Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Reified Universe

I just read about a new theory of gravity.  Gravity is an emergent property of the second law of thermodynamics (a.k.a. the law of entropy), a kind of space-time wake created as the unevenly distributed parts of the universe move to lower energy states.   The basic theory has a real intuitive flavor to it.  Think of an uncountable number of bathtub drains distributed throughout the cosmos—the more matter, the more drains; less matter, fewer drains.  The planet Jupiter: lots of drains; the feathery centipede currently undulating across my floor: not so many.  Or maybe a balloon analogy would be better.  Think of a constantly shrinking balloon.  Gravity is akin to the air around the balloon moving in the direction of the constantly retracting balloon surface.  In this sense, gravity is not a force in itself, it’s just something that happens as a result of the balloon shrinking.

But wait.  It’s not the fabric of space-time, it’s the information in the universe that is affected.  Information.  No metaphor here; information is the stuff of which the universe is composed.  According to a couple of Korean theorists, information is continually being erased at the event horizon at the edge of black holes.  Yes, that’s right, erased. This continual deletion process means that some parts of the universe will contain more information than will others.  Gravity is simply the transmission of information from information-dense regions to the more backward countries.

I suppose that we have always created the universe in our own image.  We are told that this is the information age (who is it, I wonder, who has told us this).  And now even the stars are to be understood as only so much data.

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