Entropy and information

Ever since I hit my forties, I have known that I’ve been losing information on nearly a daily basis. Information that used to be readily accessible just simply isn’t there anymore, no matter how hard I rack my brain. For some time, I’ve suspected it’s the 2nd law of thermodynamics at work; that’s right, entropy. My memory is simply becoming disordered and jumbled, just like that drawer full of once neatly wrapped patch cords: when you open the drawer again, you can bet that disorder has set in.

Of course, people try to blame it on old age, but I know better – even when it was argued that entropy only relates to heat dissipation. Like anyone really cares about heat dissipation.

Well, now 2 thinkers from Portland State University (who’d have guessed such smart guys would teach at PSU?) have published a paper with the catchy title, Information Loss as a Foundational Principle for the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in which they show that yes, the Law of Entropy applies to information. In their summary, they state, “the second law exists because there is a restriction applying to information that is outside of and additional to the laws of classical or quantum mechanics.” (I tell you, I’ve lived with that restriction all of my life.)

Duncan & Semura (the authors) believe that the foundational principle underlying the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics can be stated as “No process can result in a net gain of information.” (And no, they are not saying that education is a waste of time.)

This may not seem all that groundbreaking, but it just may be, as the Law of Entropy applied to information has far-reaching implications. I have joked about this a bit, but in all seriousness, I am very interested to see where this discussion goes.

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2 Responses to Entropy and information

  1. Quixote says:

    Now if they could just do something about hair loss I might be interested. Besides, at my age, entropy is just another name for reduced bladder capacity.

  2. Just try to remember that caffeine has been shown to resist such entropy.

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