Viscous Thinking

Big Fools have little fools
Who feed on their “lucidity,”
And little fools have lesser fools
And so on to stupidity.

~ Max Photon

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Viscous Thinking has a delightful origin.

In 1920, Lewis F. Richardson published The Supply of Energy from and to Atmospheric Eddies in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences.

This friendly little poem by Richardson gently captures the essence of his mathematically bristling paper:

Big whorls have little whorls
That feed on their velocity,
And little whorls have lesser whorls
And so on to viscosity.

(Partial differential equations or poetry? Which do you prefer?)

Echoing the implicit underlying fractal form, Richardson’s poem plays off of that written in the mid-1800s by mathematician Augustus De Morgan:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.

But De Morgan is toying with a poem by Jonathan Swift in 1733, who makes quick work of the idea of self-similarity in natural philosophy with the following lines in On Poetry: A Rhapsody:

So nat’ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite ‘em.
And so proceeds Ad infinitum.

So Viscous Thinking has been slow to form — 280 years! (Good things are worth the wait.)

* * * * *

Viscous Thinking illuminates the mechanism behind much of our ignorance, and behind the turbulence we suffer in its wake.

But perhaps most intriguing about Viscous Thinking is that any first-order approximation of a control engineer can immediately grasp that a few “big fools” deliberately placed in key positions of power can do extreme and widespread damage to every soul on Earth, by creating mass stupidity.

Settle down. Etymology time. The root word stupid comes from the Latin verb stupere, for being numb or astonished, and is related to stupor.  To be stupid is to be in a stupor. 


Viscous Thinking — Max Photon’s Trickle Dumb Theory — is the blueprint for inducing a mass synthetic stupor.

Remember, the truth of the world reflects in a still mind — but it has to be YOUR mind.

Reflections of trees in drops of water