Quantity, Quality, Patterns, Fractals, Transforms

Changes in matter are always qualitative in nature. Such qualitative changes can be best understood by observing patterns like the way we find them in frequency spectrums, wear debris slides and infra red thermal images. Such patterns can also be noticed in organizations and societies.

The existence of qualitative changes in matter exhibited through patterns was known long before human beings began to think more deeply with the help of physical sciences. With the advent of atomic theory we started to appreciate this phenomenon more deeply. In the early days of science we took changes of state from solid to liquid to gas as something that occurred naturally, without exactly knowing why. It is only now that such phenomena are being properly understood.

Chemistry made great strides forward in the 19th century. A large number of elements was discovered. But, rather it looked like the confused situation which exists in particle physics today. Indeterminate Chaos reigned.

Order was established by the great Russian scientist Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev who, in 1869, in collaboration with the German chemist Julius Meyer, worked out the periodic table of the elements, so-called because it showed the periodic recurrence of similar chemical properties.

Note the use of word ‘periodic’. This is the building block of pattern making out of which we make sense of the world around us. It is the periodic repetition arranged in a certain manner that forms patterns across different levels. We now have a sophisticated word for that. It is called ‘fractals’.  

The existence of atomic weight was discovered in 1862 by Cannizzaro. But Mendeleyev’s genius lay in the fact that he did not approach the elements from a purely quantitative standpoint, that is, he did not see the relation between the different atoms just in terms of weight. Had he done that by mistake, he would never have made the breakthrough he did. From the purely quantitative standpoint, for instance, the element tellurium (atomic weight = 127.61) ought to have come after iodine (atomic weight = 126.91) in the periodic table, yet Mendeleyev placed it before iodine, under selenium, to which it is more similar, and placed iodine under the related element, bromine. Mendeleyev’s method was vindicated in the 20th century, when through the investigation of X-rays his arrangement was proved correct. The new atomic number for tellurium was put at 52, while that of iodine was 53. The breakthrough idea was to look for patterns. 

The whole of Mendeleyev’s periodic table is based on the law of quantity and quality, deducing qualitative differences in the elements from quantitative differences in atomic weights.

This understanding helps us unravel some of nature’s mysteries. These are:

a) Quantitative changes leads to qualitative changes

b) Even extremely small quantitative changes often brings about dramatic qualitative changes.

c) All qualitative changes can be understood by patterns.

d) Any qualitative changes that are always exhibited through patterns can’t be measured. So, important qualitative transformations can’t be understood through measurements of any kind. It can be understood ‘wholistically’ through patterns only.

e) Patterns or qualitative changes repeat themselves over and over again in a system. Such a phenomenon is called ‘fractals’. This happens in a self organizing fashion and the pattern that emerges is the part of the emergent property of the system.

f) Fractals exist at different levels in a system. This indicates that reality of a phenomenon exists at different levels. This is what we call as ‘parallel reality’.

g) So by closely studying one fractal we get to understand the nature of all other fractals. That is we start from a part and understand the whole. This allows us to see the part and the whole at the same time.

h) It follows, that change in the pattern at the highest level changes patterns at other levels automatically in a spontaneous manner.

i) However to make an effective change we look for the smallest change to be made with the least effort and time to bring about substantial and sustainable changes in the system.

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