• ghostlycutter
    65
    Entropy has a beneficent effect allowing us to make change in determined systems.

    The "meaning of life" is to create good change, to improve systems or to make more complex structures determinable.

    Evolution is the farthest back humans can rout this meaning and entropy is this meaning extracted from the present.
  • James Riley
    765
    I don't get your drift. But I do like the word entropy. Once I thought I "got it" and then some wag made a case about all the examples in the universe of all the things that are moving toward order and complexity. That made me go "hmmm?"

    I know this is easily distinguishable (proven wrong), but I liken the decrease in animal size to an entropy of sorts. From dinosaurs to Pleistocene mega fauna, down to the current situation. Hunting ain't what it used to be, or could be. Damn entropy!
  • ghostlycutter
    65


    1. Humans on a Planet; Humans move around the planet; This is a determined system.
    2. Humans create houses; Humans move around the planet and enter/exit houses; This is a altered determined system.

    What allows us to alter determined systems is entropy! In [1]'s state, entropy of the human mind (system approaching total chaos) associates [2]. The reason why humans go from state 1, to state 2, is likely due to negative entropy in matters concerning security and warmth; entropy of the world is less likely, worlds are mostly harmonious. What I'm suggesting is that the jump from 1 to 2 is caused by humans and a situation where the planet causes a system jump is less likely... Of course, this is a shoddy example as state 2 is determined in state 1 because of how much entropy exists in our universe, but it should give @James Riley a good idea of entropy.
  • Manuel
    638
    From Wikipedia. But I first read it in Hand's Cosmosapiens, I believe:

    Claude Shannon introduced the very general concept of information entropy, used in information theory, in 1948. Initially it seems that Shannon was not particularly aware of the close similarity between his new quantity and the earlier work in thermodynamics; but the mathematician John von Neumann certainly was. "You should call it entropy, for two reasons," von Neumann told him. "In the first place your uncertainty function has been used in statistical mechanics under that name, so it already has a name. In the second place, and more important, nobody knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage."

    I should add, Sean Carroll wrote an excellent book called The Big Picture. According to him entropy and the arrow of time explain almost everything in the universe, roughly.

    I'm skeptical, but he could be correct.
  • Gary Enfield
    142


    Hi ghostlycutter

    The author, Christophe Finipolscie came up with a great phrase when discussing the principle of entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, (from which the concept came). He said...

    "You cannot disassemble something before it has first been assembled".

    Gravity was one way to demonstrate assembly instead of disassembly (entropy) but life is also a classic way to demonstrate regular complex assembly too.

    Furthermore, Ernst Schrodinger defined life as...
    "That which avoids the decay into equilibrium".
  • ChatteringMonkey
    843
    Entropy has a beneficent effect allowing us to make change in determined systems.ghostlycutter

    I don't think entropy "effects" anything, it's a description. What allowed us to happen is the fact that the universe was low entropy at the start, moving to progressively higher entropy.

    To use Sean Carroll's, referenced by Manuel, analogy of coffee and cream, in between the original perfect division of cream and coffee (low entropy) and the ultimate perfect mixture (high entropy) is where interesting things can happen.

    To understand entropy, you can best view it as a statistical law or law a chance I think. Low entropy is a state of a system that is relatively rare among all possible states of that system. High entropy then are states that are common/numerous. All things being equal, it's more likely that over time the more numerous states will occur rather that rare states.

    And as things naturally will tend to higher entropy because of chance, maintaining low entropy in a subsystem requires energy from the outside... we, life in general, require energy to maintain homeostasis to fight off overall increase in entropy.

