Cosmology Intelligent Design Physics

Rob Sheldon: “It from bit” is winning the cosmology wars

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At Big Think, there was a discussion between cosmologists Ethan Siegel and Lee Smolin on whether we are approaching quantum gravity all wrong:

Gravitation, governed by General Relativity, and the Standard Model, governed by quantum physics, are fundamentally incompatible. It’s possible, however, that the incompletenesses plaguing both theories are related, and that by completing both, together, we may discover quantum gravity. Lee Smolin, a pioneer in that endeavor, shares his thoughts about how we might find the best way forward to solve this conundrum.

Ethan Siegel, “Are we approaching quantum gravity all wrong?” at Big Think (September 16, 2021)

Experimental physicist Rob Sheldon responds:


It’s a rambling interview that only a physics geek will love, but I had to reprint this dialogue, because it captures so much of what ID is about:

“Ethan Siegel: …So far, everyone I know who’s tried to come up with a concept of “gravity is emergent” or “space is emergent” or some other quantity that we normally look at as fundamental is in fact emergent, takes something that in typical physics thought we view as emergent and makes that fundamental. I would say the typical view of physics is that entropy is an emergent property that you can calculate based on, say, the microscopic quantum state of all the particles aggregated together. Are you basically doing something similar to that, except with this thing you define as “variety” instead of entropy?

Lee Smolin: Roughly speaking yes, but that’s a long discussion. Because the role of entropy in cosmological theory is something we have to get our heads straight about. “

Translating, Ethan is saying that the old 20th century materialism that says “entropy” or “information” emerges from the particles is being replaced by a 21st century view that “entropy” or “information” is fundamental and the material particles emerge from the immaterial field. Recall that the late John Wheeler coined “it from bit”, that matter proceeds from information. Lee Smolin agrees that his “variety” theory is of the 21st century, post-materialism type.


Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II

One Reply to “Rob Sheldon: “It from bit” is winning the cosmology wars

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    Ethan is saying that the old 20th century materialism that says “entropy” or “information” emerges from the particles is being replaced by a 21st century view that “entropy” or “information” is fundamental and the material particles emerge from the immaterial field.

    Not only is “entropy” or “information” fundamental in the 21st century view of physics, but in quantum information theory it is now held that “we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”,,,

    The Quantum Thermodynamics Revolution – May 2017
    Excerpt: the 19th-century physicist James Clerk Maxwell put it, “The idea of dissipation of energy depends on the extent of our knowledge.”
    In recent years, a revolutionary understanding of thermodynamics has emerged that explains this subjectivity using quantum information theory — “a toddler among physical theories,” as del Rio and co-authors put it, that describes the spread of information through quantum systems. Just as thermodynamics initially grew out of trying to improve steam engines, today’s thermodynamicists are mulling over the workings of quantum machines. Shrinking technology — a single-ion engine and three-atom fridge were both experimentally realized for the first time within the past year — is forcing them to extend thermodynamics to the quantum realm, where notions like temperature and work lose their usual meanings, and the classical laws don’t necessarily apply.
    They’ve found new, quantum versions of the laws that scale up to the originals. Rewriting the theory from the bottom up has led experts to recast its basic concepts in terms of its subjective nature, and to unravel the deep and often surprising relationship between energy and information — the abstract 1s and 0s by which physical states are distinguished and knowledge is measured.,,,
    Renato Renner, a professor at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, described this as a radical shift in perspective. Fifteen years ago, “we thought of entropy as a property of a thermodynamic system,” he said. “Now in (quantum) information theory, we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”,,,
    https://www.quantamagazine.org/quantum-thermodynamics-revolution/

    And as the following 2011 article similarly stated, “In measuring entropy, one should bear in mind that an object does not have a certain amount of entropy per se, instead an object’s entropy is always dependent on the observer. ”

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 1, 2011
    Excerpt: The new study revisits Landauer’s principle for cases when the values of the bits to be deleted may be known. When the memory content is known, it should be possible to delete the bits in such a manner that it is theoretically possible to re-create them. It has previously been shown that such reversible deletion would generate no heat. In the new paper, the researchers go a step further. They show that when the bits to be deleted are quantum-mechanically entangled with the state of an observer, then the observer could even withdraw heat from the system while deleting the bits. Entanglement links the observer’s state to that of the computer in such a way that they know more about the memory than is possible in classical physics.,,,
    In measuring entropy, one should bear in mind that an object does not have a certain amount of entropy per se, instead an object’s entropy is always dependent on the observer. Applied to the example of deleting data, this means that if two individuals delete data in a memory and one has more knowledge of this data, she perceives the memory to have lower entropy and can then delete the memory using less energy.,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134300.htm

    Perhaps the clearest way to experimentally demonstrate that “entropy is (not) a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.” is with the quantum Zeno effect.

    With the quantum Zeno effect we find that “an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay.”

