Goo-Rue Guide to the Future

WayFinding in a world of Evolving Strange Attractors

Intensive Properties and Change

A key to being able to identify the difference between exponential change and situations that could lead to a phase transition is understanding the nature of what is changing.

Most people think of measuring reality in terms of adding or subtracting ‘stuff’. For example, length, width, depth, volume, weight, etc. vary by changing the amount of matter - having more of or less of what is being measured. These types of measures are called extensive properties.

The conditions that enable phase transitions depend on what is called intensive properties. These are measurable domains such as temperature, pressure, density, connectivity, conductivity, viscosity and malleability.

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These measurable properties are not primarily dependent on the amount of matter – but on the conditions of populations. For example, one can’t measure the ‘temperature’ of a single molecule because temperature is a measure of the ‘activity’ of a mass of molecules. In this way if you have a liter of water and divide it in half you will have two ½ liters of water. But if the liter of water is 90 degrees Celsius and you divide the liter in two. You will have two ½ liters but each ½ liter will be 90 degrees Celsius not two ½ liters that are each 45 degrees Celsius.

Phenomena measurable by intensive properties, are subject to the particular type of change we have been discussing - Phase Transition. A phase transition is a very dramatic type of change within a very narrow band of measurement. Such as when water turns to ice.