Everyday entropy: negentropy, Schrödinger’s awful, terrible mistake


Schrödinger’s negentropy is the essential intellectual conceit of the information age.  Like Maxwell’s demon before, negentropy recreates the fantasy of mind over matter, that free energy can be derived from sheer force of will.  This is nonsense.  Life does not use information to reverse entropy, but to anticipate rising waves of entropy.  Schrödinger said himself that he was talking about free energy, but he thought people would think he was just talking about energy.  So, instead of explaining how energy works, he made up a nonsense word.  “Negentropy” is like another peddle to the floor of a car, the “unbrake”, which makes the car go faster by sheer force of will, without using petrol.  The term “negentropy” may have made it impossible for the post war civilisation to understand entropy.

“[…] if I had been catering for them [physicists] alone I should have let the discussion turn on free energy instead. It is the more familiar notion in this context. But this highly technical term seemed linguistically too near to energy for making the average reader alive to the contrast between the two things.”


It is particularly striking that Schrodinger sees “free energy” as highly technical, while “negentropy” is just made up, so it can mean anything.  In the end, “negentropy” misinterprets both information and its relationship with physical entropy, leaving the reader with an image of life as a macroscopic incarnation of Maxwell’s demon.  This is the essential philosophy of the Marvel movie universe.  With sufficient will and mutagenesis, absolutely anything is possible, including the prediction of random events and the creation and destruction of momentum.



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