As I look ahead to 2015, I wonder if America will even be around. Could there be a sudden collapse of America without advance warning?
“Self Organizing Criticality”
How can stable systems suddenly collapse for no apparent reason? Everything seems fine for a long period of time, then for no apparent reason the system collapses. Why does this happen, and can we predict the collapse ahead of time?
Can we use this information to better understand the risk we face in the future?
Welcome to the world of self organizing criticality (SOC). This is where processes can remain in a relatively stable state for a long period of time then suddenly collapse over a seemingly trivial event.
There is an underlying mathematical process that can describe the SOC – the “power law.” This law describes the workings of sandpiles, forest fires, stock markets and societies.
Playing with Sandpiles
Back in 1987 three scientists at the Brookhaven Laboratory began wondering about why systems collapse. Could they develop a system that would let them study how a system moves from a stable state to a crash state? Then they could study how crashes occur.
What they came up with was a computer version of sandpiles. They wrote a computer program to drop grains of sand one by one forming a sandpile in the process. The properties they gave the grains of sand made them more like grains of rice than grains of sand. Each grain was light and sticky, just like a grain of rice. And unlike a real grain of sand which is heavy and not very sticky.
In dropping the grains one by one onto a pile, it started out pretty level, but later there formed areas of steepness. From time to time these steep areas would collapse when one more grain was dropped. Coloring the steep areas red and the other areas green made analysis a whole lot easier. Initially, the piles would start out green. As more grains were dropped one could see “fingers of instability” gradually forming throughout the sandpile. As long as the red areas were relatively isolated, then a major collapse could not occur. However, once the red areas started connecting to one another, then it became possible for a minor event to start a major collapse in motion.
Once the red areas formed there was only one way to clear them out – avalanche. Most of the time the collapses were minor, but occasionally so much red formed that a critical state was reached. At this point a major collapse could occur at any time, but no one could predict precisely when the collapse would happen.
Going from a normal state to critical state seems to be like the change of state in the physical world. For example, as liquid water is slowly cooled at some point it will switch states and go to the solid state where its characteristics change substantially. As the water gets closer to the freezing point one knows it will switch states but not the precise timing of the switch ahead of time.
The Power Law Applied to Sandpiles
The power law says that the probability of the collapse is proportional to the size.
P(x) = Cx^-a
x = Size of avalanche in grains
P(x) = Cumulative probability of collapse with size x or less
a = Slope of line
C = Constant
The power law is pretty simple, and we see its hand in sandpiles, forest fires, stock markets and societies (war).
In studying the results of their computer simulations the scientists came away with a general understanding:
1. There was no typical collapse. Each one was unique.
2. The precise event setting the collapse in motion seemed to be unimportant.
3. The most important point was understanding when the system was in critical state.
4. Collapses follow the power law.
In 1998 several geologists decided to do the equivalent of the sandpile game with forest fires. They built a computer model with squares, and randomly placed trees on the squares. Each tree sprouted new seedlings in the surrounding squares from time to time. The computer randomly dropped matches on squares from time to time.
When a match hit a square with a tree in it, the surrounding trees were burned up as well. If a tree was relatively isolated then the fire wasn’t able to spread. However, as surrounding trees proliferated, the probability of large fires grew. Eventually, the board would reach a critical state where one match could literally wipe out everything on the board.
Then the geologists started playing around with the rate that matches were dropped. For example, what would happen if you slowed down the rate at which matches were dropped? They found the small fires decreased, but very large, critical state (supercritical) fires increased.
Now what would happen if in real life all small and intermediate fires were put out relatively quickly? That would be the equivalent of slowing down the rate at which matches were dropped. It would also be the path to supercritical state.
Does this sound similar to the policy of forestry officials in years past? Official policy was to put out all fires.
The stages of the cycle are:
1. No fires are possible after a supercritical burn.
2. Only small fires will be able to start due to sparse re-growth of trees and vegetation. Later intermediate fires are possible.
3. Forest re-growth is enough to allow a complete critical (supercritical) burn. This is the critical (supercritical) state.
4. The entire forest is pretty much burned away in a great fire.
The forest will follow this cycle which is based on how long it takes to re-grow the forest.
What would happen if you allowed the small and intermediate fires to burn, but not the critical state fires? This appears to be the policy of forestry officials today.