    Perspectives on the quantum Zeno paradox – 2018
    The quantum Zeno effect is,, an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay.
    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/196/1/012018/pdf

    The reason why I am very impressed with the preceding experiments demonstrating that “entropy is (not) a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system” is because entropy is very foundational in our scientific descriptions of the world.

    As the following article states, “Entropy explains time; it explains every possible action in the universe;,,”,, “Even gravity,,,, can be expressed as a consequence of the law of entropy.,,,”

    Shining Light on Dark Energy – October 21, 2012
    Excerpt: It (Entropy) explains time; it explains every possible action in the universe;,,
    Even gravity, Vedral argued, can be expressed as a consequence of the law of entropy.,,,
    The principles of thermodynamics are at their roots all to do with information theory. Information theory is simply an embodiment of how we interact with the universe —,,,
    http://crev.info/2012/10/shini.....rk-energy/

    On top of the fact that “(Entropy) explains time; it explains every possible action in the universe”, entropy is also, by a very wide margin, the most finely tuned of the initial conditions of the Big Bang. Finely tuned to an almost incomprehensible degree of precision, 1 part in 10 to the 10 to the 123rd power. As Roger Penrose himself stated that, “This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.”

    “This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.”
    Roger Penrose – How special was the big bang? – (from the Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose, pp 339-345 – 1989)

    “The time-asymmetry is fundamentally connected to with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: indeed, the extraordinarily special nature (to a greater precision than about 1 in 10^10^123, in terms of phase-space volume) can be identified as the “source” of the Second Law (Entropy).”
    – Roger Penrose – The Physics of the Small and Large: What is the Bridge Between Them?

    In the following video, Dr, Bruce Gordon gives us a small glimpse as to just how enormous that number truly is. Dr. Gordon states, “you would need a hundred million, trillion, trillion, trillion, universes our size, with a zero on every proton and neutron in all of those universes just to write out this number. That is how fine tuned the initial entropy of our universe is.”

    “An explosion you think of as kind of a messy event. And this is the point about entropy. The explosion in which our universe began was not a messy event. And if you talk about how messy it could have been, this is what the Penrose calculation is all about essentially. It looks at the observed statistical entropy in our universe. The entropy per baryon. And he calculates that out and he arrives at a certain figure. And then he calculates using the Bekenstein-Hawking formula for Black-Hole entropy what the,,, (what sort of entropy could have been associated with,,, the singularity that would have constituted the beginning of the universe). So you’ve got the numerator, the observed entropy, and the denominator, how big it (the entropy) could have been. And that fraction turns out to be,, 1 over 10 to the 10 to the 123rd power. Let me just emphasize how big that denominator is so you can gain a real appreciation for how small that probability is. So there are 10^80th baryons in the universe. Protons and neutrons. No suppose we put a zero on every one of those. OK, how many zeros is that? That is 10^80th zeros. This number has 10^123rd zeros. OK, so you would need a hundred million, trillion, trillion, trillion, universes our size, with zero on every proton and neutron in all of those universes just to write out this number. That is how fine tuned the initial entropy of our universe is. And if there were a pre-Big Bang state and you had some bounces, then that fine tuning (for entropy) gets even finer as you go backwards if you can even imagine such a thing. ”
    Dr Bruce Gordon – Contemporary Physics and God Part 2 – video – 1:50 minute mark – video
    https://youtu.be/ff_sNyGNSko?t=110

    In fact, entropy is also the primary reason why our own material, temporal, bodies grow old and eventually die in this universe,,,

    Entropy Explains Aging, Genetic Determinism Explains Longevity, and Undefined Terminology Explains Misunderstanding Both – 2007
    Excerpt: There is a huge body of knowledge supporting the belief that age changes are characterized by increasing entropy, which results in the random loss of molecular fidelity, and accumulates to slowly overwhelm maintenance systems [1–4].,,,
    http://www.plosgenetics.org/ar.....en.0030220

    Thus, considering entropy’s central importance in scientific explanation, (as well as in our own lives), the statement “we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.” is just fascinating!

    Why in blue blazes should the finely tuned entropic actions of the universe, entropic actions which also happen to explain time itself, and is the primary reason why our material bodies grow old and die in this universe, even care if I myself am consciously observing them, (and/or ‘describing’ them), or not unless the immaterial mind really is more foundational to reality than the finely tuned 1 in 10^10^123 entropy of the universe is?

    To state the glaringly obvious implication of all this, this finding of entropy being “a property of an observer who describes a system” is very friendly to a Mind First, and/or to a Theistic view of reality and is very antagonistic to the atheism of Darwistist’s materialistic view of reality.

    For instance Romans chapter 8: verses 20 and 21 itself states, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

    Romans 8:20-21
    For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

    Shoot, the preceding Bible verse is all but a direct scientific prediction, via two thousands years ago, that “we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”

    Supplemental notes as to how entropy, information, and life are related
    Sept. 2020
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/researchers-have-been-confirming-quantum-entanglement-in-brain-tissue/#comment-713172

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