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Conference on the Second Law of Thermodynamics

My proposed talk was rejected, but nevertheless, my university VGTU is sending me on an ERASMUS+ study visit to the 9th European Congress of Analytic Philosophy, August 21-26, 2017 at LMU Munich. It's Europe's largest philosophy conference, as you might imagine from the twelve sections: http://analyticphilosophy.eu/ecap9/ecap-9-program-committee/

LMU Munich includes the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, which I hope to learn more about. Their many workshops (such as last year's on "Foundations of Mathematical Structuralism") are listed here: http://www.mcmp.philosophie.uni-muenchen.de/events/workshops/index.html I might try to stay for the conference on the Second Law of Thermodynamics: http://www.secondlaw2017.philosophie.uni-muenchen.de/index.html

I would like to learn more about the Second Law, although sometimes I suspect that nobody really quite knows it all that well. (I have a B.A. in Physics from the University of Chicago. And I was left with the feeling that the definition of entropy depends on there being some absolute coordinate system.)

In my own philosophy, there's a distinction that arises between grace and justice. Justice implies a closed system (zero-sum game), and grace suggests an open system (fueled by an outside source). The world we live in is ever ambiguous - we can think of it as both open (fueled by some external love) and closed (doomed to decay). I studied prayer as a means for engineering an increase in this ambiguity. If two or three people pray for God to intercede on some matter, basically, to violate the laws of nature, then that gives license to violate social norms, or simply, to act in an unusual manner. It's a shift from a mindset of justice (business as usual) to a mindset of grace (extraordinary circumstances). And it lets a person who was engaged to relax, and a person who was relaxed to get engaged. So just like trying to untangle a knot it makes more sense to alternate between loosening and pulling, rather than simply pulling. I gave a talk on a survey of results from some 40 episodes of prayer in twos and threes. I'm curious to pursue that further. But for climate change I think that ambiguity in people's mindsets is an interesting thing to think about and engineer as regards human behavior. And human behavior is the key driver in climate change.

Comments

  • 1.

    Here are two great books on the Second Law:

    They're essential for understanding the arrow of time and the Second Law. There's a lot of confusion and misinformation out there!

    The Earth is, for the next few billion years, best modeled as an open system, with the Sun providing free energy.

    Comment Source:Here are two great books on the Second Law: * H. D. Zeh, _[The Physical Basis of the Direction of Time](http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/time/)_, Springer, Berlin, 2005. * Huw Price, _[Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point](http://prce.hu/w/TAAP.html)_, Oxford U. Press, Oxford, 1996. They're essential for understanding the arrow of time and the Second Law. There's a lot of confusion and misinformation out there! The Earth is, for the next few billion years, best modeled as an open system, with the Sun providing free energy.
  • 2.
    edited April 25

    John, Thank you! That's great. I will read your review of Zeh and the Chapter I online of Price. And quite possibly buy one or both.

    The deadline is May 1. But I'm thinking that I should apply. Because I do have a novel perspective. Basically my novel ideas are that:

    A) The issue of "deciding" necessitates a framework given by "the division of everything into five perspectives": Every effect has had its cause, but not every cause has had its effects. And the boundary/present is where these two causal directions coincide. This framework, cognitively, has two representations: we imagine it either as time (cause in past, effect in future) or space (cause outside a subsystem, effect inside a subsystem). More about the "divisions of everything" here: http://www.ms.lt/derlius/20170220LevelsOfKnowledge.pdf

    B) Cognitively, our emotional lives are driven by expectations, especially the temporal boundary between expecting and learning an outcome, and the spatial boundary between self and world. I write about that here: http://www.ms.lt/sodas/Book/TaxonomyOfMoods

    C) Intuitively, think of entropy in terms of "deliberateness" and "nondeliberateness". Googling on "entropy deliberateness" doesn't yield much, so perhaps that's novel.

    D) The role of the coordinate system - who decides the particular coordinate system used? - because whoever decides can scramble and unscramble the "phase space" at will.

    E) A particular set of atoms, say, may seem meaninglessly chosen. And yet if we study what happens to those atoms - their flow through the system - then we may nevertheless witness signs of life. So the definition of life - for example - as that which can have ("(self)-interest") - is related to entropy. A frog has "self-interest" directly, and a clock (which has a potential owner) has "(self)-interest" on behalf of its owner. Which is to say, life is that which we can be helped or hurt. (In Lithuanian, we have a word "nauda" ("what is useful to us"), which suggest that something can be done on our behalf. And I'm thinking, you can't do anything on behalf of something that's not alive, but only for that which is alive - to whatever degree.)

