[linux-elitists] thermodynamics, and some other ranting Re: git and a sysadmin book
D. Joe Anderson
Tue Jan 13 10:25:56 PST 2009
On Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:58:55PM -0800, Karsten M. Self wrote:
> on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 10:23:15AM -0600, Jeremy Hankins (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
> > "Karsten M. Self" <email@example.com> writes:
> > > "Complexity is the enemy" is one of my buzzwords. Another is "Large,
> > > low-entropy pools are inherently dangerous". They're the same side of
> > > the same coin, and investigating the second in depth leads to some
> > > provocative discussions.
> > A nit: I don't think you're using the word entropy properly; you seem to
> > want to refer to high potential energy rather than low entropy.
> High potential energy *is* low entropy.
The lowest entropy pool is the theoretical perfectly-ordered
crystalline lattice at zero degrees Kelvin spoken of by the
Third Law of thermodynamics. There's no potential absent a
complementary pool of high entropy. Source and sink are
integral to the analysis, so pinning this on the low-entropy
side of things is non-sensical.
The Gibbs free energy of a system, for instance, has two
components: enthalpy and entropy. Of the two, the entropy term
is distinct in that it depends on temperature, whereas the
enthalpic term does not.
Something can have high free energy and low entropy, or it can
have high free energy and high entropy (or low, low; or low,
high). Entropy alone is *not* energy, as such, either potential
The bang in dynamite versus, say, an equal weight of diamond,
results from the composition of the substances rather than from
the fact that they are both fairly well-ordered solids. I
suppose if you grew a honking huge crystal of TNT it might have
more bang per unit weight than it would as a disordered powder,
but probably not so much as anyone would care.
How one views complexity depends a lot on world view. In my
cosmology, the purpose of intelligent beings is to make and
appreciate the most interesting complexity possible as the
entropic clockwork of the universe inexorably winds down.
The essence of computation is universality. The essence of
universality is configurability. An essence of configurability
is complexity. An essence, then, of computation is complexity.
There are people who try to hide that what sits in front of the
hapless operator or user is, in fact, a computer. Hide the
universality of the device, and make it appear as if it were
some tame data processing appliance, ideally suited for that
user's tasks and that user's data alone, and one runs the risk
of losing sight of the fact that it is a universal device, and
as capable of performing other's bidding as well, if not
Everybody wants it to Just Work, but few want to acknowledge
that the reason they can afford it at all is because it has been
designed to embody this essence of infinite configurability.
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