Month: February 2016

A New Page: Tycho City

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

What is a Tycho City? Well the reference derives from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is a city that emerges on the moon between the years of 2069 and 2071 in that science fiction universe. But what does it mean here?

A Tycho City
A Tycho City

As space drive technologies advance, for example the electromagnetic propulsion drive, or the EM Drive that was recently tested by NASA, humanity will be provided opportunities to colonize other planets. As a natural progression of the evolution of civilizations, human cities will emerge on other planets, dwarf planets, and moons.

As an example, Mars and Ceres will be the on the forefront of these possibilities. This is because missions to Mars are currently in the works and Ceres is a mineral and energy paradise for scientists, engineers, and business entrepreneurs. So the question is, where and how will these cities emerge and evolve…Read more here.

To delve further into this subject, explore A City on Mars: A Response to Elon Musk and Classifying Cities: The Big Picture.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!


A New Page: Minneapolis, MN

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

Photo Courtesy of Dan Anderson
Photo Courtesy of Dan Anderson

Welcome to the Minneapolis, MN overview page. This page also doubles as the page for the General Minneapolis System, or GMS. As a systems scientist in the emerging field of systems science, and as someone who was born and raised in Minneapolis, it is my goal to help educate and interact with the general public, community leaders, business and industry leaders, and policy makers in Minneapolis in achieving a greater understanding of Minneapolis as a system.

By system composition, the General System of Minneapolis is composed of an ecological system, an economic system, a cultural system, and a political system. Further explanation of these system components can be found in the subsequent pages linked to this page. But more than these subsystems of Minneapolis, the city is an accumulation of its history dating back to the emergence of industry around the Falls of St. Anthony, its dynamics between the city itself and its respective groups and individual citizens, and between the groups and citizens themselves spanning history to the present day.

In short, Minneapolis is, and has been, a complex web of agents (people and groups) interacting and engaging to find their economic well-being, cultural recognition and acceptance, political representation and application, and ecological existence and harmony. In systems science, Minneapolis would be called a Complex Adaptive System, or CAS…Read more here.

For further exploration of the dynamics of Minneapolis, please feel free to explore Economies, Policies, and Systems and Analyzing a Crime Pattern of a General System.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Economies, Policies, and Systems

Author’s Note: 

As a scientist, and someone who studies systems, it is not my job to take a political side. Sure, I have my own political and social views. However, as a systems scientist, it is imperative for me to consider the perspective of “the other” in all forms, i.e., economic, political, social, ecological, etc… And I must stress, the questions I pose in this article are but just the beginning of the exploration into the science. Even if my scientific findings suggest disagreement with proposed arguments and policies by policy makers, I still know that the intentions from those who originally proposed such ideas came from a place of empathy and solidarity with those who struggle economically, politically, and socially. 

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

Policies can affect a city and its inhabitants in different ways. Some of these effects can be positive; some of these effects can be negative; some of the these effects can have no affect at all; and some of these effects can affect a city in a variety of positive and negative ways and combinations. In other words, where a policy, or policies, can change one part of the city in a positive way, it can change another part of the city in a negative way.

Table 1
Table 1

This is important to keep in mind because as this author has demonstrated in previous articles, depressed areas of Minneapolis tend to be more sensitive to systems’ fluctuations than non-depressed areas of Minneapolis. And there are a variety of reasons for why this may be. However, it should be recognized that when it comes to systems, the why is very difficult to ascertain, but some information and knowledge can still be gained.

Since its peak in 2008, the number of foreclosures has been decreasing rather steadily with the exception of a hiccup here and there, according to Table 1. This clearly illustrates a positive behavior for the general system. Taken together with the decreasing unemployment rate, the increase of more than 22 thousand jobs in Minneapolis since 2012, the increase in the number of employed since 2012, the steady increase in weekly wages since 2006, and the decreasing numbers of foreclosures and condemned and vacant buildings over the past 8 years, Minneapolis is showing some economic power, vitality, and stability. However, where some of Minneapolis’ sub-systems (Wards) aren’t necessarily affected or dependent on market fluctuations, other sub-systems are, at least that’s the thinking.

As Table 2 suggests, the 4th and 5th Wards are highly sensitive to market forces; whereas, the 2nd Ward, as can be seen, is not, at least with respect to foreclosures. Why might this be? Well that’s the question.

But here’s an observation from the data. While those on the north side were wrestling with the great recession, it appears that the 2nd Ward was on economic cruise control, although one variable doesn’t tell the entire story. Not even close.