    Therefor you could say that the meaning of life is literally taking in energy to fend off increase in entropy.
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    Therefor you could say that the meaning of life is literally taking in energy to fend off increase in entropy.ChatteringMonkey
    Yep, thereby transforming that new energy into waste and contributing to the net increase in entropy. Neat how we (the entire biosphere, in fact) is entangled in this (cosmic) dissipative process like dingleberries floating downstream.
  • god must be atheist
    2.9k
    Yep, thereby transforming that new energy into waste and contributing to the net increase of entropy. Neat how we (the entire biosphere, in fact) is entangled in this (cosmic) dissipative process like dingleberries floating downstream.180 Proof

    There is no alternative. Life, any life, depends on creating entropy. Faster than non-living physical processes in the same temperature-range generally do. The only remedy to this is to delete life, all life, to slow down the progress of entropy; but then you are left with a world which has no motivation, no needs, no joy, no suffering; no sensation and no awareness, a completely indifferent world, which can't enjoy its own slowed-down entropy.
  • god must be atheist
    2.9k
    But my own self-created theory about entropy is that matter can be reset to an earlier state of entropy without creating more entropy. Don't ask me how or where or why, but it can be done and I have a proof for it.
  • Possibility
    2.1k
    From ‘The Order of Time’:

    If we observe a phenomenon that begins in a state of lower entropy, it is clear why entropy increases - because in the process of reshuffling everything becomes disordered. But why do the phenomena that we observe around us in the cosmos begin in a state of lower entropy in the first place?

    Here we get to the key point. If the first twenty-six cards in a pack are all red and the next twenty-six are all black, we say that the configuration of the cards is ‘particular’; that it is ‘ordered’. This order is lost when the pack is shuffled. The initial ordered configuration is a configuration ‘of low entropy’. But notice that it is particular if we look at the colour of the cards - red or black. It is is particular because I am looking at the colour. Another configuration will be particular if the first twenty-six cards consist of only hearts and spades. Or if they are all odd numbers, or the twenty-six most creased cards in the pack, or exactly the same twenty-six of three days ago... Or if they share any other characteristic. If we think about it carefully, every configuration is particular, every configuration is singular, if we look at all of its details, since every configuration always has something about it that characterises it in a unique way. Just as, for its mother, every child is particular and unique.

    It follows that the notion of certain configurations being more particular than others (twenty-six red cards followed by twenty-six black, for example) makes sense only if I limit myself to noticing only certain aspects of the cards (in this case, the colours). If I distinguish between all the cards, the configuration are all equivalent: none of them is more or less particular than others. The notion of ‘particularity’ is born only at the moment we begin to see the universe in a blurred and approximate way.

    Boltzmann has shown that entropy exists because we describe the world in a blurred fashion. He has demonstrated that entropy is precisely the quantity that counts how many are the different configurations that our blurred vision does not distinguish between. Heat, entropy and the lower entropy of the past are notions that belong to an approximate, statistical description of nature.
    — Carlo Rovelli
  • ghostlycutter
    65
    Beautiful source materials - no objections.

    I take it you don't contest the OP?
  • god must be atheist
    2.9k
    Kudos to Carlo Rovelli. Order is a human concept, and any configuration is up to being called "order" or "disorder" by humans, according to how "blurred" their discerning the orderization of the pile of things.

    I propose furthermore, than Chaos does not exist in a deterministic universe, for the same reason.

    However, I do support the idea of heat-death and I do suppor the idea of entropy of order. Here's one thought experiment to conisder why I support the entropy of order.

    Take a bunch of nails. Throw them randomly, one-by-one, into a box. Their collective centre of gravity will be X units above the bottom of the box. Now shake the box. The nails will rearrange themselves, to lower the centre of their collective gravity. On other words, they will pack a bit down if you shake the box gently. If you keep shaking the box gently, the centre of gravity will never shift "up".

    This has mechanical - static - dynamic explanation on the level of the individual nails, but looking at the big picture, this is one way entropy manifests, because there is no equilibrium, there is only a one-way route to a state of lower energy level.
  • ghostlycutter
    65
    Think of the pack of cards.

    14 red 14 black. Implication, lots of red/black combinations.

    You shuffle them, justly creating change (in determined system).

    A pattern emerges.

    The pattern is either new and beneficent, known already or beneficent to something new. It can also be improving rather than new.

    Shuffling here, is a beneficent effect of entropy, caused by core mental processes(switching, running, etc).

    All combinations of card are already known in statement 2. So it's only an example of change in a determined system, not entropy. Entropy is the shuffle and achieve certain pattern part.

