains are assembled into a working unit. Often, proteins cannot fold correctly without the help of a tool to guide or to correct the folding. Also, tools are often needed to assemble multiple-chain protein units. These tools are called chaperone proteins; and they are also used to disassemble and unfold proteins (for digestion, for example). So the DNA information defines not only the 'parts' but also the 'tools', with built-in 'assembly instructions'. When constructing a stick weaving, your hands are acting (abstractly) 'like' chaperone proteins, but the details are very different, of course.

1 comment:

JC said...

The disassembly (digestion) of plant and animal proteins to obtain the raw material (amino acids) for building human proteins suggests a reason why God made all life, including human life, of the same chemical units. And from a system engineering (my career) viewpoint, re-use of the design of parts and subsystems is excellent, efficient design.