Figure 1
Table 2

Systems are complex entities. In the case of a city like Minneapolis, the general system is composed of an economic system, a political system, and a social system. These systems are further intertwined with the ecological system of Minneapolis, and with each policy implemented, it could have a positive or negative effect, or no effect at all. So the question becomes, should policy makers in Minneapolis be implementing general policies to the entire system? Or should they be focusing on sub-systems within Minneapolis?

As an example, would it make sense to legislate rent control for the entire city of Minneapolis when wages have been steadily increasing and the labor force has been increasing? Would it make sense for policy makers to legislate a $15 minimum wage when wages have been steadily increasing and the labor force has been increasing? And if these policies were implemented to the system, how would the system react? Would the respective sub-systems illustrate similar behavior to that of the foreclosure behavior?

Or would it make more sense to focus in on those depressed areas of Minneapolis and their respective sub-systems? Would it make sense to pass policy that addresses the economic turbulence that those in North Minneapolis, for example, have been experiencing for the past few decades? Wouldn’t development from within be a more viable policy rather than attempting to penetrate the entire system with policies that may or may not be necessary, or that would perpetuate adverse effects?

These questions of course beg more questions, which they ought to. That’s the beauty of science and scientific analysis. If curiosity, exploration, discovery, and patience are emphasized and accepted, then time, data, policies, research, and the scientific method will eventually answer these questions, tell the story, and provide guidance on urban policy.

For further exploration of this subject, please feel free to explore Analyzing a Crime Pattern of a General System and Patterns of the 5th Ward: Unemployment.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Bernie Gets Doused by Clinton’s Perfume

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

There is so much to unpack after watching this spirited debate. Compared to the previous debate, which included Martin O’Malley and his “What about me, guys?” look, this debate took on a whole new personality. And for the first time this campaign season, the Democrats had themselves a winner. With that said, let’s get to it. Here are my winners and losers for the 2016 Democratic debate in New Hampshire.

The Winners:

BFFsAs I said, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party won this debate. Considering the previous monstrosities that took on the appearance of a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s where the birthday participants were IRS accountants and electrical engineers, the DNC finally won. For the first time during this presidential debate season, they didn’t lay an egg.

Hillary Clinton is my other winner. “What the…, Matt? You gotta be kidding me?” Nope. I’m not kidding you. Look I don’t like it anymore than you do, but the fact of the matter is she’s much more polished and seasoned than Sanders. She knows how to play the game.

There were a couple of moments when she directly called out Bernie (I’ll get to this point in the next section when I call Bernie a loser). In addition, she was really good at giving the democrats the answers they wanted to hear. I didn’t say honest answers. I said the answers that the voters supporting her wanted to hear.

The Losers: 

BFFs 3First of all, Bernie had a good debate. But he couldn’t decide what he wanted to be. Did he want to be Hillary’s BFF or did he want to slam her and be the better nominee?

For example, when Bernie mentioned Clinton’s association with D.C. special interests, asserting that being a part of the establishment was a Super PAC raising $15 million during the previous quarter and millions of dollars from special interests, she fired back. She asked Sanders what he meant by that comment? She further accused him of “attacks by insinuation” and challenged him to say it to her face. Clinton does not lack guts.

And this is my problem with Sanders. He doesn’t want to play dirty and he doesn’t want to get in her face. But politics is a dirty game and Clinton is really good at it. She went full politician during the entire debate. She met Sander’s at every point. But am I the only one who smells the disingenuous scent that is her political perfume?

To Bernie’s credit, he’s honest and genuine in his convictions. He’s also consistent, but these characteristics won’t win him the nomination. It never has for any candidate. Indeed, these characteristics will only help him. But in this environment that is politics, they don’t mean dick, and certainly not against Clinton. He just doesn’t have the audaciousness and fortitude to defeat Clinton.

Final Thoughts

Clinton laid out several soft balls for Sanders and he didn’t swing. For example, she said she fought for racial justice; she said she fought for Obamacare before it was Obamacare; and she said that her positions have always been her positions. There are several other things she said during the debate, but I can’t seem to get away from that perfume smell. God, that stuff is strong.

Look, Sanders has no Super PAC supporting him; his campaign has raised 3 and half million individual campaign contributions averaging $27 each; and according to him, he’s pulling 25,000 to 30,000 people per rally. And all of that may be true, but the Clinton machine knows how to play this game. And in this debate, he struck out and struck out big and it may hurt his campaign in the long run, if the perfume doesn’t get him first.