    So I have this image in my head of the correct entropy but can't describe it. Want to have a whack at it??

    P.s perhaps it already was explained but I am yet to be enlightened
  • Possibility
    2.1k
    I take it you don't contest the OP?ghostlycutter

    I don’t think it’s that simple. I think our ‘blurring’ is sometimes deliberate to convince ourselves that order is created out of disorder, as in ’s nail example.

    Entropy is not ‘the shuffle and achieve certain pattern part’ - that’s energy. Entropy is “the number of macroscopic states that our blurred vision of the world fails to distinguish” (my emphasis). It’s whatever we’re NOT focused on - our ignorance of the changes that occur beyond our blurred vision when we think we’re ‘creating good change’ or ‘improving systems’.

    There is no ‘correct entropy’, as such. What we call ‘beneficent’ is just so in our limited, blurred perspective.

    So, if I could take into account all the details of the exact, microscopic state of the world, would the characteristic aspect of the flowing of time disappear?

    Yes. If I observe the macroscopic state of things, then the difference between past and future vanishes. The future of the world, for instance, is determined by its present state - though neither more nor less than is the past. We often say that causes precede effects and yet, in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between ‘cause’ and ‘effect’. There are regularities, represented by what we call physical laws, that link events of different times, but they are symmetric between future and past. In a microscopic description, there can be no sense in which the past is different from the future.
    — Rovelli
  • Gary Enfield
    142


    To say that Life is part of entropy because it consumes (disassembles) its food/nutrients ignores the incredible amount of assembly that it does in creating living beings (described as the most complex things in the universe) which in turn assemble buildings etc.

    Why do you choose to isolate the negatives and ignore the positives?

    In the universe as a whole, there had to be assembly in the first place before increasing disorder was able to take effect.

    It seems to me that within the universe there are effects which assemble and some which disassemble. They are all part of a cyclical system.

    What most scientists choose to do is to ignore the incredible mechanisms of assembly because they cannot explain them within their one doctrine of entropic chemistry/physics.

    Its about time that scientists woke up to the importance of assembly and to investigate it properly.

    Schrodinger was on the right track.
  • Pop
    703
    If we observe a phenomenon that begins in a state of lower entropy, it is clear why entropy increases - because in the process of reshuffling everything becomes disordered. But why do the phenomena that we observe around us in the cosmos begin in a state of lower entropy in the first place? — Carlo Rovelli

    Is a big bang low entropy? :nerd:
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    :fire:

    Why do you choose to isolate the negatives and ignore the positives?

    In the universe as a whole, there had to be assembly in the first place before increasing disorder was able to take effect.
    Gary Enfield
    No choice. That's how entropy works. "Assembly" increases global entropy by decreasing local entropy with energy added from the environnent (i.e heat source) that is mostly lost through transmission or storage media radiating it back into the environment (i.e. heat sink). "Assembly" ("positives") – local order – is simply disorder's way of increasing global disorder ("negatives"). And, lastly, assuming "assembly before entropy" does not makes sense because "before" (i.e. temporality) presupposes entropy. Of course, we're always more interested in the signal than the noise and yet without noise signals would be unintelligible (i.e. invisible) like stars without darkness.

    Is a big bang low entropy?Pop
    A white hole would be. A Planck era universe certainly has lower – farther-from-thermodynamic-equilibrium – entropy than that of the post-Planck era (inflationary) expansion.
  • Possibility
    2.1k
    I don’t think we’re ignoring the positives, just because we’re focusing on entropy. I don’t know how we would see entropy as a positive, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the capacity of life as a positive.

    I do think that life as a whole plays an important role in consolidating localised states of low entropy. This creates stable reserves of energy, like how all our fossil fuels came about. Unfortunately, most of what humans are ‘assembling’ these days has the effect of consuming more energy than we store away. I agree that the importance of creating sustainable conditions of low entropy has been largely overlooked in the race to find more accessible and efficient reserves of energy to consume. But it’s not a case of either/or: whenever we assemble, we’re also disassembling. When we create, we are also consuming. And they can’t cancel each other out when we drill for oil here to assemble buildings on the other side of the world. We’re redistributing the flow of energy, largely ignorant of how it all connects and supports each other.

