Chaos Rules

17 08 2010

Computer Model of a Non-Repeating Chaotic System


The flapping of a single butterfly’s wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month’s time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn’t happen. Or maybe one that wasn’t going to happen, does. (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141) 

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In the interest of being fair and balanced, I give you some recently published data suggesting that women who eat red meat run a higher risk of having a cardiovascular event. This data was acquired from the Nurses Health study which looked at over 84,000 women (the previous Harvard study finding no adverse effect to eating daily red meat looked at over 1.2 million people). The study used  “a model controlling statistically for energy intake” in arriving at their conclusions. 

So what, ergo, are we to conclude from this constant barrage of contradictory information?  Of the eat this today you shouldn’t eat that tomorrow schizophrenic ramblings? I conclude that trying to isolate single variables of causality in such a complex system as what we eat and who we are and who gets (or doesn’t get) what disease is an exercise in Chaos Theory. It allows us to predict only when some of the variables are extreme in nature, and by being so extreme in value dominate the equation. 

I think that in this setting the more applicable data is observational in nature. Cultures and populations who eat diets rich in seafood (excepting those who  regularly frequent Long John Silver’s , etc.)  don’t get heart disease-I don’t care how much cholesterol you find in a shrimp! 

With that in mind I follow a simple dictum: Eat fresh, enjoy and avoid the excesses of sugar, salt and fat (doesn’t mean don’t have them). 

Cui bono? 





7 responses

17 08 2010

How strange Doc- I just posted a butterfly pic to state how my life has seen drastic changes in health, illness, and death of friends, and your right diet and so many things factor in…I will regret that hot dog too 🙂

Chef E

17 08 2010

Love your common sense; hurray!
I meet people here in the mountains who seem to do pretty well; does it mean that the outdoorsy life contributes to health?
I am fascinated by this woman I know who makes her own arak (like ouzo) drinks some every night, but spends her days in her fields with her trees and vegetables.

17 08 2010

@TOB: I think so! I think it is all intertwined, like our DNA!
@Butternut: Thanks-Let me know how it turns out for you!

17 08 2010

I think exercise of some sort is what helps contribute to longevity – if you are active you keep your heart pumping if your heart is pumping it is doing its job along with your liver and your kidneys by oxygenating and filtering over and over again….this cannot be a bad thing. We are bombarded by contradictory “findings” but in the case of chaos theory what is good for the goose may not be good for the gander.

18 08 2010

@DB: Agreed; We are a greater sum than our individual parts (exercise, emotion, stress level, what we eat….). We are a part of nature, thus it is difficult to sort out 1 “best thing” unless it is super important (like you need your heart working to live) or super bad (heart attack=bad). Most of where we live is grey-neither black nor white.
@Koek: You nailed it! It’s all good, if it weren’t for meat (increased protein intake) some folks feel we’d ALL still be in Africa but unevolved and hanging out in trees (I saw the lions and leopards at Londolozi). I guess we’d at least be neighbors!There was another study just came out said grumpy pissy people die sooner and have more disease. Guess we are not only what we eat but how we feel, too!

18 08 2010

You make a very important point I think… Today’s media/society is so fixed on trying to figure out ONE ingredient/food group to avoid that we end up not taking responsibility for our whole liftstyle, i.e. exercise, get a large variety of foods (mostly plants, am i right?), and BE HAPPY! Aaaanyway. I find the happier and healthier I feel, the less i feel like eating meat. Odd hey? Because I’m quite partial to the odd juicy fillet or Bolognese… Keep up the good work doc 🙂

22 08 2010

Yet, the chaos theory starts with the initial conditions (the butterfly) creating a determined outcome, though small variances in the beginning can vastly change the outcome over time. Is it truly deterministic? In finance, we call it the Monte Carlo method of trying to determine an outcome. So, my question is: how much of our (intelligent) intervention during the course, time after time after the initial conditions are set, helps or hinders the final outcome? In health, finance, weather… your field of prediction. As well, how far back do we have to go to get to the “initial conditions”? Childhood…..birth……as a fetus (consuming the foods of the mother – and thus the food tastes of the mother)……..DNA? Can we truly alter the path…..change the outcome…….or merely push mountains to make minute adjustments?

This is a long way of coming to the same conclusion. Everything in moderation (even moderation – ha ha). Love the mental exercise. Love the food. Thanks for being patient. (No pun intended, Doc.)

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