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satkinsn
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A question about bombs

Sorry about the title. I couldn't think of a better way to put it, or any other place to take the question.

The question I'm posing came up while a friend and I were talking analogies, and I said you could look at a nuclear bomb as a way of very, very quickly creating a lot of information about atoms.

Which got us to thinking: strictly from an information theory point of view, does a bomb create or destroy information?

(Obviously, in the common sense real world, lives are lost, family histories destroyed, wealth evaporates, etc., etc. But those things, which are really the concern of us humans, go to the quality of information, not quantity. I'm asking the quantity question.)

s.

Elk
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Re: A question about bombs

Perhaps destroy information; energy released and the system is more chaotic.

satkinsn
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Re: A question about bombs


Quote:
Perhaps destroy information; energy released and the system is more chaotic.

From a common sense POV, of course. Where I get stuck - and admittedly it's an arcane question from an ignoramus - is that the entropy from an explosion is very high.

In other words, take a concrete block. You could write something that would describe that block without having to describe every single part of it - it'd be sort of like clear blue sky in a jpeg. Describe once and then repeat as necessary.

Now blow up the block. It would seem to me that you now have to describe a lot more of its parts, because they're scattered everywhere, they're irregularly sized, etc., etc.

In that sense, it seems to me like the explosion created information, in that you can no longer 'pack up' the description of the block as efficiently.

But again, I'm talking out of my hat. Does anyone know this stuff deeply who can set me straight?

s.

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Re: A question about bombs

Hmmm, a bomb, eh? A bomb creates more entropy, in general, with many additional states of conditional entropy, too.

Probably a conditional/mutual entropy thing and not a joint entropy thing.

Given that it is changing a relatively static environment with "known" information states, I'd say that the bomb increase 'information' by creating more potential informational states, but then you get into the Shannon/Renyi Entropy stuff, which then I wonder if you'd have actually created 'information' with the bomb or just altered the information on hand.

The bomb would definitely get you up near an 'alpha' that would be near infinity for 'local information,' I figure. But, am I allowed to look at it that way?

You could also look at your bomb as an example of convection or turbulence and check the information theory information about those states.

Also, with a bomb, you are adding energy to a system, so, again, I'd say that you would be increasing 'information.'

satkinsn
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Re: A question about bombs

b -

I only vaguely follow your reply, and have no idea what the various brands of entropy are. Are you of a mind to 'splain it to me without the math, which is entirely over my head?

One question does jump out at me: don't the potential information states start collapsing as soon as the thing actually explodes?

tks,

s.

Elk
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Re: A question about bombs


Quote:
Now blow up the block. It would seem to me that you now have to describe a lot more of its parts, because they're scattered everywhere, they're irregularly sized, etc., etc.

In that sense, it seems to me like the explosion created information, in that you can no longer 'pack up' the description of the block as efficiently.


Fun.

A deconstructionist POV. By exploding the block and considering each constituent part we now derive more information.

On the other hand, merely because we don't see the parts which make up the block and simply label "block" doesn't mean that the parts don't exist and are not there.

Perhaps unexploded or exploded the block contains the same information, it's just easier to get at it once it is ripped apart.

(I didn't originally understand your question. I was thinking which condition contains more order, in this sense more "information.")

satkinsn
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Re: A question about bombs


Quote:

A deconstructionist POV.

Ha! My newsroom is wondering why I'm laughing.


Quote:

By exploding the block and considering each constituent part we now derive more information.

On the other hand, merely because we don't see the parts which make up the block and simply label "block" doesn't mean that the parts don't exist and are not there.

Perhaps unexploded or exploded the block contains the same information, it's just easier to get at it once it is ripped apart.

If I understand this stuff correctly, (and I probably don't) the unexploded block contains information that is easier to describe because it's more orderly. It's less information, in the same way that a flac encode of my favorite Ellington could be said to have 'less' information, in the literal "the file size is smaller" sense.

s.

Elk
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Re: A question about bombs

Yes, we can describe the block with less language or symbols.

This, however, doesn't mean that it contains less information. In fact, it is more orderly and thus - by definition perhaps - inherently contain more information.

The word "block" is high level language, like programing in Basic is programing in a high level language.

The phrase "concrete block" contains a great deal of meaning; concrete tells us that it is made of Portland cement and aggregate, block tells us it is rectangular, typically of a certain size, etc. We also know its color family, it general weight and more. Lots of info contained in two discreet short words.

Similarly, merely using the word "print" in a high level programing language tells a computer a great deal - what to do, how to route it, etc. The word itself contains order because this is how the word is defined.

The physical exploded block does not contain order. It contains within itself less order. This necessitates a lot more language to describe it. We do not have high level words to employ.

Similarly, a held static chord on a electronic organ contains a great deal of order. It is very easy to describe a minute long chord digitally and easy to compress this file.

A minute of truly random white noise takes a much larger digital file to accurately describe. This file cannot be compressed much.

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Re: A question about bombs


Quote:
Perhaps unexploded or exploded the block contains the same information, it's just easier to get at it once it is ripped apart.