For more articles about Bernie Sanders and politics in general, you are welcome to explore 2016 Presidential Race: Bernie Sanders with Katie Couric and General Thoughts on the 2016 Republican Iowa Debate.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!






Analyzing a Crime Pattern of a General System

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

Crime is an important indicator of the attractiveness of a city in Urban Dynamics. This means it’s important to consider and recognize because it could and often does have a negative and adverse affect on a city as well as individual parts of a city.

Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis
Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis

Let us use rationale and data to guide our way and perceptions. We’ve seen patterns in previous articles that describe different systems’ behaviors in different parts of the city. For example, we’ve seen and compared the behavior of the foreclosure rates in the 4th and 5th Wards and the behavior of the foreclosure rate in the 2nd Ward.

It was clear from the data that the foreclosure rates of the 4th and 5th Wards closely mimicked the behavior of the foreclosures of the general system of Minneapolis. Conversely, it was clear that the foreclosure behavior of the 2nd Ward seemed to have a mind of its own, nor an attachment or relationship with the behavior of the general system of Minneapolis (See link below).

And as this author implicitly indicated in a recent article in Our Black News, the difference in unemployment between those in predominantly “black” neighborhoods and those in predominantly “white” neighborhoods is as much as 4 to 5 times if not more. Of course, years of data would allow this author to compile and analyze more precise systems’ behaviors with more accurate conclusions.

Table 1
Table 1

Making due with what we currently have, Table 1 shows us that the crime rate from 2015 follows a fairly normal distribution, i.e., Bell-curve. We also notice from the table that the crimes are skewed towards the 2nd half of the year. In other words, there are more crimes committed in the later half of the year than in the first half of the year. And finally, we can see that the month with the highest number of crimes for 2015 was July with 2,116; whereas, the month with the lowest number of crimes for 2015 was February with 1,144.

As we will see in future articles, this Bell-curve pattern was pretty much the same for 2013 and 2014. We will also notice the months for the lowest and highest numbers of crimes will remain the same; that is, February and July, respectively.

The good news is the fact that the number of overall crimes in the city has been decreasing from year to year, at least back to 2013. And although February and July remain the lowest and highest months for crime, respectively, the total number of crimes for each month decreased from 2013 to 2014 and from 2014 to 2015.

It will be clear to us over the next couple articles that the number of crimes in the general system of Minneapolis is trending downwards. This added together with the decreasing unemployment rate over the past few years and the decreasing foreclosure rate is certainly goods news for the residents of Minneapolis in general. However, we must ask ourselves some worthwhile questions as we always do.

How do the crime rates of the 13 Wards of Minneapolis compare to the crime rate of Minneapolis itself? Remember, the sub-systems of Minneapolis are being analyzed and compared to the general system of Minneapolis.

Another question, how do the crime rates of the respective neighborhoods compare to the crime rates of their parent wards and the crime rate of the city overall? Will there be similarities? Will there be differences? What type of crimes are being committed? Will the crime rates be higher in predominantly “black” neighborhoods? And finally, what else can be gleaned from such data? In other words, what does it say about the system?

For further exploration of this subject, explore Patterns of the 5th Ward: “Race”Patterns of the 5th Ward: Unemployment, Foreclosure Rates: Wards 2, 4, and 5 from 2006 to 2015.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!



The Seeing Servant

By Robert J. Garrison, The Seeing Servant, Guest Columnist

Greetings! My name is Robert J. Garrison. I have been asked to contribute to my good friend Matt Johnson’s website Matt and I have known each other for a long time, going all the way back to high school. We both share a passion for learning and passing on knowledge to others.

Robert J. Garrison, The Seeing Servant, and his lovely wife, Beverley
Robert J. Garrison, The Seeing Servant, and his lovely wife, Beverley

Matt has always been open to gleaning insight from different ideas, cultures, and perspectives. I was more than willing to contribute to his website when asked. However, first let me give you a brief intro to myself.

I am a graduate student at Capital Seminary and Graduate School, working on my Master of Arts in Ministry. Currently I am working at the seminary library and also working at one of the numerous homeless shelters in Washington DC area. I’ve been working at the shelter for 3 months.

The reason I have a passion to help the needy (not just the homeless) comes from something that happened when I was 8 years old. Every couple of weeks a bag lady, named Mary would come around and look through the trash cans around the apartment complex that we lived in searching for aluminum cans.

