|A cartoon depiction, from The New Yorker Magazine (1967), of alien scientists, aka "super observers", watching a baseball game, from above, but not able discern the why of the pattern. |
“Organisms are considered as if they were 'single abstract molecules' that interact with each other and the abiotic world in a way that resembles a complex, composite, chemical reaction.”— Robert Sterner and James Elser (2002), Ecological Stoichiometry
(a) Biases: anthropocentric biases often come to the fore when theorizing on topics that have immediate implications to one's understanding of his or her own existence; for instance, often one will incorrectly use the extrapolate down approach verses (e.g. assume atoms have consciousness), whereas the extrapolate up approach (e.g. assume humans chemically react with each other), tends to be the more-correct method of logic.
(b) Times: equations and concepts developed in classical science are typically structured around time-accelerated phenomena, relative to human existence time scales; particles in gas phase reactions move at speeds in excess of 1,200 miles per hour and extents of reactions will come to equilibrium with a matter of seconds or minutes, whereas humans move at speeds, on average, of 1 mile per hour, and extents of reactions for humans will often take years or decades to come to equilibrium, e.g. a golden wedding anniversary (50+ year reaction).
(c) Count: units in science tend to be based in molar units, involving a septillion () number of particles, per gram of substance (i.e. an Avogadro number of particles); whereas human phenomena, conversely, will often involve only one or two particles (single particle thermodynamics) or particles in the 10s to beyond several 1,000s or perhaps millions of particles (such as during world wars) up to the billionparticle per system count (e.g. the population of India, viewed as a thermodynamic system); attempts at numerical formulation in this area include: Dunbar number (120), social Avogadro number, Lazlo number, and hmol.
|Depictions of “atomic sociology”, namely of scientists, e.g. Albion Small (1899), Arthur Iberall (1970s), Serge Galam (1990s), or Mark Buchanan (2000s), thinking of people as “atoms” (human atoms or social atoms), using the super-observer perspective, and attempting to study their behavior as such (as conceptual particles).|
“Start with atoms and thermodynamics and to slowly zoom back out to the millimeters-to-miles distance regime [as a Martian might see us on Earth] and examine the world in which [you] live with a fresh perspective based strictly on well-established, non-controversial scientific knowledge [and] use this information as a foundation upon which [to] decide how to spend the remainder of [your] lifetime.”
|Diagram of the "advanced intelligence perspetive" from American chemical engineer Libb Thims' 2008 book The Human Molecule. |
“My attitude has always been cosmic, and I looked on man as if from another planet. He was merely an interesting species presented for study and classification.”— Howard Lovecraft (1922), “A Confession of Unfaith” 
“We want to approach ‘our’ culture of experiment as Alfred Schutz [c.1944] suggests a stranger approaches an alien society, not as a ‘shelter but as a field of adventure, not a matter of course but a questionable topic of investigation, not an instrument for disentangling problematic situations, but a problematic situation itself and one hard to master’.”— Steven Shapin (1985), Leviathan and the Air Pump (pg. 6)
“The argument herein is that the activities of the universe, including human activities, belong to a single universe of processes. The problem lies in the fact that we are the observers and, in monism, observers are part of the observed. There are serious theoretical obstacles in self-observation and in self-description.”
— Richard Adams (1988), The Eighth Day (pg. 9)
“Let’s postulate the following ideal scenario for our analysis. There is an extraterrestrial observer whose spacecraft is outside of our atmosphere and by the way, he is never visible to us. However, in spite of the distance, he is still able to distinguish the movement of individual human beings. Certainly, it would not take too long for him, to realize that the movements of human beings obey chaotic rules. This ideal scenario would not matter too much to him, unless he ignores the second law of thermodynamics, but indeed he does not ignore this law. Thus, such observer would conclude quickly that human beings express many forms of unusual, seemingly irrational, behavior. For example, he will be surprised looking at riots, political meetings, religious behavior, wars, etc. As a result of these observations, he would ask himself, what in hell motivates such uncommon behavior of the human beings? Suppose now that this alien visitor gets closer to the earth (remember, he is invisible to human beings) and manages to learn the reason why the human beings behave that way. Soon he would be able to understand that such apparently unusual behavior is consistently motivated by a lack of some degree of freedom; which may be summed up as a state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Viewed in this way, our social system may be approached through the second law of thermodynamics.”— Alfredo Infante (2001), “Social Entropy”