Last time I started talking about entropy and a puzzle it presents in cosmology. To understand the puzzle we have to understand entropy, which is a crucial part of our view of physics. In fact, we consider entropy to be a (statistical) law about the behavior of reality. That law says: Entropy always increases.
There are some nuances to this, though. For example we can decrease entropy in a system by expending energy. But expending that energy increases the entropy in some other system. Overall, entropy does always increase.
This time we’ll see how Roger Penrose, in his 2010 book Cycles of Time, addresses the puzzle entropy creates in cosmology.
I’ve been chiseling away at Cycles of Time (2010), by Roger Penrose. I say “chiseling away,” because Penrose’s books are dense and not for the fainthearted. It took me three years to fully absorb his The Emperor’s New Mind (1986). Penrose isn’t afraid to throw tensors or Weyl curvatures at readers.
This is a library book, so I’m a little time constrained. I won’t get into Penrose’s main thesis, something he calls conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC). As the name suggests, it’s a theory about a repeating universe.
What caught my attention was his exploration of entropy and the perception our universe must have started with extremely low entropy.
The Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate here in the USA has some unfortunate overtones regarding its colonial origin. Still, the idea of a festival of thanks is an ancient one — thanks for a good harvest or a good hunt. Or, in our case, thanks for helping us not die last winter.
As with Christmas or the Copenhagen interpretation, we tend to take a “shut up and calculate!” approach to the holidays. “Shut up and shop!” in the case of the Winter Solstice, and “Shut up and give thanks!” today.
One thing we can be very thankful about is patterns…
There is something about the articles that Ethan Siegel writes for Forbes that don’t grab me. It might be that I’m not in the target demographic — he often writes about stuff I explored long ago. I keep an eye on him, though, because sometimes he comes up with a taste treat for me.
Such as his article today, No, Thermodynamics Does Not Explain Our Perceived Arrow Of Time. I jumped on it because the title declares something I think many have backwards: the idea that time arises from entropy or change. Quite to the contrary, I think entropy and change are consequences of time (plus physics).
Siegel makes an interesting argument I hadn’t considered before.
We sometimes say that dogs are living in the now. Sometimes we say that of people who live in the moment and don’t think much about the future (or about the consequences). Whether we mean that as a compliment — as we generally do with dogs — or as an oblique implication of shallowness depends on the point we’re making.
There is the tale of the ant and grasshopper; it divides people into workers who plan for the future and players who live in the now. The former, of course, are the social role models the tale holds heroic. The grasshopper is a shifty lay-about, a ne’er do well, a loafer and a moocher, but that’s not the point.
The point is our sense of «now» and of time.
Last time, I wrote about irony and the perverse universe. This time I want to write about something just as fundamental. It has the technical name, entropy, and there is a very technical definition that goes along with that name.
I’ll return to that later, but for now consider this simple truth: If you have a barrel of fine wine, and you add a teaspoon of sewage, now you have a barrel of sewage. On the other hand, if you have a barrel of sewage, and you add a teaspoon of wine, you do not have a barrel of wine.
You still have a barrel of sewage!