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Energy and information are also interconvertible. To arrive at the conversion factor, consider what entropy means in thermodynamics an increase of heat energy divided by absolute temperature and what it means in statistical molecular mechanics a measure of the probability of a specific molecular configuration.

Technical Zone

The relevant proportionality constant at the macro-level thermodynamics is the ideal gas constant R. This is an even larger number by 3 orders of magnitude than the conversion factor of matter into energy. If information is felt to be a property of the mental realm in some sense, then the preponderance of matter over mind seems overwhelming; a factor of 9.

A relay is an electric circuit in which a small amount of energy just enough to close and open a switch moves much larger amounts of energy in a bigger circuit which that switch controls. Information, unlike matter or energy, can be created and destroyed, in everyday experience. Whether or not this is accompanied by minute energy changes is not known, because the amount of energy involved would be so small as to be undetectable.

But whether this implies energy-information conversion under an overall conservation law is unknown. Normally we assume that degraded energy does not decrease in amount compared to high-grade energy, only in usefulness. Raw information, in the sense of statistical mechanics and information theory, is only the removal of uncertainty.

Zero-point energy

For example, will the next computer output be a 0 or a 1? Or if many quadrillions of molecular configurations are possible in a small cube of gas, and one of them materializes, we gain many bits of information, because so many other possibilities were discarded. Whether the computer prints a 0 or a 1 has no meaning in itself, but it can acquire a meaning if we use it to signal, for example, the absence or presence of enemy military forces in a locality, as a spy would in wartime. Or it could mean male or female, acid or base, metal or non-metal, sunny or cloudy weather — any number of dualities.

The choice is not always binary. With dice, there is a choice of 1 out of 6; with decimal digits, it is 1 out of 10; with base pairs of DNA , it is 1 out of 4; with musical tones in an octave, it is 1 out of 8; with letters of the English alphabet, it is 1 out of 26; with chemical elements, it is 1 out of about The combinations that can be made from these relatively small numbers in consecutive choice is very great. So the musical composers are not likely ever to exhaust all possible melodies, or the poets all combinations of letters or words, or the genetic code all possible individualities.

With molecules in a gas, the numbers of configurations are large way beyond our imagination, though not truly infinite. The amount of information created is measured by all the combinations that were discarded. With the assemblies of lesser numbers, like making words and sentences out of letters, or melodies or chords out of musical tones, or genes out of DNA base-pairs, we do assign meanings to particular configurations — or nature does. A particular base sequence a codon signifies a particular amino acid to be joined to a growing protein chain e.

ATG means methionine. And so on. Language is a skill peculiar to humans. We can also use mathematics to communicate, but only a few of us acquire facility in its use, while all humans without exception use language. There are hundreds of languages, but all share characteristics as meaning-systems or semantic systems. Sign language of the deaf is of course included. All languages are a notch above information-as-mere-negentropy. Not every grammatically correct stringing together of English words for example makes sense, as illustrated by examples chosen from my game of Scrabble solitaire.


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I look at the words I made and try to make sentences out of adjacent ones. The sentence must satisfy the rules of inference, i.

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The fourth and last test is the truth-value of the sentence. It could be grammatically, semantically and logically correct, and yet state a falsehood.

Our language abounds with such sentences, e. It is like the process of refining a precious metal from a coarser ore, sifting gold grains from the river sand. Discords are avoided in music though some composers have used discords to advantage.


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However, poets have experimented with breaking the rules of the linguistic sieves, e. Lewis Carroll who wrote whole poems made up of invented words. We have gone a long way indeed from physical quantitites like matter and energy, to explore mainly mental qualities like meaning and intelligence. But the double relay still operates, and unless our decisions are wise, our language logical and rational, and truthful and unless certain redundant baggage is discarded, the energy may be degraded and the material balances of this world adversely affected.

I want to explore this theme a little further now. There is more than the bare dichotomy of either A exists or A does not exist, as it would appear in logic. Take as an example the basic theorems of the optics of mirrors and lenses: there are objects, there are real images, and there are virtual images in those diagrams of the geometry of light rays. Real images are formed where the light rays really come together; virtual images are only the places where the dotted lines light rays produced back through a straight mirror, for example would converge, creating an illusion in our eyes that the rays emanate from there.