This policy will allow smaller fires to clear out small trees and underbrush. Eventually enough larger trees will grow that the forest will reach a supercritical state, but the time to reach this state will be very long.
The only way to prevent larger critical and supercritical state fires is to intentionally start fires before the forest can reach one of those states.
What have we learned through the study of SOC?
1. Skipping one or more intermediate states could put you on the path to supercritical state. Could the possession of nuclear weapons cause the elimination of intermediate states, and put you on the path to supercritical state?
2. We cannot know the precise timing of a collapse.
3. The most important lesson is to understand when you enter a critical state.
4. Both wars and the size of attacks within wars follow the power law and are subject to SOC rules.
Is it possible that we have already entered a critical state?
The movie “2012” is coming out in theaters on November 13, 2009. Based on the movie trailer (2), it looks like the Earth will be destroyed in 2012 by meteorites, earthquakes, giant waves and more. The question is – could it really happen?
There is no particular reason that the Earth should experience a series of supernatural events in 2012. Yes, the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, but there is absolutely no evidence that date means anything in real life.
Unfortunately, real life is going to be even scarier than the movie. Imagine going to bed one night and waking up to a destroyed America. That’s assuming you even wake up. That’s the kind of scenario that is becoming more and more possible, and might really happen around 2012.
The world has not seen a major world war for over 60 years. The idea that this type of war could even occur is beyond the imagination of most people. Yet, a major nuclear war (3) is now more likely than it has ever been.
To understand why a major nuclear war is likely one must look back at how prior wars started (4). For example, what were the conditions (5) that caused World War I to start, and are they present today?
The first condition for World War I is a declining superpower. Britain was already in decline in 1914 and was just not up to the task of confronting Germany.
Today it is the United States that is in decline (6). We have trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. The nation is divided politically. Soon our standard of living must start decreasing.
The impact of this decline should not be underestimated. It is huge.
The idea is that a certain world order that has existed for many years is in the state of change. This period can be very dangerous.
The second condition is powerful rivals. This was Germany in 1914, and today it’s Russia (7) and China.
China is busy taking the profits it earned from the United States and building more nuclear-tipped missiles to point at us. Russia is busy upgrading its nuclear missiles and warheads.
Additionally, for some reason both Russia (8) and China (9) are investing a lot of resources building underground nuclear bunkers capable of protecting millions of people.
The third condition is weakened alliances. Currently NATO has no clear purpose. The Europeans are not fond of the United States and most likely would not come to our defense in a nuclear war.
The alliance with South Korea is very weak because the people have become more and more anti-American.
Even the alliance with Japan is set to change with the recent election of a new political party to power.
The fourth condition is the existence of terrorist supporting states. That was Yugoslavia in 1914, and today it’s Iran, Syria, Lebanon and other Islamic states.
The fifth condition is the existence of terrorist organizations. They existed in Yugoslavia in 1914, and today there are Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and more.
The first three conditions set the stage for war but might not necessarily start a war. The last two provide the catalyst to actually start the war.
There are other conditions that one could use to determine if war is near. For example, there are the three Es of war (10): Empires in decline, economic volatility and ethnic conflict. These are all present today.
The United States is in decline. Russia and China are experiencing economic volatility due to the global financial crisis. Ethnic conflict is a major source of problems in the Middle East.
Another way to understand war is to look at how major wars tend to follow cycles (the cycles of war) (11) based on the human life span. As a crisis generation gets older and starts to die, the younger generations (12), having not directly experienced a major crisis involving war, start to become susceptible to a major new war.
The cycles of war point to a major crisis occurring between 2005 and 2025.
You can see our susceptibility increasing as Obama is cutting the number of nuclear weapons down to 1,500 and possibly even 1,000. A major attack by both Russia and China means that we can retaliate once then we have nothing left. Meanwhile, millions of Russians and Chinese can wait us out in their nuclear bunkers.
Could they wait us out if they knew we could retaliate four or five times over several years?
How would a nuclear war start (13)?
Recently, we learned that Iran has enough uranium to build one nuclear bomb. It doesn’t actually have a bomb, but it could build one if it wanted to. Additionally, it is building enough centrifuges over five years to create about 25 bombs per year.
We have now crossed a threshold where Israel must act. In a couple of years Iran will be in position to have 20 or 30 nuclear bombs. This is intolerable to Israel, and a very real threat to its existence.
