Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Of Brownian Motion, External Forces, the Stock Market and Grandchildren

Following the giant downturn in the stock markets across the world on Monday, I heard a commentator on the radio say that maybe this was the bottom. I immediately thought of Professor Craig, a brilliant Chemist at the University of Pittsburgh when I was a graduate student. Professor Craig enjoyed using the Brownian Donkey to describe the effect on Brownian Motion when an external force was applied.

The explanation is as follows: imagine a man with a donkey trying to get the donkey to go in a specific direction. The man pulls the donkey in a specific direction for a short period of time, after which, the donkey has had enough and bucks and kicks and complain and pulls the man in random directions all over the terrain until the donkey gets tired. At this point, the man gets back up, and again pulls the donkey in a specific direction for a short period of time. Eventually, the man and the donkey arrive at their destination. In this scenario, the man is the external force which is applied in only one direction, and which eventually leads to the successful movement of the particles, of the stock market, of a baby growing up, of a teenager becoming an adult, and a myriad of other examples.

So, don’t be fooled by an up day after a down day on the market, the economic climate in the world today is the external force slowly but surely pulling the market in a negative direction.

Likewise, the Grandchildren. They too grow via a Brownian model. One day they aren’t walking very well, the next day, wow, great. But, the next day seems to be a step in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, as I tell my children, that’s life. When you’re young, it’s 2 steps forward and 1 step back (the external force of time and nature). Regretfully, when you’re old, it’s 2 steps back and 1 step forward (the external force of time and nature).

Oh my goodness, after being so busy at work for the past few months and not having time to post to my blog, this is my first post. Doesn’t sound very uplifting to me.

In an effort to redeem myself, here is my Brownian Motion joke of the day, compliments of the web:

I got a call the other day from someone urging me to join the Brownian Movement. When I asked him what folks did in the Brownian Movement, he told me they just got together to mill around.


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