    F) Entropy, as I wrote above, is important in discussing the ambiguity of open systems (based on grace) and closed systems (based on justice). Yes, locally, at a certain level, we're fueled by the Sun, and yet again, at bigger and smaller levels things are crumbling all the same. So the ambiguity seems very important.

    G) Prayer is (if it is anything) a way of engineering, of increasing the likelihoods of miracles. I think it does this by increasing the ambiguity required for (God or external forces) to intervene (without breaking any laws too badly). So explaining this dynamics would be my main idea.

    These are not the usual ideas. But maybe that's what they are possibly looking for. It's certainly helpful for me to think about.

    I appreciate any links to the above ideas (supporting or rejecting) with perspectives in math and physics. Thank you!

    Comment Source:John, Thank you! That's great. I will read your review of Zeh and the Chapter I online of Price. And quite possibly buy one or both. The deadline is May 1. But I'm thinking that I should apply. Because I do have a novel perspective. Basically my novel ideas are that: A) The issue of "deciding" necessitates a framework given by "the division of everything into five perspectives": Every effect has had its cause, but not every cause has had its effects. And the boundary/present is where these two causal directions coincide. This framework, cognitively, has two representations: we imagine it either as time (cause in past, effect in future) or space (cause outside a subsystem, effect inside a subsystem). More about the "divisions of everything" here: http://www.ms.lt/derlius/20170220LevelsOfKnowledge.pdf B) Cognitively, our emotional lives are driven by expectations, especially the temporal boundary between expecting and learning an outcome, and the spatial boundary between self and world. I write about that here: http://www.ms.lt/sodas/Book/TaxonomyOfMoods C) Intuitively, think of entropy in terms of "deliberateness" and "nondeliberateness". Googling on "entropy deliberateness" doesn't yield much, so perhaps that's novel. D) The role of the coordinate system - who decides the particular coordinate system used? - because whoever decides can scramble and unscramble the "phase space" at will. E) A particular set of atoms, say, may seem meaninglessly chosen. And yet if we study what happens to those atoms - their flow through the system - then we may nevertheless witness signs of life. So the definition of life - for example - as that which can have ("(self)-interest") - is related to entropy. A frog has "self-interest" directly, and a clock (which has a potential owner) has "(self)-interest" on behalf of its owner. Which is to say, life is that which we can be helped or hurt. (In Lithuanian, we have a word "nauda" ("what is useful to us"), which suggest that something can be done on our behalf. And I'm thinking, you can't do anything on behalf of something that's not alive, but only for that which is alive - to whatever degree.) F) Entropy, as I wrote above, is important in discussing the ambiguity of open systems (based on grace) and closed systems (based on justice). Yes, locally, at a certain level, we're fueled by the Sun, and yet again, at bigger and smaller levels things are crumbling all the same. So the ambiguity seems very important. G) Prayer is (if it is anything) a way of engineering, of increasing the likelihoods of miracles. I think it does this by increasing the ambiguity required for (God or external forces) to intervene (without breaking any laws too badly). So explaining this dynamics would be my main idea. These are not the usual ideas. But maybe that's what they are possibly looking for. It's certainly helpful for me to think about. I appreciate any links to the above ideas (supporting or rejecting) with perspectives in math and physics. Thank you!
  • 3.

    Hi John and all. I submitted an abstract, which I include below. There seem to be 16 talks submitted (as of yet) with 4 to be chosen. It was a nice exercise at least to sketch out some ideas. It would be nice to learn more about entropy or to think more about it.

    Grace and Justice: The Deliberate Ambiguity of Whether We Live in a System Which is Open or Closed

    Are Entropy and the Second Law cognitive constructs at heart? They may be cognitive, metaphysical frameworks, first and foremost. Do we live in an open system (fueled by the Sun)? or a closed system (doomed to decay)? Cognitively, this is the distinction between grace and justice. Which is it? Apparently, it is deliberately ambiguous. Cognitively, we can define an ambiguity based on two directions for causality: 1) Every effect has had its cause, 2) Not every cause has had its effect. We can study prayer as an attempt to productively align ourselves with Deliberate Ambiguity.


    Entropy and the Second Law are concepts from physics. However, as concepts, they are also meaningful in considering, from a human point of view, what decision making is all about. Indeed, one can wonder whether these are, in fact, cognitive constructs at heart. Reflection upon cognitive frameworks where these concepts are relevant may offer insights into their significance for physics; may suggest that their application in physics is quite illusory; or as this author believes, may yield evidence and understanding in what sense cognitive frameworks - metaphysical frameworks - are the foundations for all systems, physical or otherwise.

