Choice and Chance are They One? LO26736

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 05/28/01

Replying to LO26719 --

Dear Organlearners,

Andrew Campbell < > writes:

>"-or s flame ingathered in love?" The "s" instead of "a"
>was a typographical error made when writing to a friend
>last night, and the quote refers to Dante's writing, it's a
>fragment in a passage he authored.

Greetings dear Andrew,

I can understand why you are struggling with the relationship between
chance and choice. I will now commit myself to the luxury of employing
some mathematics to the indignation of many fellow learners who find
mathematics horrible. But I soon hope to show why I am doing it.

Scientists tried hard to give a sound interpretation to entropy S. One of
the more than a dozen (!) different interpretations given to it, is that
of Boltzmann, namely
. S = N x k x ln P
where the "k" is a universal constant (called Boltzmann's constant)
multplied (the "x") by the natural logarithm (the "ln") of the probablity
P of the system to exist in a state which has the entropy S. The N is the
number of identitical building blocks (elementary systems) in terms of
which the system exists.

The natural logarithim "ln X" is that function which transforms the
exponential growth of some quantity "X" in any natural phenomenon in a
linear manner. In other words, is an change in x is exponential and thus
nonlinear, the change in "ln X" will become linear.

Soon afterwards Gibbs connected the total enegy E of a system, its
temperature T and its entropy S as follows:
. F = E - T x S
This equation says that should we take away all the energy (T x S) used up
by the system to exist in a particular state, then the remainder is the
"free energy" F. The system has to use this free energy F to change into a
future state. The temperature T here has no other significance than to
cancel out its use in the original definition for calculating entropy

Should we now combine these two equations, we get
. F = E - (T x k x N) x ln (P)
I have grouped T, k and N and put them in brackets so that we can picture
the form of this equation, namely . F = E - something x ln (P) Let me
translate it as closely as possible in words . "free energy" is equal to
the "total energy" minus "something" x linearing function of

OK, let us leave the mathematics by translating what it says. Said in
words, should we remove from the "total energy" E all of it which is
needed to maintain present "chance events" in the system, then the
remainder is the "free energy" F. The system has to use this "free energy"
F to make a "choice event" and then to follow it. Thus "chance" and
"choice" are the two "sides" (complementary duals) of one and the same

Our mind as a system works the same!! The more we imagine the system's
"coin" as an omnibus of "chance events", the less the coin leaves us with
"free energy" to imagine its future as a "choice event". On the other
hand, the sooner we deal with each "chance event" as an actual opportunity
rather than stacking it together with other "chance events" of the past,
the more the coin leaves us with "free energy" to imagine MANY "choice
events" following from this ONE "chance event".

I myself try to convert every "chance event" as soon as possible into as
many as possible "choice events" so as to nurture my "free energy" and the
"one-to-many-mapping" of my creativity. I know that these words of mine
sounds crazy, but this is how it is with me and how I can articulate it.
Thinking of too many "chances" and too few "choices" makes my spiritual
battery flat. I learned this lesson the first time as pre-school kid from
my grandfather. He was too poor to give me a "coin" after having learned
this lesson. He gave me four small pieces of dried peach.

As a Christian I often questioned why it is wrong to "fill the cup of the
goddess of fortune". Whenever I mentioned this question to someone else,
the answer was usually "God says it is wrong and who are you to question
God?" Later I got the wisdom to understand that with this answer the
person actually wants to articulate "I say it is wrong and who are you to
question me?" I have no right to say somebody is wrong when saying
something is wrong. I also have the right only to question myself freely.
To question somebody else, I need that person's permission before doing
it. It took me almost fifty years to realise that in the Bible I get the
permission to question God. The fact that dogma and tradition concealed
this clear permission for me is something which still astonishes me.

>Reading it again it became a question to ask
>you here is my question. In what ways
>are entropy "s" and entropy-production like a
>flame? And a supplementary question, Do all
>flames have to burn?

The "entropy production" /_\S causes the flame to burn -- the movie. In
other words, the burning flame through the passage of time is like
"entropy production" /_\S. It is impossible to fix the entropy S during a
buring flame, except by making a static picture of the burning flame. In
other words, at any instant of time the burning flame is like the entropy
S. The art of the painter is to make a static picture of a burning flame
to look like a dynamical movie. Every instant when a viewer looks at it,
it has to suggest a different image.

Yes, all flames have to burn. But not all flames have to emit vissible
light to show that they are burning. The more complete the combustion of
any organic substance, the less colour it will have. Contamination with
many inorganic substances will give a colour to the flame, even when the
combustion of the organic part is complete. For example, sodium will give
a yellow colour while copper will give a green colour.

The desert is rich in trace elements because so little rain is available
to leach them out and eventually transport them into the sea. One of the
most awesome desert experiences to me is to make a small fire in the
night, wait for the colourful flames to disappear and then to look at the
glowing embers. By looking for the feigntest of colours in the hot air
above the embers, I can sometimes spot some of the geological makeup of
the desert ground on which that fire has been made. Doing this is much
more fun than to operate an instrument of analytical chemistry called a
flame photometer.

My first experience with "technical flame photometry" was in 1963. My
first experience with "natural flame photometry" was some fifteen years
later (ca 1978)! I was alone in the deep Bushmanland. By "chance" I made a
fire on some ground which had bare pieces of copper ore on it. As soon as
the flames died away, the glowing embers became surrounded by a green
aurora. The "choice" of making a mental construct out of it that night was
sheer magic.

Dear Andrew, thank you for the following remarkable quote:

"We must dare to think 'unthinkable' thoughts. We must learn to explore
all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and
rapidly changing world. We must learn to welcome and not to fear the
voices of dissent. We must dare to think about 'unthinkable things'
because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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