18.27, Tuesday 8 Jan 2008

Rude words from 1811.

A game in which you have to cooperate with your past selves.

Continuing from last year's rambling on the Second Second Law of Thermodynamics, I don't mean that entropy doesn't increase. But somehow, as it increases - as disorder increases - it releases some another measure, a measure which can either be thrown away or harnessed and turned into life. You know what I mean? As you shake a packet of cornflakes, it settles down. Think of the decreasing height of the cornflakes in the box as entropy increasing, and that's a decent enough analogy because the level will never spontaneously increase again. But in the process of the height shaking down, the larger cornflakes float to the top! A size sorted gradient of cereal emerges! That's the magic of percolation. Where does that order come from? Perhaps you pay for it with increasing entropy. What if, while you were shaking it, multi cornflake autocatalytic networks evolved that optimised their chance of getting to the top? What do we call this second-order order?

Anyway I was thinking that if my dishes and cutlery were made out of diamond, or something like it but harder, I'd be able to just throw them into the dishwasher instead of having to stack them, because they couldn't break. And then I'd have the washer agitate its contents really vigourously, because then the casserole dishes would float to the top, and the forks to the bottom, and putting stuff away would be an ordered process.

The disadvantage of diamond plates, of course, is that diamond conducts heat too well. If you were holding an ashtray in your hand and you stubbed out a cigarette on it, you'd burn your palm. And you'd be contributing to your chances of getting emphysema and a number of other unpleasant conditions.

I find that certain mental states are good for certain tasks. No caffeine is good for doing my taxes, running and washing up. Walking with no music and being in the shower is good for insights into problems. Coding then beer is good for questions like 'how could this become the case?' and 'what are the implications of it, were it to be the case?' Being hung-over and tired is good for creative writing. Being cross, elated, care-free or cocky is good for new ideas.