    In particular, quantum mechanics notwithstanding, a physicist works in the spirit of eliminating ambiguity. However, entropy is a concept which is highly dependent on perspective - on how a subsystem is defined - and thus invites ambiguity. Do we live in an open system (fueled by the Sun)? or a closed system (doomed to decay)? Both locally and globally, on all scales, lines can be drawn in space and time to model us either way.

    Cognitively, this is the distinction between grace and justice. Do we live in a world that is loved, a world of grace? If we believe so, then we can tolerate misfortune because everything may yet work out for the better. If we live in a closed world, left to itself, then the best that we can expect is justice, but our own imperfection makes it inevitable that the Second Law will grind us down.

    In the biggest picture, which is it? Apparently, it is deliberately ambiguous. The concept "deliberate" here is important because entropy itself can be thought of as a measure of "indeliberateness" but also "ambiguity". Is the "ambiguity" within the system (a goodness - slack) or beyond it (a God - Everything)? The ambiguity is understandable if we have the case of an Everything which is investigating, Is Everything necessary? That is, Is Ambiguity necessary? Would there be Ambiguity even if there wasn't? Is it possible for a subsystem to stay Deliberate, isolated from Everything? Such questions make sense if we think of Everything as an initial state of contradiction, and we consider how it goes beyond itself to establish a noncontradictory system.

    We live in an "atheistic" physical world which seems determinably so, or at least, physicists traditionally aspire it to be so, for they remove all aspects of life that might say otherwise. But yet, with the Second Law, we face the inevitable expansion of ambiguity. Is this the original Ambiguity? Can we imagine and engage it?

    If we think that we live in a deliberate system, a closed system of justice, then we insist that God has to be good, life has to be fair, even though we ourselves are not entirely. But if we think that we live in an ambiguous system, a system open to grace, then we can suppose that "God doesn't have to be good", "life doesn't have to be fair", for we ourselves can take responsibility.

    Indeed, our emotional life depends very much on how we ourselves choose to draw the boundaries in space and time as to whether our expectations have been fulfilled. The entropy of a system can be decreased dramatically by simply measuring it more precisely or by relabeling the coordinates. Inherent in the progression of time is the increasing deliberateness which keeps the phenomena in each "time zone" distinct from those in "time zones" before and after.

    At the heart of these questions is the cognitive framework for decision making. It supposes two directions for causality: 1) Every effect has had its cause, 2) Not every cause has had its effect. Our minds represent these either dynamically, in terms of time, with the past causing the future, or statically, in terms of space, with outside causing inside. The present in time, and the system boundary in space, are where these two directions meet in ambiguity.

    These questions are naturally relevant to us both in our own freedom to be deliberately ambiguous, but also in our relationship with whatever Deliberate Ambiguity is beyond our system. Prayer is (if it is anything) a way of engineering, of increasing the likelihoods of miracles. It can do this by increasing the ambiguity required for (God or external forces) to intervene (without breaking any natural laws too badly). When two or three people pray together for their intentions, and ask for such unnatural intervention, then they give each other license to act against the expectations of justice, to let go of their own interests or violate social norms. One person may relax, and another may step in on their behalf. Alternately loosening and pulling strings may be the simplest way to untie knots, so to speak.

    As architect Christopher Alexander has pointed out, if we only do something once, like washing the dishes, then it doesn't matter how we do it. But a recurring activity evokes structure, and structure channels activity. Similarly, we can have a one-time conversion of heat into work by expanding. But if we want that activity to recur - if we want an engine, a clock, a wave - then we have to deal with the Second Law. And yet there is again an ambiguity as to whether our activity is singular or recurrent.

    A particular set of atoms, say, may seem meaninglessly chosen. And yet if we study what happens to those atoms - their flow through the system - then we may nevertheless witness signs of life. We may define life as that which can have (self)-interest, which can be helped or hurt, hated or loved, which is to say, has a self - is a subsystem. Such a question is not detached, as physicists might like, but has us consider, do we choose to align ourselves with a Deliberate Ambiguity which cedes control by way of the Second Law?