Michael, a Vietnam Vet, is one of D.C.'s "unseen."
Michael, a Vietnam Vet, is one of D.C.’s “unseen.”

My mom watched as people would “not see” her and not engage with her due to her being a homeless bag lady. My mom was moved by this and started to reach out to her just by saying hello to her. My mom started saving cans for her.

Mary was so moved that someone would be willing to see past her outward appearance and treat her as a regular person; and Mary, who dug in trash bins to find cans to buy food, was so moved by the love my mother showed her that this homeless woman bought me a toy car for Christmas.

My mom saw the unseen in society and treated them with the love and respect that Jesus taught in the Gospels. This is why I have such a passion to reach out to those in society who need help. I choose to see the unseen.

My articles will be dealing with many issues pertaining to the “unseen” mainly in the Washington D.C. Area, but I will talk about the “unseen” outside of D.C. on occasion as well.

For further exploration into the world of The System Scientist‘s guest columnists, explore Diversity, The Oscars, and The Philosophy Nerd by The Philosophy Nerd, J.A. Klyng.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Promoting and Funding Science: A Constitutional Directive

By Matt Johnson

In Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States, it states very clearly that the United States Congress shall “promote the progress of science.” As a part of Congress’ constitutional mandate set forth by the founders, it must endeavor to develop the knowledge and application of science for the benefit of all Americans.

This constitutional pursuit is becoming insignificant and, as time progresses forward, the muddled discourse of the congressional house and its understanding of science in general is becoming carelessly aligned. This does not bode well for scientific discovery or subsequent technological advancements.

In 1958, the United States government passed one of the most important acts in American history, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. This piece of legislation led to the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Since then, NASA has been responsible for some of the most important and useful day-to-day applications such as long distance communication, solar energy, smoke detectors, cordless tools, water filters and LED’s [light emitting diodes], just to name a few.

NASA has also been responsible for employing millions of workers. Two million jobs were created in support of the Mercury Program alone in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

From this one act of Congress in the late 1950s, NASA was given the financial capability, vision and courage to put Americans into space, which led to putting Americans on the moon by the end of the 1960s and an international space station to work in unity with other nations. Because of this, the American economy, public and health, in general, has benefited greatly from congressional action and leadership.

Consequently, America was the beacon of human ingenuity and fortitude for decades. Yes, America has accomplished some of the most remarkable achievements in human history. But as we progress into the middle part of the 21st century, the triumphs of the late 20th century and of American scientific discovery are becoming distant memories.

According to the Guardian, a well-respected British media outlet, NASA is projected to spend just 0.49 percent, or roughly 17 billion dollars of the 2014 annual federal budget of roughly 4 trillion dollars. To put this into perspective, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and its 2014 budget plan, projected 600 billion dollars for defense and 860 billion dollars for social security, respectively.

To be fair, the Senate Democrats in their 2014 budget proposal are recommending about the same thing, plus or minus a few billion dollars.

Beside a lack of desire to fund space exploration and American audaciousness, Congress has shown a distinct lack of leadership on this matter. Earlier this month, National Geographic reported on a possible American mission to fly by Mars in 2021, but since the mothballing of the American shuttle fleet, the lack of transportation to and from low earth orbit for American astronauts — aside from paying the Russian government for a lift — and the questionable time table for President Obama’s Orion program, there does not seem to be any definitive plan of action by Congress.

To add to the clutter of confusion, during the 2012 Republican primaries for the presidential nomination, and in a moment of grandiose speech, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, suggested that he would be interested in putting a colony on the moon by the end of his second term.

In response, or lack thereof, not one person in the Republican House majority or the Democratic House minority supported Mr. Gingrich’s vision of American audacity. Instead, he was ridiculed by his opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and subsequent media outlets.

NASA is just one example of the Constitution’s imperative mission to “promote the progress of science,” although there are other not-so-flashy examples of successful scientific policy in the United States. Furthermore, it is a fact that many of the Founding Fathers were individuals of the Enlightenment, so the endeavor of science is only a natural progression of that era and thought to today’s modern America and her scientific accomplishments.

But as the earth continues to orbit around the sun in the middle of our solar system, so do scientific discovery and potential advancements. It is imperative that Congress understands constitutional prudence, especially with respect to scientific endeavor. If they continue on this path of indecisiveness, the promotion of progress clause in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution will become merely a sad reminder America’s once grand past.

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

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