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Notes on Universality and on Colors

Originally Posted by Tom Plick

Even after Feigenbaum discovered the constant that bears his name, I find it amazing that he could use it to predict the bifurcations of all sorts of different functions - in our experiments, the numbers did not converge quickly, and so there was likely a lot of error involved there.

We talked a lot about the similarities between different types of physical phenomena - for instance, between phase transitions and the onset of turbulence - and we said how the mathematics at the boundary is similar in both cases. This may be, but even if the equations for the two phenomena match up, I still don’t see how the wide-reaching concept of universality can pair them. Phase transitions involve changes among the solid, liquid, and gaseous states of matter; turbulence involves a multiplicity of frequencies in an oscillating fluid, resulting in “turbulent or not turbulent”. I see no way to parallel these two problems, between three states and two states.

I agree a lot with Goethe’s views on color, in particular that perception of color is subjective. I read an article two months ago, talking about linguists’ analysis of color words in different languages. In ancient societies, some say, the people had fewer words for colors - the Greeks had only identified a handful. It is interesting to think that perhaps, back then, they actually couldn’t see as many colors as we can today. That would be very subjective, no?

Information about the linguistic analysis of color words can be found at the Straight Dope; there is also a nice chart here.