📎 10 physics facts you should have learned in school but probably didn’t

1. Entropy doesn’t measure disorder, it measures likelihood.

Really the idea that entropy measures disorder is totally not helpful. Suppose I make a dough and I break an egg and dump it on the flour. I add sugar and butter and mix it until the dough is smooth. Which state is more orderly, the broken egg on flour with butter over it, or the final dough?

I’d go for the dough. But that’s the state with higher entropy. And if you opted for the egg on flour, how about oil and water? Is the entropy higher when they’re separated, or when you shake them vigorously so that they’re mixed? In this case the better sorted case has the higher entropy.

Entropy is defined as the number of “microstates” that give the same “macrostate”. Microstates contain all details about a system’s individual constituents. The macrostate on the other hand is characterized only by general information, like “separated in two layers” or “smooth on average”. There are a lot of states for the dough ingredients that will turn to dough when mixed, but very few states that will separate into eggs and flour when mixed. Hence, the dough has the higher entropy. Similar story for oil and water: Easy to unmix, hard to mix, hence the unmixed state has the higher entropy.

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2018/07/10-physics-facts-you-should-have.html

14 November 2019

📎 the control-alt-backspace manifesto

Technology is supposed to work for people. From the lever to the Internet, tools designed by people have saved us time and energy and allowed us to accomplish things that were impractical or completely impossible before. While no technology is without its downsides, in general it is difficult to dispute that technology working for people has transformed human society for the better.

Unfortunately, sometimes people end up working for technology instead. This is a strange state of affairs, but it happens just about daily for most of us (...)

https://controlaltbackspace.org/manifesto/

20 October 2019

💬 capacity for the nobler feelings

Capacity for the nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by mere want of sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if the occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the society into which it has thrown them, are not favourable to keeping that higher capacity in exercise. Men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access, or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying.

― John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (1868)

14 October 2019

📎 to decarbonize we must decomputerize

Confronting the climate crisis will require something more radical than just making data greener. That’s why we should put another tactic on the table: making less data. We should reject the assumption that our built environment must become one big computer. We should erect barriers against the spread of “smartness” into all of the spaces of our lives. To decarbonize, we need to decomputerize.

https://www.notechmagazine.com/2019/10/to-decarbonize-we-must-decomputerize-why-we-need-a-luddite-revolution.html

11 October 2019

💬 user impatience

From one perf optimization article: “However, one of the few things in the known universe faster than the speed of light is users impatience. ”

— Dimo Belov (@DimoBelov) August 6, 2019
9 October 2019

📎 hippocratic oath for STEM

1. I will never allow anyone else to make me a cog. I will never do what is stupid or horrible because “that’s what the regulations say” or “that’s what my supervisor said,” and then sleep soundly at night. I’ll never do my part for a project unless I’m satisfied that the project’s broader goals are, at worst, morally neutral. There’s no one on earth who gets to say: “I just solve technical problems. Moral implications are outside my scope.”

https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4292 

(and the referenced article about Hannah Fry’s call)

27 September 2019