    So, if we’re talking, not just about life making changes in determined systems, but about entropy ‘allowing us to make changes in determined systems’, then I question whether this is ‘beneficent’, because this entropy is our ignorance of how the changes we make locally impact what is outside our focus.
  • Gary Enfield
    142


    No choice. That's how entropy works. "Assembly" increases global entropy by decreasing local entropy with energy added from the environment (i.e heat source) that is mostly lost through transmission or storage media radiating it back into the environment (i.e. heat sink).180 Proof

    I don't think that's correct.
    The whole underlying philosophy of physics is that the size of the universal pot never alters. Nothing is ever lost, it just changes. If there is assembly, then there is aggregation and potentially greater order in that place, then there may be less energy elsewhere, but it doesn't mean that there is greater disorder. Overall, the pot won't change size - there won't be greater disorder or less energy overall.

    The whole point I was making, is that by emphasising entropy, physicists effectively localize on those bits where energy is dissipating while ignoring those places where it is increasing and in a pot that doesn't change the overall amount of energy, that's a distorting bias.

    Pop was right - the Big Bang not only spread energy but it was undeniably a major assembly event for Matter/Energy - especially if you believe in a big crunch.

    Again, by focussing on entropy (both in terms of energy and implied disorder) you miss the potential balancing of the pot and the need for assembly - which is not less entropy (a reduced rate of entropy) but genuine assembly.
  • Gary Enfield
    142

    Hi Possibility

    To clarify a couple of background points before we get onto the proper discussion - I was categorizing entropy as negative, and assembly as positive. As I said to '180 Proof' above, assembly isn't reduced entropy but actually the reverse of entropy within a balanced pot.

    I agree with you that we, as a species, are definitely consuming in a highly entropic way, and that our assemblies don't fully compensate for the entropy as yet - but there are various things in nature which do genuinely assemble - with Life and Gravity being the two prominent ones... as I think you were implying.

    That said, I feel that we have to be careful to distinguish those activities which genuinely increase entropy, from those which are neutral or negative on the entropy front. In other words, a change in itself isn't necessarily bad. We have to see what a change achieves over the course of its life.

    As two simple examples, we can a) cover a mountain with mirrors to harvest and use light in particular ways over a long period to reduce our necessary consumption of other resources, and potentially without increasing global warming. b) we can plant forests which grow based on the energy of the sun, and which seem like a good example of life's assembly.

    However this needs to be distinguished from the harmful effects of global warming, (which is also an assembly of energy).

    At the risk of going off at a tangent here - if I understand the science correctly, forests only act as a net carbon sink after some 25 to 30years, because the rotting material on the ground around the forest outweighs the absorbed CO2 for the first 10 - 15 years and then it takes a further 10-15 yrs before the deficit is soaked up by the larger trees. By implication, if we planted a forest and then left it, we would be doing a positive thing and 'storing CO2' and energy in the wood. But industrial farming of wood - collecting it every 25 years is at best carbon neutral.

    Is such energy storage the reverse of entropy?
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    Whatever your so-called "philosophy of physics" says, it's not physics and what I wrote, though dumbed-down considerably for mass consumption, is correct. Nothing more to discuss here since at least one of us gets the basic facts wrong.
  • Possibility
    2.1k
    First of all, I tend to prefer the term ‘arrange’, rather than ‘assemble’. I don’t think there’s necessarily a pre-determined purpose or reason for things to be brought together a certain way. But I do think there is an underlying logic.

    Is such energy storage the reverse of entropy?Gary Enfield

    In my limited understanding of entropy, I would say no. You don’t reverse entropy, you reduce it locally in a creative arrangement of matter and energy. But the more localised your arrangement, the more entropy you are going to generate. Because this arrangement assumes a ‘balanced pot’ of known matter and energy. Entropy is the unknown change.