    Comment Source:Hi John and all. I submitted an abstract, which I include below. There seem to be 16 talks submitted (as of yet) with 4 to be chosen. It was a nice exercise at least to sketch out some ideas. It would be nice to learn more about entropy or to think more about it. <b>Grace and Justice: The Deliberate Ambiguity of Whether We Live in a System Which is Open or Closed</b> Are Entropy and the Second Law cognitive constructs at heart? They may be cognitive, metaphysical frameworks, first and foremost. Do we live in an open system (fueled by the Sun)? or a closed system (doomed to decay)? Cognitively, this is the distinction between grace and justice. Which is it? Apparently, it is deliberately ambiguous. Cognitively, we can define an ambiguity based on two directions for causality: 1) Every effect has had its cause, 2) Not every cause has had its effect. We can study prayer as an attempt to productively align ourselves with Deliberate Ambiguity. -------------------------------------------- Entropy and the Second Law are concepts from physics. However, as concepts, they are also meaningful in considering, from a human point of view, what decision making is all about. Indeed, one can wonder whether these are, in fact, cognitive constructs at heart. Reflection upon cognitive frameworks where these concepts are relevant may offer insights into their significance for physics; may suggest that their application in physics is quite illusory; or as this author believes, may yield evidence and understanding in what sense cognitive frameworks - metaphysical frameworks - are the foundations for all systems, physical or otherwise. In particular, quantum mechanics notwithstanding, a physicist works in the spirit of eliminating ambiguity. However, entropy is a concept which is highly dependent on perspective - on how a subsystem is defined - and thus invites ambiguity. Do we live in an open system (fueled by the Sun)? or a closed system (doomed to decay)? Both locally and globally, on all scales, lines can be drawn in space and time to model us either way. Cognitively, this is the distinction between grace and justice. Do we live in a world that is loved, a world of grace? If we believe so, then we can tolerate misfortune because everything may yet work out for the better. If we live in a closed world, left to itself, then the best that we can expect is justice, but our own imperfection makes it inevitable that the Second Law will grind us down. In the biggest picture, which is it? Apparently, it is deliberately ambiguous. The concept "deliberate" here is important because entropy itself can be thought of as a measure of "indeliberateness" but also "ambiguity". Is the "ambiguity" within the system (a goodness - slack) or beyond it (a God - Everything)? The ambiguity is understandable if we have the case of an Everything which is investigating, Is Everything necessary? That is, Is Ambiguity necessary? Would there be Ambiguity even if there wasn't? Is it possible for a subsystem to stay Deliberate, isolated from Everything? Such questions make sense if we think of Everything as an initial state of contradiction, and we consider how it goes beyond itself to establish a noncontradictory system. We live in an "atheistic" physical world which seems determinably so, or at least, physicists traditionally aspire it to be so, for they remove all aspects of life that might say otherwise. But yet, with the Second Law, we face the inevitable expansion of ambiguity. Is this the original Ambiguity? Can we imagine and engage it? If we think that we live in a deliberate system, a closed system of justice, then we insist that God has to be good, life has to be fair, even though we ourselves are not entirely. But if we think that we live in an ambiguous system, a system open to grace, then we can suppose that "God doesn't have to be good", "life doesn't have to be fair", for we ourselves can take responsibility. Indeed, our emotional life depends very much on how we ourselves choose to draw the boundaries in space and time as to whether our expectations have been fulfilled. The entropy of a system can be decreased dramatically by simply measuring it more precisely or by relabeling the coordinates. Inherent in the progression of time is the increasing deliberateness which keeps the phenomena in each "time zone" distinct from those in "time zones" before and after. At the heart of these questions is the cognitive framework for decision making. It supposes two directions for causality: 1) Every effect has had its cause, 2) Not every cause has had its effect. Our minds represent these either dynamically, in terms of time, with the past causing the future, or statically, in terms of space, with outside causing inside. The present in time, and the system boundary in space, are where these two directions meet in ambiguity. These questions are naturally relevant to us both in our own freedom to be deliberately ambiguous, but also in our relationship with whatever Deliberate Ambiguity is beyond our system. Prayer is (if it is anything) a way of engineering, of increasing the likelihoods of miracles. It can do this by increasing the ambiguity required for (God or external forces) to intervene (without breaking any natural laws too badly). When two or three people pray together for their intentions, and ask for such unnatural intervention, then they give each other license to act against the expectations of justice, to let go of their own interests or violate social norms. One person may relax, and another may step in on their behalf. Alternately loosening and pulling strings may be the simplest way to untie knots, so to speak. As architect Christopher Alexander has pointed out, if we only do something once, like washing the dishes, then it doesn't matter how we do it. But a recurring activity evokes structure, and structure channels activity. Similarly, we can have a one-time conversion of heat into work by expanding. But if we want that activity to recur - if we want an engine, a clock, a wave - then we have to deal with the Second Law. And yet there is again an ambiguity as to whether our activity is singular or recurrent. A particular set of atoms, say, may seem meaninglessly chosen. And yet if we study what happens to those atoms - their flow through the system - then we may nevertheless witness signs of life. We may define life as that which can have (self)-interest, which can be helped or hurt, hated or loved, which is to say, has a self - is a subsystem. Such a question is not detached, as physicists might like, but has us consider, do we choose to align ourselves with a Deliberate Ambiguity which cedes control by way of the Second Law?
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