24 11 10 - 08:13If history is anything like the past (heh) we will see ourselves go through a series of cycles, revisiting the same conflicts in an attempt to solve them. With each one, we get closer to a solution, sometimes paradoxically by learning what does not work.
One of these cycles will be religion, which is currently recovering from a 2,000-year flirtation with middle eastern dualism.
But religion, even for us skeptics, is tempting. It makes people happier. They seem to be more inclined to live sane lives. It gives them a center and a goal that transcends immediate politics and social pressures. And in pushing back social pressures -- the original form of sick human bullshit -- religion is pure nihilism of the active type.
But where do we find a new religion? Some think in quantum physics:
The second law, one of the most famous in physics, states that order cannot come about spontaneously. Work must be done to create it, and that work (in the technical, physical sense of measurable amounts of energy moving things around) is converted into heat in the process. Since heat is, at bottom, the disorderly movement of molecules, the order created by the work done is more than counterbalanced by the molecular disorder of the newly liberated heat.
Maxwellâs demon, however, overcomes that. The homunculus in Maxwellâs original thought experiment could sort the molecules of air found in two connected boxes according to their velocities. It controlled a trap door between the boxes and allowed only fast-moving (ie, hot) molecules through in one direction and only slow-moving (ie, cold) ones through in the other. When the molecules had been thoroughly sorted in this way the temperature difference between the boxes could, so the theory went, be employed to do useful work in the way that the hot and cold parts of a steam engine do.
The search for real physical systems that behave like Maxwellâs demon has gone on ever since. In 1929, though, Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist, added a wrinkle. He realised that Maxwell had failed to consider the energy which the demon would require to decide whether a molecule was moving fast or slowly. This binary decision is equivalent to one bit of information. Storing this bit, so that it can be acted on, requires energy. Szilard calculated that at room temperature one bit of information must take at least three thousand-billion-billionths of a joule of work to store. Not a huge amount, but enough to balance the equations and restore the laws of thermodynamics to their pristine state.
Szilardâs observation had an interesting implication, which was that information is, itself, a type of energyâan observation somewhat analogous to Einsteinâs, 24 years earlier, that mass is a type of energy. - The Economist
Rather, information and matter convert to and from energy. This brings with it a number of interesting suggestions.
If the ordering of matter and energy is information, and this information is a counterpart to energy that keeps it from entropy, the transaction of information in the world becomes a primary goal, not one secondary to matter and energy itself. The trade between energy and information keeps the energy in motion.
In this case, the persistence of patterns including consciousness may have more of a role in the universe than we thought, and may be more persistent.
Food for thought.