Thursday, April 28, 2011
Not Even Entropy Is the Top Object
How much information could you cram onto a single sheet of letter paper?
Imagine you have a nanoscale pen. Imagine writing tiny tiny nanoscale letters with this pen, on a nanoscale piece of paper. If you do the job as thoroughly as possible, you will make a black hole singularity. (Raphael Bousso of Lawrence Berkeley, take it away.)
(Don't you think Keats would've killed for a pen like that?)
That's what a black hole is, from the viewpoint of Shannon entropy. Shannon entropy measures the amount of information in a system.
For instance, the English language has a Shannon entropy of between 0.6 and 1.5 bits per letter. That means that when you read this, you are slightly less likely than predicting a coin toss to figure out the letters that come next.
From a black hole's point of view, global warming on Earth is a pathetic speck of dust. From entropy's point of view, the point of view of all the massless particles at the end of the Universe, the black hole is also a pathetic speck of dust.
Entropy, in this sense, is always entropy-for. An entropic system requires something outside of itself to read off the information state.
From this we can conclude that even if there is only one universe (which now seems quite unlikely), and one arc of time in which it comes into and goes out of being—even if that is the case, entropy is not the telos or top object or final vantage point from which to judge everything. Because entropy requires a measuring device, if only a virtual one. Nihilism is based on a belief that there is a top object. It is, in other words, a disguised form of theism.