    While I think you make some excellent points about the difference between planting a forest for its own sake versus planting one for short term use, I have to say that I do agree more with @180 Proof’s account of the physics.

    In a closed system, if you assume a finite ‘pot’ (balanced or not), then entropy increases. This is indisputable. So it isn’t ‘balanced’ as such. The more we create assumptions of ‘balanced pots’, the more we will increase entropy (unknown change) in the world/universe beyond our focus.

    Energy has a flow - when we measure and quantify it, we ‘close’ the system in which we are focused, and that inevitably increases entropy. We need to recognise that quantity is only part of the story.
  • Gary Enfield
    142


    Hi Possibility

    If entropy is based on the notion of energy flowing away from an aggregation of energy, I do not see why you should label the accumulation of energy as an accumulation of entropy? Are you saying that an accumulation is a gathering of the potential for faster dispersal? That seems ridiculous. Entropy is the dispersal not the accumulation. So let's call accumulation accumulation and not arrangement.

    Entropy has also been extended into the concept of breaking down order into disorder. In the same way as the last paragraph, why are you saying that a build-up of order is not assembly but a build up of entropy. That again seems ridiculous.

    Focussing on Entropy, whether the outward flow of energy or a tendency for order to break down more rapidly after a period of accumulation/assembly, still ignores the fact that assembly has occurred. Increased entropy isn't happening while there is accumulation.
  • Possibility
    2.1k
    If entropy is based on the notion of energy flowing away from an aggregation of energy, I do not see why you should label the accumulation of energy as an accumulation of entropy? Are you saying that an accumulation is a gathering of the potential for faster dispersal? That seems ridiculous. Entropy is the dispersal not the accumulation. So let's call accumulation accumulation and not arrangement.

    Entropy has also been extended into the concept of breaking down order into disorder. In the same way as the last paragraph, why are you saying that a build-up of order is not assembly but a build up of entropy. That again seems ridiculous.

    Focussing on Entropy, whether the outward flow of energy or a tendency for order to break down more rapidly after a period of accumulation/assembly, still ignores the fact that assembly has occurred. Increased entropy isn't happening while there is accumulation.
    Gary Enfield

    As Rovelli states, “Entropy is a measurable and calculable quantity that increases or remains the same but never decreases, in an isolated process.” This is the second law of thermodynamics. So whenever it seems as if we are reducing entropy in a system, we need to recognise that the system we are focused on is merely a temporary arrangement within a broader system, and not an isolated process.

    I did not say that a build up of order is not assembly - I said that it also increases entropy outside of what is ‘assembled’. There is a tendency here to assume that in what you assemble you’re accumulating energy, and thereby reducing entropy, but it only appears that way when you focus narrowly on the system you’re assembling. You’re not accumulating energy, you’re arranging structures of matter and the flow of energy as a relatively ‘stable’ system of low entropy. This has not reversed entropy overall - it has only temporarily reduced it within that system of focus. Keeping that system stable requires energy coming in by breaking down other created systems of low entropy, AND entropy being expelled into a wider system beyond this focus.

    So when I say that we’re creating a store of energy, I don’t mean that we’re increasing the accumulation of energy, but that we’re temporarily keeping a certain amount of energy stable, simply by being alive. What we do on top of that - including burning fossil fuels for comfort and entertainment or planting trees for their own sake - determines whether we are increasing the amount of energy that is being kept in other low entropy systems, or increasing entropy by breaking down these other systems.

    Much of the materials we use now for assembling structures such as shelter, clothing and tools are chosen for their stability, and require large amounts of energy to be established as such. We do this because our main focus is on keeping our own personal systems in an ongoing state of low entropy. The less effort I need to make, the less energy I need to use. But if we focus on a more global system, then it appears I’m releasing a lot of energy stores to keep a small, localised area stable - and this results in an increase of entropy on a global scale that far outweighs the small store of energy that I personally keep. But this global system, too, is a localised arrangement of matter and energy, so even if we manage to create arrangements that ‘reduce’ the entropy within our global ecosystem, we need to recognise that this will have implications for the quantity of universal entropy.

