This article provides answers to the two questions posed in the title. It is argued that, contrary to many statements made in the literature, neither entropy, nor the Second Law may be used for the entire universe. The origin of this misuse of entropy and the second law may be traced back to Clausius himself. More resent (erroneous) justification is also discussed.
Life is so remarkable, and so unlike any other physical system, that it is tempting to attribute special factors to it. Physics is founded on the assumption that universal laws and principles underlie all natural phenomena, but is it far from clear that there are 'laws of life' with serious descriptive or predictive power analogous to the laws of physics. Nor is there (yet) a 'theoretical biology' in the same sense as theoretical physics. Part of the obstacle in developing a universal theory of biological organization concerns the daunting complexity of living organisms. However, many attempts have been made to glimpse simplicity lurking within this complexity, and to capture this simplicity mathematically. In this paper we review a promising new line of inquiry to bring coherence and order to the realm of biology by focusing on 'information' as a unifying concept.
Downloadable free copy available on ResearchGate.
Chalmer's famously identified pinpointing an explanation for our subjective experience as the "hard problem of consciousness". He argued that subjective experience constitutes a "hard problem" in the sense that its explanation will ultimately require new physical laws or principles. Here, we propose a corresponding "hard problem of life" as the problem of how `information' can affect the world. In this essay we motivate both why the problem of information as a causal agent is central to explaining life, and why it is hard - that is, why we suspect that a full resolution of the hard problem of life will, similar to as has been proposed for the hard problem of consciousness, ultimately not be reducible to known physical principles. Comments: To appear in "From Matter to Life: Information and Causality". S.I. Walker, P.C.W. Davies and G.F.R. Ellis (eds). Cambridge University Press
The origin of life is arguably one of the greatest unanswered questions in science. A primary challenge is that without a proper definition for life -- a notoriously challenging problem in its own right -- the problem of how life began is not well posed. Here we propose that the transition from non-life to life may correspond to a fundamental shift in causal structure, where information gains direct, and context-dependent, causal efficacy over matter, a transition that may be mapped to a nontrivial distinction in how living systems process information. Dr. Walker will discuss potential measures of such a transition, which may be amenable to laboratory study, and how the proposed mechanism corresponds to the onset of the unique mode of (algorithmic) information processing characteristic of living systems.
California Pirate Party meeting
Local firms’ leaders around the country remain widely supportive of President Trump, even as some chief executives of big corporations pull away.
This may be the definition of mediocre reporting, and possibly worse because it was one of the biggest stories of the week. It’s nice to have a story telling us what the other parts of the country are feeling. What they’re completely missing here is “WHY do these people who really have no experience with the science think this is the correct direction?” Other than repeating sound bites they’ve heard (most likely politicians say) on television, what are their reasons for cheering? They need to be prodded several questions deep to find the real underlying reasons.
I suspect that most small businesses don’t have very solid reasons, if any at all, for their cheering.
Time to relax
Gassing up for the week.
Books for my summer Japanese reading list. I’ve got most of my hiragana. Next up katakana.
The origins of life stands among the great open scientific questions of our time. While a number of proposals exist for possible starting points in the pathway from non-living to living matter, these have so far not achieved states of complexity that are anywhere near that of even the simplest living systems. A key challenge is identifying the properties of living matter that might distinguish living and non-living physical systems such that we might build new life in the lab. This review is geared towards covering major viewpoints on the origin of life for those new to the origin of life field, with a forward look towards considering what it might take for a physical theory that universally explains the phenomenon of life to arise from the seemingly disconnected array of ideas proposed thus far. The hope is that a theory akin to our other theories in fundamental physics might one day emerge to explain the phenomenon of life, and in turn finally permit solving its origins.
📕 Read pages 138-162 of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (finished)
Mike is sent by television.
I was a bit disappointed by the title of the final chapter which gives things away paragraphs earlier than it should have. It makes the build up to the big reveal a bit less than lackluster.
The 70’s version of the film has a stronger finish than the novel by showing Charlie’s nobility. In particular it was even better given the overall morals put forth by the book.
I find myself thinking about how solidly this book still stands today. I suspect that a slightly more modern retelling would replace gum chewing with the moral ills of using social media.
A short swim and some diving practice.