Everyday entropy: law and order

Harmonic series descending into entropy.  Note that each series can manage about twelve points before becoming indistinguishable.  Not sure what that’s about.

There are two types of rule.  The first is a constraint that limits what is physically possible.  The other is a set of instructions.  The latter is information for coping with the former, or, ideally, making the constraints work for you.  A ruler – a graduated straight edge – has both types.  First, it is a block that works as a constraint to prevent you from drawing a line that is not straight.  Second, the numbers provide instructions to tell you how long your line is.  The laws of nations are just instructions, even though they would like to be constraints and are often written as though they were constraints and their violation may land you in prison, which actually is a constraint.

Constraints and instructions are closely analogous to physical entropy and transmissible information.  One is ontological but unknowable, while the other epistemological but impossible.  You can’t know exactly what a constraint is doing, but you can be sure that it will be consistent, if it is a real constraint.  Similarly, while you can know what instructions are, you can be sure that they will not be followed consistently, or copied consistently if they need to be in two places at once.

The most important difference between a corporation and a person is that corporations cannot go to prison.  It is facile to say that corporations can be bankrupted and put to death, but the same people can start the same company the same day with a different name, and without the debts of the dead corporation.

In the physical universe, there are only two constraints – resonance and entropy – and while they are well known, they are not well defined except under ideal circumstances.  Everything resonates, and that resonance is unitary.  There is a set of harmonics based on whole fractions of the resonant frequency, and while the harmonics could theoretically go on to infinity, they aren’t very meaningful after the eighth, and they seem to break down after the twelfth.  At any rate, the harmonics blend into entropy when they are no longer able to transmit or receive information, when they cease to be meaningful.  Entropy takes over from there.  It was not coincidental that Planck derived the law of blackbody radiation through his investigation of “the entropy of the resonator and its energy” and within that investigation discovered what he called the “quantum of action,” which led full discovery of quantum mechanics.  Resonance and entropy are the physical constraints that all useful instructions must navigate.

If you remove a physical constraint from a system, its maximum entropy will increase and its resonant frequency will decrease.  If you add a constraint, its maximum entropy will decrease while its resonant frequency will increase accordingly.  This basic pattern is repeated over and over throughout the laws of physics, with more or less accuracy depending on the scale, but when you try to nail down a hard and fast law that is totally consistent for all materials, spaces and frames of reference, things get unhelpful.  The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system will not increase spontaneously.  That’s consistently true, but totally unhelpful.  And that is the point.  The pure constraints are not in informative.  They just are.  All of the written laws of physics are instructions for dealing with these constraints and their interactions at different scales.  The constraints are real but not helpful, the laws are helpful but not real.  Hence, the confusion of consciousness, the irony of the rule of law, and why nobody wants to live where it is said to exist.

In the laws that bring order to society, you have to start by observing what people do in the absence of law, and, before writing a law telling them how to behave better, ask whether there are physical constraints preventing that better behaviour or constraints that would encourage it.  If the physical infrastructure is right, most laws are unnecessary.  Only when the infrastructure is poorly constructed that people need instructions to cope with it.


For a horn, there are twelve viable harmonics, for reasons that aren’t clear



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