    If we focus on assembly, then we ignore the entropy that is expelled. If we focus on entropy, the fact that it never decreases ensures that we locate this arrangement in a broader system, and recognise that there is missing information regarding the flow of energy/entropy.
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    Sean Carroll wrote an excellent book called The Big Picture.Manuel

    A review.

    I tend to prefer the term ‘arrange’, rather than ‘assemble’. I don’t think there’s necessarily a pre-determined purpose or reason for things to be brought together a certain way. But I do think there is an underlying logic.Possibility

    As I don't hold to physicalism, I am sceptical of the effort to explain living things in terms of physical laws. I'm sceptical of the idea that the increase in order that we see with the evolution of life and the development of technological culture is literally balanced by an increase of entropy in the universe generally. As I mention below, I don't see how this is conceivably testable as an hypothesis.

    The related question I have is that, just as there is 'the arrow of time', there at least seems to be an 'arrow of complexity' i.e. more intelligent and self-aware beings have developed over time. However, this belief is rejected as orthogenetic by mainstream science.

    I would like, for example, to at least entertain the notion that the evolution of intelligent beings fulfils a natural purpose - that there is an inherent tendency in nature to evolve towards greater levels of self-awareness. However this too is rejected as taboo in evolutionary science on the grounds that it is teleological, it presumes a purpose when there can be no purposes with an intelligent agent. And the only intelligent agent that science knows of is h. sapiens.

    Assembly" increases global entropy by decreasing local entropy with energy added from the environnent (i.e heat source) that is mostly lost through transmission or storage media radiating it back into the environment (i.e. heat sink). "Assembly" ("positives") – local order – is simply disorder's way of increasing global disorder ("negatives").180 Proof

    Do you think this is a falsifiable hypothesis? Is there any way of knowing whether this is actually true? I mean, it might be a mere sleight-of-hand, to compensate for what is otherwise an inconvenient truth.
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    What? It's a sketch of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) – you must've heard of it. :roll:

    As I don't hold to physicalism, I am sceptical of the effort to explain living things in terms of physical laws.
    "If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims."
    ~Dalai Lama XIV, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    What? It's a sketch of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) – you must've heard of it. :roll:180 Proof

    Of course. Discussed it at length with Apokrisis, read up on it. What I’m saying is that I don’t buy it, as an explanation for the emergence of organisms and especially intelligent beings. It’s just as much wishful thinking as ID is, but for opposite reasons. And I’ve quoted that very passage from the Dalai Lama numerous times. Buddhism doesn’t have a dog in the fight, when it comes to the origin of life, but they do believe that the objective world is totally the projection of the karma of the beings that dwell in it. Had that been the intellectual background of the evolution debate heaven knows how it would have played out.
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    Actually the title of this thread says something. Evolutionary biology, origin of life studies, and the rest, deliberately exclude any questions about what the phenomenon of life means. They’re only concerned with proximate causes, which phenomenon causes which other phenomenon, and/or discerning the general laws or patterns that give rise to such phenomena. Put another way, the kind of causation that is sought by the natural sciences can only ever be material and efficient causation, as a matter of definition. So the question of why life arises on this or any other planet is out-of-scope for naturalism. Naturalism assumes nature: it’s simply a ‘brute fact’ that life does exist, and its existence provides the only evidence which is admissible in the court of natural science. And that is as it should be. When it becomes disingenuous, is when people like Dawkins and Dennett try to extend that to the question of cause or ground which is excluded from their arguments as a matter of principle. There is a very simple but profoundly consequential misunderstanding at the basis of that.
  • Manuel
    638


    Yeah, sure. It has plenty of problems. I don't need to agree with an author in many aspects for me to like the book and think it's good.

    He is one author, Pinker too I believe, that think that entropy explains almost everything. I think that's wrong, but since the topic here is entropy I think it's worth pointing out.

    At least he takes philosophy quite seriously, unlike Krauss or Tyson. Though more than Aristotle, he seems to me to be a Wittgenstinian of sorts. Plus, covering all the sciences in one book to attempt a unifying theme is commendable.
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