Sunday, March 29, 2015

John D. Barrow's "Take" on Entropy ("The Book of Nothing")

"John David Barrow FRS (born 29 November 1952) is an English cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and mathematician. He is currently Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Barrow is also a writer of popular science and an amateur playwright" (Wikipedia).

The Book of Nothing:


Duncan said...


Practical application of entropy.

The two types of environment. Chalk downland requires high levels of entropy to survive.

Nathan said...

Hi Edgar,

Nice job on the photo. ;)

This might be an interesting mathematical exercise, but Barrow's quote seems a little too Zeno-ish to be able to make sense of within the actual world.

If some past event really can be defined as the beginning of "time", then at no "time" could there really have been an infinity of universe-cycles that have been actualised. Assuming that a cycle takes "time", then an infinity of cycles, no matter their size, will require infinite time to be realised. It's in this sense that it seems to me to be most natural to consider a cyclical model as still representing a reality that is in time and yet is still constrained by it (despite infinities being used in mathematical modelling).



Duncan said...

More practical application.

Duncan said...

Here is an unusual conversation that I found fascinating. Thought you might like it, with it's references to economy and entropy.

Duncan said...

This article has some interesting thoughts.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Nathan,

Glad you liked the photo. :)

I didn't mean to be misleading when posting about Barrow. What was posted was just enought to reveal his thoughts on entropy. While he does talk about the cyclical model, I don't believe he endorses it. In fact, a page or two later, he suggests that the model possibly doesn't work. But it's the kind of book where he reviews all types of ideas without necessarily accepting them all.

He might possibly agree with you about time and cyclic universes. After all, it seems that an infinite number of finite moments still constitutes an actual quantitative infinite.

Edgar Foster said...

Thank you, Duncan. I watched some of the first video in the link above. Funny how the second law is finding applicatons in econmics.



Killa Jules said...

Duncan, Tom Murphy's article 'economist meets physicist' is indeed very good. I'm glad that others have found out about this site. What are really interesting though are his conclusions which seem inescapable.

If you read his other articles (such as this one, see here: it becomes abundantly clear that this global system in which we live has a used-by-date and Human ingenuity is not going to provide salvation. It made a chill go up my spine when I first discovered his site.

Duncan said...

Another aspect of entropy:-

Duncan said...

In more detail:-

Edgar Foster said...

The Google books link also refers to entropy as "disorder," even within an ecological context (page 157).

Duncan said...

Yes but the ecotone is based on the perspective of the viewer, and how he would define disorder of a landscape.

As I said before disorder = complexity to great for our human perspective to cope with other than looking at it in terms of the macro.

as Page 94 states:-

... where the high-level exchanges of energy represent a meta systemic approach typical of landscape ecology ....

Let me refer you back to here :-

See left hand graph page 82. Look familiar?

Edgar Foster said...

Yes, it does look familiar, but I'm not going to belabor the point since we don't agree on what entropy is supposed to be and I believe we may not be able to advance from this point.

I'll just say that the original issue was whether there's a scientific basis for asserting that the universe had a beginning. There still appears to be proof for that claim, even if scientists do not want to invoke a personal cause for the cosmic beginning.

Thanks, my friend.

Duncan said...

It has been appreciated that the distinguishing feature of living systems is complexity rather than order.


L.E. Orgel, 1973. The Origins of Life. New York: John Wiley, p. 189ff; M. Polanyi, 1968. Science 160, 1308; Huberi P. Yockey, 1977. J. Theoret. Biol 67, 377; Jeffrey Wickens, 1978. J. Theoret Biol. 72, 191.


of course a page like this is going to be a hot potato.

Energy dispersal into complex system's. Now this is what I would call "Dynamic Energy" & it is far more complex than E=mc2. This synergy is beyond description. So we do agree that this equation cannot describe the creator & his method.

Yes there appears to be evidence for a beginning - but the more I look into the interdependence of energy flows, the less likely it seems to be a gradual development although the Gaia hypothesis has some useful points that seem to fit (ignoring the overly simplistic "daisy world" idea - which was only added to placate a certain mind set).

I have also come to realize that when we read that man was made from the dust, this is far more complex than it first appears.

Reductionist method generally refuses to see intent. Reductionist method is a bottomless pit.

It has been an interesting discussion & I think we actually agree on more than we disagree (even then I think it is mainly the different ways we frame ideas & our definition of words).

Yes I think we have reached the end of the line on this one.

Thank you Edgar.

Duncan said...


I hope you do not mind me sneaking this last link in but I think you will find it very informative:-

Duncan said...

and the scale perspectives:-

sorry :)

Duncan said...

(update 24/5/16)

During my second hand book haul I got a copy of this:-

For £1, which I have found very interesting so far (on page 193 at the moment). It has some relationship to this thread & the examples it gives perhaps makes it a little more obvious as to why I used "ecotone" as an analogous example to the entropy concept. Fractal reiteration in the real world.