Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Wave of Anti-Entropy; from black holes to biology


It seems odd that we may be able to divine fate from mathematical rules, but classical physics describes nothing less than a deterministic universe.  According to Roger Penrose, in his massive tome The Emporer's New Mind, all of the classical physical laws, and even most of the quantum laws, suggest that time can be read as easily backwards as forwards.  "Newton's laws, Hamilton's equations, Maxwell's equations, Einstein's general relativity, Dirac's equation, the Schrodinger equation - all remain effectively unaltered if we reverse the direction of time," he says on page 392 of his ridiculously large book.  Indeed Penrose points out that the laws of physics provide predictions and are symmetrical regarding time; i.e. the rules are the same whether we go forward (t) or backwards (-t) in time. He goes on to say that, "the future determines the past in just the same way that the past determines the future."



This is definitely something to wrap your head around and it begs the question; what about the ever increasing entropy described by the second law of thermodynamics?   Penrose describes entropy as a process of energy dispersal, or erosion in a closed system over time.  I have often heard this argument in the context of a universe tending toward less complexity not more.  In combination with gravitational forces, entropy becomes clustered in gravity wells known as black holes.  However, according to Penrose, the rules of thermodynamics, which the rule of entropy is one, are derived from Newtonian dynamics, which Penrose has stated is symmetrical with regard to time.  So how then can entropy increase in one time direction but not the other, this seems asymmetrical at least on the surface.  Indeed, the description of the universe that Penrose and colleagues, such as Stephen Hawking describe, predict that the universe began with a state of very low entropy and has been increasing ever since and thus the reason the second law applies to us.  The math behind this is too mind boggling to consider here.  However, the recent description of a black hole emanating from the dawn of time, suggests a massive source of entropy early in the universe, do we now have a large source of entropy in the beginning of time as well?  These are the questions physicists are grappling with right now (see the nature paper). 

What Penrose does state is that in an open system, such as the universe, entropy is reversible.  Perhaps therefore all is not lost for mankind, at least mathematically.  I speculate that if we looked on a grand enough scale we would see the disorder and order of the universe undulating like a wave as a function of time.  After all, every other force vector described by the classic and even quantum laws has turned out to function as a waveform, so why not entropy as well. This function may actually look like a conversion from mass to energy and energy back to mass, or as is more likely, a conversion of properties that are far more diverse than my feeble mind can imagine.  To make things even more confusing the property of space-time suggests that a waveform can be converted into an all or nothing maximum.

Photons of light being pure energy and zero mass represent the extreme of our universe in one dimension. Light, as Penrose puts it, is actually a packet of low entropy that is converted to other forms here on earth (mainly heat) and released in a higher entropy state back into space.   So while entropy, which we play a pivotal role in, seems to be expanding around us, life itself seems to be reversing this trend (we are consumers, and retainers, of low entropy and releasers of high entropy).  It is entirely possible that two extremes of our universal box are complete atomic disarray (high entropy) and complete atomic order (low entropy).  What each of these extremes looks like is hard to say.  However, it suggests that life itself is thus a force obeying a physical law, and pushing toward a low entropy state in the direction of time (t).  If the symmetry theory is correct then looking backward in time (-t) we will see life pushing toward higher entropy and yet other factors in the universe pulling toward a lower entropy state.  This is the crux of the position.  Depending on your view point either we or the rest of the universe is heading toward disarray.  As Penrose points out, glasses of water and eggs tend to reassemble in the backwards view of time.  "If we lived in a world where such occurrences were commonplace," he says, we would ascribe "some 'teleological effect' whereby the self-assembling objects sometimes strive to achieve some desired macroscopic configuration."

Why then are things more ordered as we look backwards in time?  Is entropy actually a force at all, or the absence of force?  I suppose Einstein would say that this is relative.  Penrose, suggests that several forces work in conflict with the dispersion of the universe.  He suggests, that gravitation, which brings massive objects together through attraction, to be the most important factor, followed by the nuclear dynamics at play in the center of each star.   Indeed gravity leads to starts and eventually black holes, which interestingly increase in entropy the more massive they become.  I would propose to add the chemical ionic and VanDerWalls bonds in this as well.  And finally, of course there is biology, the motive force that I see attempting to reorder the universe and must at some threshold point counter the outward dispersal of particles to gather them all back in.  Each of these forces is actually quite weak, but they all work exponentially and therefore will move very slowly at first with a rapid doubling of the rate of acceleration as we move forward (and undoubtedly backward) in time. 

What are we to make of this?  Here is what I propose.  First, if we look backward in time we see an ordering of the massive bodies and a disordering of life.  If we look forward in time, we see the disordering of the massive bodies and the ordering of life.  Life then is a force to combat the universe's entropy.  This is a bit of a yin and a yang, like all the other known forces.  At some point the entropy of the universe (if that is what we should call it) will be fully counter weighted by the force of anti-entropy (i.e. life) and we will be at the top of the waveform curve.  At this point the outward push of entropy will be overcome by the pull of anti-entropy and the total entropy of the system will begin to diminish.  What will this look like, and where will it end?  I for one can not tell you.  But I can give some predictions based on this assumption.  First, life is most likely an unstoppable force with a firm direction toward engulfment of the entire universe.  Second, the principle of anti-entropy suggests a convergence of all entities into one entity, as this would be the most controlled and least entropic state;i.e. to organize all particles in a single machine or entity.

 I will not speculate further on the meaning of these conclusions.  But suffice it to say that the force of entropy has been controlled in the past by some mechanism, or so the cosmological theories of the universe suggest allowing for the low entropy energy sources we rely on for our survival, and therefore it is not unlikely that some motive force should be able to overcome the high entropy expanding around us at some future point as well.  Penrose may have come to this conclusion himself, but his book is much too long (still reading) and his conclusions too spread out for me to have come to it yet. The cause of the initial low entropy is yet unknown, but could life become a new source of it in a future universe? 


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