Cascade to State Change

From Lunarpedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Understanding How Cascade to State Change Effects Projects

Complex systems, like our human society, have a very specific manner of changing from one state to another. Lunarpedia has a purpose that can be discussed as changing the state of our society from Earth limited to Space fairing. To do this we need to understand the cascade to state change process of complex systems.

Defining State Change

Complex systems, and most systems involving life are complex, tend to settle into stable state that resist change. Small perturbations do not normally move them to new states.

This process can be envisioned as a three dimensional landscape with a complex surface with many peeks and valleys. At any given time the system tends to give off energy and move down slope. It settles into a valley and then can osculate or even execute a random walk around the floor of the valley. It does not mater if there is an adjacent valley with a lower floor, it will not jump to it as long as there is intervening high ground.

A state change is then the process of moving the system from one valley to another and stabilizing the system in its new home.


Complex systems that include some non-linear elements are subject to another form of state change. A small change that is no bigger than the hundreds of small pushes that perturb the systems everyday can cause a cascading effect that results in the system moving to a new valley.

This effect is studied in the mathematics fields of Complexity Theory and Chaos Theory. Unfortunately it is much easier to demonstrate that such state changes can happen then to predict when they will happen.

The cascade effect is similar to tunneling in Quantum Physics. The system seems to disappear from one valley and appear in another.

It is very easy to build systems, such as double pendulums, that exhibit this effect, but it is very hard to model as specific system in enough detail for the model to include the system's cascades.

Envisioning change

If change of this type is plotted on a linear/linear graph, it will show up as a line that starts to rise very slowly and then takes off. This type of occurrence is common in human experience and may be experienced as one crossing a Tipping Point.

Historic Examples

There are two major examples of cascade to state change that are critical to our purposes, these are both Shuttle accidents. In both cases, the Shuttle systems were in a normal flight state. Some small event happened that was not much worse than many such events that had happened in the past. This time the small event resulted in another small event, and then another. Some time later the sequence of events cascaded until the Shuttle system was in a completely different state, Loss of Mission.

In the first Shuttle loss, an O ring failed to seal properly. This problem had occurred at least five times before. This time the O ring was vaporized in a puff of black smoke. Ash from the burning rocket fuel then temporarily sealed the open seam. Minutes later, at the period of highest stress on the system, the temporary seal failed, exhaust gas sprayed out the side of the solid fuel booster and burned into the hydrogen fuel tank.

In the second Shuttle loss, a piece of foam came off the fuel tank and struck the Shuttle. Again this problem had happened before. This time the piece of foam was a little bigger and it broke lose only after the Shuttle had gain significant speed. Days later, the hole the foam made in the leading edge of a wing let hot reentry gasses enter the wing and slowly destroy internal wing components one by one. The wing then failed and the Shuttle system had cascaded from normal flight to the state of Loss of Mission.

We could take from this that we must investigate every conceivable incident no mater how small, or that we should not name our spacecraft with any word that starts with the letter "C". Neither approach guarantees against future accidents. We need to understand the process complex systems exhibit in cascade to state change.

Not all state changes are bad

If a system has been stuck in a rut for a long time, or seems to be slipping in a bad direction, it may be time to try to initiate a state change. As unpredictable as cascading effects are they still represent the least resource intensive means of changing the state of a complex system. They are often the only path that could possibly work.

For example, President Kennedy needed a way to pursue America's interests in the Cold War without starting dangerous military actions. He asked his advisors and came up with a trip to the Moon. It is impossible to over estimate how improvable this turn of events was.

President Kennedy then made a series of televised speeches on the theme, "We choose to go to the Moon". He generated massive amounts of buy-in for the idea. Apollo to the Moon then took us there.

The country cascaded from The Bay of Pigs to the Moon race in only a few months. Massive numbers of people got into action and made it happen.

Cascading back to the Moon

We did it once, we can do it again.

One of Lunarpedia's purposes then is to generate a cascading change for our society that will put us back on the Moon to stay.

Return to Purposes List.