Friday, October 30, 2020

Entropy as Irony

When I encounter popular scientific articles that incorporate statements such as this...
The Second Law defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order. An underappreciation of the inherent tendency toward disorder, and a failure to appreciate the precious niches of order we carve out, are a major source of human folly.
... I see irony, not entropy. Here's why: to "carve out refuges of beneficial order" introduces, by the very process of "carving," a potential increase in entropy in the region outside of the refuges, whether that region is physical-chemical, informational, or aesthetic. Entropy, from the very beginning of its recognition and definition, is but part of a mathematical equation measuring an environment, a space, a domain in which energy is dispersed evenly throughout; if the energy is evenly dispersed, a measured quantity, for example, temperature, in any part of the surrounding region, is the same everywhere in that region.
If I enter into a virtual discourse, however cultivated and enlightened (such as this post), the visual signals I receive and read from my flat screen  take some degree of concentration to recognize individual letters, words, concepts; at every intervening point and moment require energy, part of which is converted to heat -- energy which is no longer be available to do the work of computing, displaying, and reading.
The presence of that heat is readily recognized by the sound of the fan (in the desktop or laptop) or warm spots of the underside of the laptop. Ah! one might exclaim, couldn't that heat inside the house help warm it when its cold outside? Yes, reducing in time, however minusculely, the prompting of the thermostat to turn on the furnace, but there will still be escape of some of that heat from the inside to the outside of the building.  
Another place to recognize heat produced as a byproduct by another device, is the heated air blowing from the back of the refrigerator into the larger kitchen. (Where does that heat come from? It is "removed" from the steaks, chicken breasts, cheese, milk ... whatever is inside of the appliance.) More importantly, heat energy is actually the vibration of molecules, which increases the temperature as the vibrations become faster and more powerful.

Some physicists and physical chemists define entropy as an increase in disorder. More than any other concept, the idea of disorder seems to have propagated into the non-scientific discourse, based, for example. on an imagined dormitory room; upon move-in, there is some manifestation of order -- books on the shelves, clothes in the drawers (arranged by the freshman's mother), shirts, pants, jeans hanging in the closet, towels on the racks on the back of the closet door... Three months, two months... whatever, that arrangement is gone. Therefore, entropy has increased. 

The problem with the dorm room analogy is the presumption of primary order. The freshman's mother defines order according to her standards; perhaps the student son even agrees that things are orderly as she defines it. To maintain that order, however, requires effort -- energy -- perhaps even more than just allowing things to fall where they may. Conversely, the loss of that original arrangement might require additional effort to locate desired objects (where did I put that polo?) in the future. In either case, more energy is required, both physical (folding and organizing or plowing through the pile) and mental; and part of that energy is lost to the environment. The presumption that spending time organizing and re-organizing (after each laundry load emerges from the clothes dryer) involves less effort than plowing through a disorganized pile each morning may be correct -- over time, perhaps less net energy is required if an arrangement is maintained -- or it may not (organizing may require a lot of time and thought: arrange by object kind, size, color...? Hang matching shirt and pants together or all shirts separately from all pants?) Of course, wearing the same outfit day after day should result in less net energy loss than all that effort to organize after each dryer load (especially if each dryer load occurs less often). So much for the dorm room... 

To characterize entropy in terms of (relative) disorder requires an accepted standard for order: the freshman's mother's standards, foundational scientific laws, logical premises...  

Friday, August 02, 2019

Billy Jo/Joe

The episode of Burke's Law was "Who killed Billy Jo"? The actor who played the unfortunate Billy Jo was Kelly Gordon; according to IMDB Gordon has three acting credits plus one uncredited role. His last apparent role was the murder victim.
So what else did this man do after BL? He was young, only 30 or 31 then.
A search for him leads to a Kelly Gordon in music, both composer and producer. His best-known piece is "That's Life," cowritten with Dean Kay and readily identified with Frank Sinatra's 1966 version.
As a music producer, he is credited with Bobbie Gentry's Ode to Billy Joe. Coincidence? Two "Kelly Gordons"; two "Billy Jo(e)'s"? No - one Kelly Gordon: same dates of birth and death are indicated on imdb and revolvy websites. And, he sang his own song as Billy Jo in Burke's Law.
Gordon died young, so the question about dual Billy Jo/es could only be answered in this life by Bobbie Gentry.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Nights (and days) around the Round Table

Roaming Rita's latest post is delightful. And not just because it is about our family. When family gets together to break bread, whether at home or away, it's great that everyone has a great time. Whether we like one another or not, a party in which the hosts do all they can to make everyone feel welcome is a foreshadowing of a promised party at the end-of-time. It's a party to which all are invited.
BBQ, birthday party, Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, anniversary, Thanksgiving, lunch, dinner, Saturday morning pancakes... "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" And shared meals, from breakfast to banquets are fractals.


    The Bulwark mystifies me. Even after communicating with one of its principals who emphasizes in return, "The Bulwark is not the Weekly Standard," the presence of a significant number of clearly non-conservative writers is a puzzle. Does "never-Trump" mean "anyone but Trump"?
    The initial logo for the site, includes the subtitle, "Conservatism Conserved."
    As of Today (?) or earlier this week, I think, the subtitle has changed:
    "Slightly Dangerous" -- that clarifies things.

    Thursday, September 27, 2018

    In defense of Jonah...

    I have been admirer of Jonah Goldberg for two decades. I read his columns and have all of his books.
    His most recent book, Suicide of the West has been getting hammered by reviewers from the orthodox Catholic side, I think unfairly.
    Such reviewers jump on the, yes, surprising and discomfiting assertion Goldberg offers up front - "There is no God in this book." Maybe because of my longtime familiarity with his writing, I knew immediately that this would prove to be false. And, I think that even his post-publication explanations, that he is trying to reaching the potentially persuadable non-believers is tongue-in-cheek, at least in part.
    Of course God is in the book; he can be found on every page. And, like his OT namesake, this current prophet knows it; he's just playing, you see. The engine of modernism, free enterprise, is driven by mutually recognized dignity - of the entrepreneur, employee, and customer, and, oh, the competitor, too.
    Tag! reviewers - you're it. He gotcha. 
    And, if any self-described liberals/progressives do actually pick-up the book because of the "bad" reviews from the red side, maybe they, too, will be ensnared.

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    In the appendix of the paper I reference below is a summary derivation of the relationship  between entropy and fractals (power laws). The appendix is also posted in another blog, Plate Frames. The introduction to the post reads...
    In a paper published a couple of years ago (Pilger, 2012), I describe the application of a simple principle, transformed into a distinctive abstract object, to an optimization problem (within the plate tectonics paradigm): simultaneous reconstruction of lithospheric plates for a range of ages from marine geophysical data . It is rare that the relation of the principle, maximum entropy, with a particular transformation, power-series fractals, is recognized, since Pastor-Satorras and Wagensberg derived it. I'm unaware of any other application of fractal forms to optimization problems analogous to the paper. The following derivation is taken from the 2012 paper, with slight modification, in hopes that it might prove useful in other fields, not merely the earth sciences, but beyond. I'm investigating  applications in a variety of other areas, from plate tectonics, to petroleum geology, and, oddly enough, the arts.
    Pilger, R. H., Jr. (2012) Fractal Plate Reconstructions with Spreading Asymmetry, Marine Geophysical  Research, Volume 33, 149-168. (rexpilger (at) gmail (dot) com.)