So we have a series of three degrees of reality here: objects certainly exist as hard pieces of matter; real images sort of exist as convergence places of real light rays, but virtual images are only optical illusions created by our visual apparatus. The virtual ones have not paid their energy debt and so cannot have a lasting existence, but they can wink in and out very briefly from the underlying vacuum nano-seconds? Virtual particles have some kind of an intermediate reality between existence and non-existence.

Before I received the bill in the mail, I did not owe it. After the 30 days, I feel I have to pay it or I will be charged interest. After another period of time has elapsed, they may discontinue the telephone service or whatever the bill was for. There are degrees of reality or urgency with which I owe that bill. It is not in permanent memory and will vanish if the switch is turned off.

Oscillation What Is Omega?

Yet after talking with a computer expert the other day, I find that I am far from understanding the subtleties. Even when I erase a computer text, he tells me that it is still there and can even be recovered. His answers were quite vague. He only knew that it could be done if you follow certain procedures. And so it is with our own memories. However, we cannot always recall even a vague memory of past events; we seem to lose the access to that memory.

But we know that it can be recovered if we just find the right trigger or key, and often eventually we do. The real experience is like the hard material object in the optics example, but we have here five degrees of reality, not only three. Perhaps it is more than five if I understood memory better. And what about dreams? They seem very real to the dreamer at the time, but fade in the harsh light of wakeful consciousness into a mere gossamer network, or even just a feeling.

You try to hang on to the dream; you might get it back if you close your eyes again quickly; but usually it dissolves, slips through your fingers as you try to grasp it. Does the computer feel like that about its vanishing unsaved text? That may be like turning the memory on through some switch in the brain before you go to sleep.

Entropy - Wikiwand

Some would call it the sense of mystery. A similar feeling of unreality, or perhaps of alternative realities, is encountered in our interpretations of past events; not only history, but recent events like car accidents or violent crimes. No historian is free of such bias, and it must get bigger the further we recede into the past. Not only the events, but the interpretations, get more and more hazy, just as we knew less about the planet Neptune from distance observations than we know now after the fly-by.

But we cannot do a fly-by of historical events, because we lack a time machine, and probably always will. As a young person, I wanted a career and a family, both simultaneously, though I knew that for a woman this would be difficult. It did not prove possible, and so I settled for a contingency plan: I would do these things sequentially rather than simultaneously. I had my three children, but when I stepped from full-time child care into a teaching career, the career failed, for reasons that need not detain us here. But note: I was receding from the full reality of my conscious life choices to second and third contingencies.

Yet life was rich in the interstices, and I went on without complaining, doing what I could. But the process went on; over arguments between Alan and Norman, the peace research option closed also. Lo and behold: in another angry blow-up, Katie left, and I found that I had been far from non-attached and light-hearted. The last two retreats from reality options closings were attended by escalating grief, in fact they became life-threatening: the first through a suicide attempt not really carried out, just intended , and the second through a psychosomatic illness.

At age 68 I am straight out of options as to goals, though living healthily and comfortably. Yet in Buddhist non-attachment, we are supposed to jettison our desires; then our suffering will cease and we are happy in the interstices. But when even this carefully reasoned-out option failed, I was spiritually marooned, as I still am. Yet, paradoxically, I now wildly enjoy life, in spite of or because of doubting that human life will continue on this planet. In going from the red-blue-green-yellow bright first life-plan to increasingly more pale and faded pastel colours mixed with gray less saturation and less brilliance in terms of the colour-wheel diagram , was I going from something more real to something less real, or was I going in the opposite direction?

First impulse would say that I went from more to less real; the Buddhist perspective might say that I went from less to more real. The christian perspective, too, says that we can learn from suffering, and presumably become more real as persons. Now I did not suffer all that much, in comparison to some other persons. But the directionality argument still holds. Deprived of long-range hope, both for myself and for my species, I am discovering a vibrant spirituality I never knew existed.

I have come back to Quaker meeting after 15 years of absence, though I am still only a seeker and not a finder. Other interpretations of my life e. We cannot tell what is true or real or actually existing, not only in history, not only in events we witness, but even in the interpretation of our own life story.