Dear Tim,

Your comments about Pi made me wonder whether the location of Oldton might be calculated using a mathematical technique known as Odkrycie, which was pioneered and developed by the Polish physicist, Adok Borophski.

Borophski wanted to track the movement of sub-atomic particles at points in an experiment where they could not be detected using laboratory equipment without influencing the outcome of the experiment. Over the course of many years, he developed the complicated mathematics that came to form the basis of Odkrycie, which is more accurately described as a philosophy of mathematics.

The technique works by gathering as much raw data on a problem as is possible. This data is broken down into variables which form part of a macro-equation. Not all of these variables necessarily have to be accurate – they can be estimates or approximations, or they can be left as unknown quantities.

At this point Odkrycie becomes the mathematical equivalent of juggling with about 50 balls in the air. Borophski compared the process to the workings of a great machine whose efficiency and reliability is dependent on the simultaneous interaction of many small moving parts:

At the same time that the macro-equation is being solved, each variable is tested both independently and against other variables, in order to assess it’s relative verisimilitude (truth content minus falsehood content) and it’s significance in the macro-equation. By using this persistent process of editing and re-evaluation, inaccuracies are gradually weeded out, while repeated or non-relevant information is eliminated. Borophski also describes a phenomena that he calls co-dependent duplication in which the mathematics spontaneously generates several slightly different macro-equations. Deciding which equation is the most reliable is not simply a process of elimination, as these equations are all inter-related and parts of an erroneous macro-equation may have a direct or indirect influence on parts of the, as yet unidentified, accurate macro-equation.

Perhaps the best way to visualise how Odkrycie works is to imagine an equation with many variables. Now imagine that each variable in the equation is an arrow. At the beginning, before we attempt any mathematics, the arrows are spread out over a large area and are all pointing in random directions. The goal is to bring these arrows together in a tightly knit circle so that they all point towards the same spot. In reality this never actually happens, because of the margin for error in the variables themselves and also because of the leaps of faith required by the mathematics which often involves counter intuitive thinking that borders on idiocy. Most of the time, it is difficult to get anything better than large baggy circle, with the arrows pointing only vaguely in the same direction, however the accuracy is improving as the mathematics becomes more refined.

The reason that I have brought up Odkrycie, in relation to Oldton, is because the technique has been found to have other uses outside of the laboratory. Shortly after publishing his first paper on the technique in The Utah Journal of Particle Physics Borophski claimed to have used the same mathematics to recover items that he had lost around his home. In 1988 he demonstrated this on American television, using the Odkrycie to locate a small silver needle that had been hidden somewhere inside a derelict steel mill. The entire process took him almost seven days during which time he covered the walls of a large, freshly whitewashed room inside the steel mill with reams of equations.

In the last couple of years, there has been a race within the computer industry to develop a machine able to cope with the demands of Odkrycie. Such a machine would have many practical applications but I believe that one of the hopes is that it will eventually be possible to create a small personal device, which would be able to locate objects lost by its owner. In any case, the heavy reliability on fuzzy logic which is a cornerstone of solving Odkrycie equations has so far baffled conventional computer technology.

Borophski was, by all accounts, an extremely eccentric man, who enjoyed a reasonably successful career as a biologist before taking ten years academic leave, during which time he studied physics – a subject that he previously had little knowledge of.

By the time he developed Odkrycie he was well into his 70s and employed at The Gaston Institute in El Paso, as Project Manager on the particle accelerator that was being constructed beneath city (this project had its funding cut in 1998 and remains unfinished) .

In the early 1980s, he became obsessed with the arcade game Asteroids. Every afternoon at One O’clock, regardless of where he found himself in his research, he would walk two miles across town to a fried chicken restaurant in what was then a very dangerous part of El Paso. The restaurant had an Asteroids. machine next to the counter, which Borophski would play for at least an hour, while enjoying a banana milkshake, before walking back to his laboratory and resuming his research.

Although the restaurant has since closed, the Asteroids arcade machine has been preserved by The Gaston Institute. The equations that Borophski reputedly carved into the console using a nail--file have been inlayed with a silver alloy to ensure their longevity. The significance of many of these equations remains unknown and in fact the machine was recently borrowed on academic loan by GRK Labs UK for study and analysis.

I will see if I can find someone on the internet, who has sufficient knowledge of Odkrycie to undertake a search for Oldton.

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Jonathan Kepple

From dogs to equations - when ever I hear 'equation' i'm back at Oxford Polytechnic (which just like Oldton has dissapeared replaced with something called Oxford Brookes University)- in a Physics lecture - Shrodinger's Equation - I think I used to know it - but not any more - all memory of it other than its name has gone - that equation's name has stayed with me as has the story of 'Schrodinger 's cat' who is 'dead and not dead'... like OLdton and all the folks that lived live there...

Of course Shrodinger was working at the early stages of our understnading of quantum physics/mechanics but essentially raises the whole question of the role of 'observer' in bringing things into reality making things happen or not - his 'cat' thought experiment was first written up in a letter to Albert Einstein and this section of it brings us right back to photographs...

"One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of one hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrochloric acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The [wave] function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a "blurred model" for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."

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Paul T Conneally

Education & Regional Director World Haiku Club

Director Haikumania Project

http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/haikumania/

Posted by: paul conneally | September 10, 2004 at 10:28 AM