Thursday, May 12, 2005

Socio-fluidic discussions

We have all heard (unless we are college students) about the recent chopping of a woman's hands in MP because she expressed her views against child marriages. Annie and Dilip have expressed their dismay and floated possible solutions. Now, despite the tremendous respect I have for them both, I think that their solutions won't work. Why, you ask, my child? I'll tell you why. Not just because I am a born-again cynic. Not because their solutions are flawed. But because the laws of science prevent such solutions from being admissible. If you hate science, or me, or don't want to get depressed, now is the time to bail out and go read something pleasant.

Still here? Well, I'll try to explain things using an analogy from the wonderful world of fluids. Fluids, in general, are nice. They can be sweet, coloured, taste good, make you drowsy, make you horny, and what not. However, they also have a few other properties which scientist earn their livings from. Some of these important properties are (but not limited to):

i) Pressure - fluids have pressure all through their extents, which is why our ears hurt when we go underwater, because water exerts pressure on them. Ears also hurt when we don't know the capital of Bulgaria and our Geography teacher tries to remove them from our body, but that involves little fluid mechanics.

ii) Temperature - did you really think I was going to explain temperature too? Jeez!

iii) Velocity - every fluid has some movement at all times, even if it appears static. The funny part is that velocity (or speed) of the fluid affects its pressure. When a fluid is moving fast, its pressure drops down (known as Bernoulli's principle, that is how inhalers for asthmatic people work).

iv) Viscosity - this is the property which causes fluids to stick. This is why people get caught red handed -- red coloured fluid sticks to their hands. This also means that if a body moves through fluid, it causes the fluid nearby to move with it.

v) Information of fluid properties is propogated in the fluid at the speed of sound. This will be a little harder to explain, but it will become apparent soon.

Very well, but what does it mean? It means that when a body is moving through a fluid, the fluid near the body moves at a comparable speed. If the speed of the body is very high, properties of the fluid change near the body. Now, if the body is ambling along at a gentle pace, like my evening runs, fluid in path of the body will know it well in advance (since fluidic information travels at the speed of sound) and make adjustments to accomodate the body. Fluid properties will gently change till they have the same values as those of the fluid in close vicinity of the body. Everyone will be happy and little fluid elements will go to the pub, have drinks and slap each other on their backs. However, if the body is moving at a speed comparable to that of sound, or higher, this information is not available to the fluid in path of the body well in advance. Before they know it, the body is upon them like an unwanted guest. Changes are still required to be made for the fluid properties to reach the properties of the fluid around the body (since discontinuities are not allowed in nature) but these changes have to be made extremely urgently. This is not a pleasant situation and gives rise to shock waves, also commonly known as sonic booms (because they appear when the body speed reaches sonic speed, the speed of sound). Shock waves are nothing but extremely large changes in fluid properties over a very small length and time scale. Too much to be done, too soon. Examples of shock waves are often visible for high speed jets and bullets.

I do have a point, thank you very much! Compare our society to the ambient fluid. We need to achieve a totally different set of properties for our society, since everybody basically complains about everything. At the speed at which things are going wrong, it is not too long before the system collapses completely. We need to change a lot, and too soon. Annie and Dilip offer sensible solutions, but they are inadmissble because they won't be able to bring about the necessary change soon enough. We need a social shock wave.

I don't want to be the doomsday prophet here, but I can vaguely predict that such a shock wave is not too far away. Why don't we have warning signs? Because it moves at the speed of sound and we won't hear about it before we encounter it. Can we avoid it? I don't think so. We could have, 20 years ago, maybe. But given the current intricate socio-politico-economic web, we will need a government which doesn't care about coming back to power and implements really drastic measures. If that happens, I also want to have my own private island in Bahamas.


At 11:39 PM, Blogger Satya said...

it's like you opened my head up .. took out my thaughts and clicked "publish"

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous munna said...

huh? rhetoric for the heck of it?

At 7:02 AM, Blogger zap said...

You have enough Talent to have been a very rich man in Ancient Egypt. :)
Unfortunately ancient egypt was before your time and they've changed currency since.

As for the possibility of a social sonic boom, I think, really slim chance.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Senthil said...

This was exactly how our Thermal Engineering - II prof explained shock waves to us. Except for the slapping on the back and going out for beer part. Amazing stuff.
A social sonic boom, however, will be quite a rare event. This can be explained by another analogy - how the speed of evolution of a group is directly proportional to the isolation of a group. Put a bunch of animals on an island, and they will evolve very fast. Mutations, etc. abound. But in these times almost everybody on the planet is connected to everybody else, so mutations, or sonic booms, though possible, are not very likely. I think. However, it is definitely something we need.
Now we shall wait till a sociologist visits this section of the web and explains in english.
Annie and Dilip's sulutions, though, are a little too idealistic, methinks.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger Senthil said...

ERRATA: Make that "solutions". Sorry.

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous charu said...

er, I confess I skipped thru the initial stuff at the speed of - well, whatever is very fast... because I was trying to get to your point - am not sure I understood it completely either - but here's my two bits - change takes time - a revolution or a social shock wave has been a long time in the coming - so why should we assume there will be one soon?! And A, everybody does not complain - there are people out there doing things - and Annie has a point when she says - what can individuals with ideals but little other suport do?

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Anurag said...

I think I should have written a little bit more. My social shock wave is not necessarily a revolution, nor an uprising. It is just a complete breakdown of the system which may or may not result in order being restored.

Satya: I would like to stop reading the newspaper, in order to remain happy. Won't you?

Munna: No. I feel it, and I mean it.

Zap: Thanks. :)

Senthil: Thank God. I have learnt something in all these years. It's an interesting theory about evolution. From one of your Chrichton books?

Charu: That's exactly my point. Change takes too much time. Sometimes, when the current situation is very different from what the change should bring about, there is no point to gradual change. Let me also be a little too honest with you. In any society, there will always be individuals who keep trying, without achieving much. If they are lucky, they are noticed and people follow them. Our society is not like that. For every person trying to do something good, there are many others who feel insecure because they are threatened about their power. Finally, ideals are just that -- ideals. Sorry if I sound curt, but that's the way the cookie crumbles for me.

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Zeppelin said...

absolutely wonderful explanation... being a Mechie myself, (in the past) could understand and relate to your post TOTALLY maan! very good analogy!

ahem..i know that this is kinda calling Archimedes and thanking him for his buoyancy theory.. but hey! just thought I'd comment on this one, cos the thought process here is very similar to how i get sometimes when I am really philosophical about things..:)

cheers mate!


Post a Comment

<< Home