In the next year or two Israel must attack Iran and destroy or cripple its ability to create nuclear weapons.
What do you think will happen after Israel attacks Iran?
Iran will launch a coordinated attack against Israel using Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Hamas. They will seek to destroy Israel once and for all.
Both Syria (14) and Hezbollah (15) have chemical weapons that could be launched on Israeli cities.
What do you think would go through the mind of a Jew when chemical weapons are exploding over Israeli cities?
There can be only one response: nuclear. Whoever would dare to use chemical weapons against Israel will be obliterated with nuclear weapons.
Once Israel starts using nuclear weapons then it must destroy all of its hostile neighbors. That means about 10 to 15 million deaths will occur over a short period of time.
Naturally the rest of the world would be pretty upset at Israel, and America would be blamed too.
Is that a good reason to launch a nuclear war against America? It turns out that the answer is yes, but not right away. It will take a few years to properly prepare for nuclear war against America.
The normal scenario where a small conflict escalates into a major nuclear war will not happen. In this case a small nuclear war will not escalate, but rather it will die out. The escalation will occur a few years later when the entire world is not expecting anything to happen. It will come out of the blue for no apparent reason.
Back in 2008 a Russian general (16) announced that Russia reserved the right to use nuclear weapons preemptively to protect itself and its allies. Okay, but which countries are allies of Russia?
Syria is an ally (17) of Russia.
So Russia is already telling us that if Syria is destroyed by Israel then Russia may launch a nuclear strike over this event.
Doesn’t Russia have a lot to lose by going to war with America? The article, Beware Failing Rogues (18), describes how economically distressed states might go to war. The more a state has to lose, the less likely it is to risk losing it. However, Russia is looking more and more like an economically distressed state due to the huge drop in the price of oil.
Russia has another big problem in that its military is declining. It simply cannot upgrade its military equipment faster than it is degrading. So there will be a significant reduction in Russia’s nuclear missiles in the next 15 years. Analysts expect Russia’s nuclear missiles to eventually stabilize at around 300 in the next 15 years.
By 2030, America will probably have the technology to take out most of the Russian missiles during their boost phase. This will be a disaster for Russia.
So Russia has a window over the next ten years where it can destroy America. After that period Russia may have to start living under the thumb of America for a long time.
What about China?
Already one can read about the thousands of protests each year from unhappy citizens. The environmental pollution is so bad that it is devastating to the people. The country’s one-child policy is a demographics disaster. The country’s leadership is mostly unresponsive to the complaints of the people. There are significant water problems covering large portions of the country. There’s wife kidnapping because men are getting desperate for a wife, and this will get worse. There are abandoned little girls because the parents wanted boys instead.
Even though things don’t look too bad in China right now, they can easily change due to the above mentioned internal problems. Look at how some analysts see China:
The Chinese have dangerously overheated their economy, building malls, luxury stores and infrastructure for which there is almost no demand, and that the entire system is teetering toward collapse.
If you want to see what nuclear war looks like then check out this YouTube film clip from the movie, “The Day After”. (19)
In conclusion, a nuclear war in the Middle East will act as a sign that the United States could be subject to nuclear retaliation from Russia and China. The actual retaliation would probably take two to three years to occur in order to give Russia and Chine time to prepare.
(1) The Next War of the World
(2) Institute For Human Continuity: The IHC, Keeping You Safe For ‘2012?
(3) Chance of nuclear war is greater than you think: Stanford engineer makes risk analysis
(4) The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West
(5) Geopolitics: The Three E’s of War
(6) Empire Falls – Why the sun is setting on the west
(7) Look back at Weimar and start to worry about Russia
(8) Russian bunkers against nuclear attack
(9) Shanghai Completes Massive Underground Bunker to Protect Citizens from Disasters
(10) Geopolitics: The Three E’s of War
(11) Winter’s Coming for the Boomers
(12) The Coming Era of Russia’s Dark Rider
(13) The Coming Nuclear War in 2012
(14) Israel is on a collision course with Syria
(15) Agencies Say Iran Has the Nuclear Fuel to Build a Bomb
(16) Russia’s Nuclear Threat
(17) Russia to defend its principal Middle East ally: Moscow takes Syria under its protection
(18) BANKRUPT ROGUES: BEWARE FAILING FOES
(19) The Day After (Attack Segment)