Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Life Creates Entropy

Some pretty smart people have gotten the notion that life opposes entropy, that it creates order and retards the heat death of the universe. That's not even remotely true. I suspect they have a weak grasp of entropy's relation to 'order' otherwise they would know how completely illusory the perception of life creating order is.

Information

You see, information, entropy, order, these are all words that mean exactly the same thing. They are physically identical things. Entropy is information. It's just that entropy is the kind of plentiful low-level information that the human sensory and nervous systems screen out as irrelevant. Our brains blank it out. Order meanwhile is also information, just high level - it's the kind of sparse information our brains find meaningful to watch out for.

Entropy is basically the physical universe's spam. Energy is the universe's hard drive capacity. And information is the sum total of what's on the hard drive. Gibbs free energy is the drive's free space, which you can move around from place to place at the cost of sacrificing some of it to hold more spam. And 'order' is user data.

Now to understand the whole thing you have to realize that information can never, ever be erased from the physical universe. Stephen Hawking thought you could in extreme circumstances and he was overwhelmingly, stupidly wrong. So when junk accumulates, it uses up hard drive capacity forever (ie, it obeys the second law of thermodynamics). At some point, all the space becomes unusable because it's filled with spam (the universe suffers heat
death).

And on the hard drive are life forms (AI) that create an enormous amount of junk data (called "heat" or "entropy") just to maintain a few bits of what they consider user data. Every time they "erase" a bit of user data, it becomes a gigabyte worth of junk data. But they're dumb so they're pleased. And it's not like they have much choice since they don't know how to use the computer too well (they're
low tech).

(Negentropy is just any mechanism that destroys information. So far, there aren't any.)

The upshot of all this is that living systems create megabits per second in order to preserve a few tens of bits of information around. The notion that the tens of bits are more important than the megabits each second is pure illusion and completely ridiculous.

Examples

Here,

(((1 watt) * (1 / (3 Ghz))) / (300 kelvin)) / Boltzmann constant = 8.04773744 × 10^10

A bunch of RAM operating at 3 gigahertz (ie, ridiculously fast) consuming 1 watt of power will pump 80 gigabits into the environment as heat. So the first question is just how much RAM would 1 watt power? Would it power 10 gigabytes? Maybe. Naaah.

The second issue is that if the average lifespan of data in the memory is 1 second, then the memory pumps out 10 gigabytes per third of a nanosecond * 3 billion = 28 exabytes per second, in order to sustain 10 gigabytes. Or if you divide both sides of the equation, you get that for every single byte of order, RAM pumps out 3 gigabytes of entropy.

The math just doesn't work people.

Biological systems use a lot less energy (ie, waste free energy by crapping lots of useless information on it), but then again, computer hardware uses up zero energy on "just living". Computers don't have digestive systems or musculatures. And electric turbines are more than 30% efficient while electric motors are more than 90% efficient. Both of those numbers are way, way above what biological bodies are able to achieve. Photosynthesis is only about 5% efficient.

But I don't have to guess. Here are the numbers for the human brain,

(((20 watt) * (1 / ((10^16) hertz))) / (300 kelvin)) / Boltzmann constant = 482,864

10^16 operations per second is generous. 20 watts is about average. So for every single bit operation the human brain performs, it pumps out half a million bits.

In the grand cosmological sense, the purpose of life isn't to fight entropy. The purpose of life is to create it.



For those who wish to learn more: reversible computation, Toffoli gates and entropy.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe you might be misunderstanding what others mean by saying that life opposes entropy. The math you argue in definitely relevant, but what it really goes back to is a big confusion people make with entropy-- that being of paying attention to the system they are talking about. For instance, the entropy of a local and open system might decrease, but never ever can the net entropy of the universe decrease.

In short, life does indeed both fight entropy and create it. Digestive breakdown creates entropy but then locally reduces into forming sugars into glycogen, amino acids into proteins, etc. Building a structure causes a wasteful energy expenditure and thus increases entropy, but the local entropy of the structure itself is reduced. So, indeed, life does fight entropy locally. It just also makes it on the universal scale. Given that I'm alive, I would like to consider that "energy waste" not all that wasteful from my perspective. :)

Also, I have read a bit of Hawking's work. I don't necessarily agree with it myself, but it is definitely not the general consensus of the physics community that he is overwhelmingly wrong (given our current knowledge), matter of stupidly so. Be wary of making such drastic claims of another's work without defending it yourself.

Also, be careful equating entropy as information so liberally. For instance, if heat death really were the end of our universe, you could perhaps call that heat information/energy, but it's still not useful energy (i.e. it can not do work).

Richard Kulisz said...

