I’m still grogging through a hyper-invasive head cold. ‘Snot easy to
read and write through the sinus pressure, drainage and trips to the kettle for
another hot tea. I’ve gotten on with reading Robert Connors, Hayden White
and a couple of chapters from Barabasi’s Linked for tomorrow in addition
to a project overview for comp history and a trip to the tax prep office to sign
the proper filing forms. This was only the second time I’ve sought an
accountant’s assistance with taxes; with the move, bi-state filing, and limited
opportunities for sorting through tax forms, we turned over to the pros.
And today when we were at their office nodding our heads to the double-check of
name-spellings and socials, the friendly accountant showed us an itemization
asking nearly twice what they’d initially quoted. I’m too ashamed to share
the number; I’ll just say that I’m ordering the software next year and doing it
myself again. The $70 worksheet pushed me off the edge (of chair, cliff,
reason). In the late
age of computer-spun accounting, no single worksheet prep should cost seventy
So we signed all the forms and came back home. I was too head-coldy to give
the guy hell for puffing up the tax prep bill.
Once home, about hot tea, I learned this: Peppermint will re-steep for a
second good cup. Raspberry zinger will not.
Renormalization is a term credited to physics (perhaps other fields, too). According to Barabasi, it comes
from the work of Cornell professor and 1982 Nobel prize winner Kenneth Wilson
who assigned the term to the event following a physical phase transition.
Renormalization (granted, read second hand) accounts for the paradoxical flux
and structural stiffening of real networks–the shift from chaos to complexity, from
disorder to system:
By giving a rigorous mathematical foundation to scale invariance,
theory spat out power laws each time he approached the critical point, the
place where disorder makes room for order. Wilson’s renormalization
group not only called for power laws but for the first time could predict the
values of two missing critical exponents as well. (77)
We had finally learned that when giving birth to order, complex systems
divest themselves of their unique features and display a universal behavior
that has similar characteristics in a wide range of systems. (78)
It’s quite possible, even likely, that I’m misunderstanding or misapplying
this concept. Even so, I find something catchy–sticky–in renormalization, and I
wanted to put it on the table, set it out there for other possible
connections (even if only my own, later on). Barabasi goes on to explain
two basic features of scale-free networks that complicate earlier theories that
treat such structures as static and random. To detail the importance of
hubs, he names the characteristics of growth and preferential attachment.
And although his notion of growth seems teleologically biased, allowing for
decay or detritus only briefly in a discussion of aging, I continue to be struck by the application of
concepts from physics to social patterns. At least for tonight (no telling
how much credit to my head cold or tax fiasco), renormalization seems an
especially interesting idea.
[Added: Renormalization is the same as order-disorder-order in story