You presume to lecture a systems designer about systems. Brilliant. What's next, lecturing a mathematician on arithmetic? A medical surgeon on human anatomy? A child psychologist on the capacities of toddlers? A civil engineer on the basic properties of reinforced concrete?

You compound your imbecility by referring to the consensus of the academic physics community. As if reality were determined by consensus. What kind of a fucking retard are you? Not just a retard but a horribly outdated retard too given that scientific authority has ceased to matter in the internet age where people can look up their own facts.

As for Hawking being OBVIOUSLY wrong, that too is not a matter for the academic physics community given they are all obvious and blatant imbeciles. A fact amply proven by the imbecility that is Copenhagen and "wave collapse" as well as the wringing of hands over time travel, to say nothing of the imbecility that is the Big Bang post- Inflation Theory.

I can't even guess what you intend to mean with heat information/energy. There are too many different possible interpretations of your sentence, all of them equally imbecilic.

Don Gadda said...

A view of a non scientist who can read- It is interesting that this entire conversation stems from the phrase "life creates entropy". If entropy is a human concept created to explain observable data than that does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that life "creates" entropy. We simply have described it. As a photographer I spend a lot of time thinking about the visible order in my images and I can't but conclude that his "order" is about as real as "entropy". Order only has meaning in photographic images where it is set against non-order. Of course much of this is simply a matter of scale. Sand on a beach is not disordered. Look close enough and an order emerges.

Richard Kulisz said...

Your comment is rather lacking in sense. Which makes sense since my impression is photographers are non-analytic thus incapable of logic.

Christopher Jenkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher Jenkins said...

Your responses to others have consisted largely of ad hominen attacks on their character and intelligence, rather than addressing where you think their mental model breaks down, winning you no respect from neutral, curious observers.

Also, I couldn't help at laughing at your "scientific authority has ceased to matter in the internet age where people can look up their own facts." Because anyone can put any kinds of blatant nonsense on the internet, and people who are not informed on the subject may mistake this for fact, it seems to me that scientific consensus is even more important than it has been.

Can you name any significant breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe, any great mastery of our environment, that came from someone who eschewed scientific consensus and used whatever they found on the web?

inb4 more ad hominen attacks.

Richard Kulisz said...

You're obviously an idiot incapable of dealing with reality as it actually is (ie, that academic authority is waning, a well-documented fact in sociology). You want desperately to hang on to higher authority as you perceive it. And want desperately for everyone else to hang on to it to validate your own feelings of inadequacy. Evidently, you're not just a mental but an intellectual and psychological incompetent.

You talk about ad hominem attacks as if that meant something. The truth is that no person actually capable of mastering logic (no analytic) cares about your stupid named fallacies. Anyone capable of mastering logic thinks logical reasoning is trivial and doesn't need any ridiculous ritualistic little names. I mean, it's like talking about how 1+1 equals 2, or how (x+y)*z = xz + yz. The kinds of things that anyone competent at math will routinely skip over because they're so trivial and detract from the genuine insights.

Your grasp of logic and logical reasoning is the trudging through sewerage kind. You trudge through others' excrement and gobble them up as if they were prime rib.


So you see Christopher, I haven't fuck all in incentive or motivation to help you understand anything at all. I think you're cognitively deficient across the board. And I think that your insistent demands that I appease your intellectual hunger is like the grasp of zombies on the living. As far as I'm concerned, you're just a worthless parasite trying to pull me down.

Your persistent belief that *I* owe *you* ANYTHING AT ALL is disgusting and repulsive in the extreme. You are mindless group-thinking cattle and I despise your kind. No wonder though that you seek to pull me under your imbecilic mob.

I am personally beholden to the Truth, but I only owe it to people capable of perceiving it independently. You are not, therefore I am not beholden to you. Rather, since you're a useless time sink, my obligations to the Truth dictate that I waste no time on you. Or even that I give you a good beating for trying to waste my time.

I'm not even going to waste my time proving how your specious demands are circular reasoning. Or how the physics community scoffs at and despises your despicable love of conformism.

The ridiculous notion that *I* should submit myself to *your* standards and your pathetic parody of Judgement ... makes me heave. And the notion that I should create revolutionary understanding and Enlightenment for your kind at your beck and call is even more repulsive.

For that blatant violation of Justice alone, I wish you would die.

So go away. Shoo. Stop wasting my time you loser.

And preferably, stop reading my blog. I don't write anything for the supposed edification of mental midgets such as yourself. I publish for the sake of the intellectual elites, only. The people who make most of academia look distinctly third rate. As a fifth rater yourself, you are misusing my blog merely by reading it.