Reaching back 40 years to the dim memories of my undergraduate physics classes, the unexploded block is highly ordered, therefore has low entropy. Once exploded, the bits are chaotically ordered, and have high, randomly order velocities and heat contents, which they will pass on to the things with which the collide, hence there has been a large increase in entropy.

Information-wise, you have changed from a very high Signal/Noise Ratio to one that is very low.

Paradoxically, a system that has a large number of chaotically behaving elements can be described more simply than one that is not. This is because you can bring the power of statistics to bear. Consider a large balloon full of a compressed gas. There are trillions of molecules whose motion each needs to be described, therefore you could consider that this involves a large amount of information. Instead, you can reduce the situation to a practical application of Boyle's Law, discarding the description of the individual molecules in favor of a simple expression describing the overall system.

So high-entropy systems tend to need less information to describe them than an ordered one.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dbowker
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Re: A question about bombs

I would say information in itself is a human concept. There is no way to "talk" about anything other than our own constructs really. Mathematical descriptions, though seemingly neutral, still depend on our own conceptual frameworks. I won't ask why such a question is important to you, and it's worth kicking around a bit in any case. So here's what I think:

Information in a general sense seems to take on a greater importance the less "diffuse" it is. E.g. a field of atoms is not much to talk about until it does something, is changed, or becomes some "thing" to talk about. Or another way to say it: it either IS something, or affects something. Otherwise, it's not very interesting, like much of outer space. Most of it is not entirely empty, but take a random sample of say a mile square and it'd be pretty uninteresting (though there might be a number of different kinds of atoms and such in it). Take larger areas and maybe you have some more matter or energy to look at, etc. So information seems tied to density, volume or its relative importance to other matter/information.

Thus as order forms we have more to look at. The initial state of the universe: no energy/light and thus no time or space. After the Big bang we have a massive but diffuse explosion of moving energy and matter. It took a few billion years to actually go from that period of a lot of "stuff" (that didn't amount to much of any interest) to anything like clouds, galaxies, stars etc. Of course we ARE looking at what it was like back then because we are trying to figure out how we got to where we are now- so it's a time line aspect.

So from a perspective of intelligence and consciousness order is an upward climb. Blowing something up brings it back to that diffuse state of disorder, whereby information seems less, not more.

I'm sure both qualified physicists and philosophers may have other more thought out perspectives, but I still have the feeling we'd be in the same ballpark.

geoffkait
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Re: A question about bombs

Define "information." If you crack open an egg and scramble it to make an omelette which is then consumed and turned into energy, that egg is destroyed, but the "information" of the egg, its "egg-ness" - how is is produced and what comprises it - still exists. I.e., the information is not in the egg itself. Hens will continue to produce new, perfect eggs.

satkinsn
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Re: A question about bombs

Wow.

First, thank you Doug and John (and the rest of the folks on the thread) for your thoughts.

Briefly, in answer to your 'why?' question - I kinda got ambushed by my own analogies. I wrote to a friend that I believe - without having any qualification to have such an opinion - that the main function of a free market is to make information, and not to make wealth or efficiently distribute it. It does those things as a side effect of making information.

I then said the obvious problem with my argument was that it was like arguing the point of a nuclear weapon is to produce a whole lot of information very, very quickly about atoms, and that the transcendent boom was the side effect.

It was one of those "too clever by half, looks good on paper" sort of things, but it got me to thinking about what really happens when a bomb explodes, which in turn made me think about whether or not you can divorce information from meaning in any useful way, which in turn made me think about standing half a block away from the federal building in Syracuse NY 15 or so years ago, watching, transfixed, as a bomb squad guy examined a suspicious package.

He was in one of those big suits like in 'The Hurt Locker' and I remember thinking that the awkward, hot, thick fingered conditions the tech faced meant he was already down one, if this was really a bomb. (It wasn't. It was an old portable record player from a library with some 'learn this language' records.) It's like it was a preserver of meaning versus a destroyer of meaning, and the destroyer seems to always have the upper hand.

I know, old territory to philosophers and such and not important to the workaday world we spend our time in. But it's like an itch I need to scratch.

Doug, your point is the most important, that you can't divorce us from the information. I *think* you're right, but am not sure, and my 'not sureness' comes from some vague notion that there's some chicken and egg problem here.

Something in John's remembering of information theory bothers me as well. He's right, of course, about the fact that very noisy systems can be well and compactly described, which in the real world is a whole lot of good news on many fronts.

But - and I never noticed this before - isn't there an underlying assumption there, that the exact state of the highly random system just isn't important, or that as a practical matter you can't capture it anyway, so why try?

Since you would still - if you were foolish enough to try - need more bits to exactly describe an exploded block than an unexploded one, doesn't the fact remain that a bomb makes information? It's not practical or useful or humane or right, it's the same kind of information that static is or your atoms in space is, but isn't it 'information' nonetheless?

I'm long-winded, and this post has the faint air of the guys who think they've discovered mistakes in prime number theory or invented perpetual motion machines, but my real, underlying interest is very much in the real world: I wonder if - at some level - the people who make bombs that kill third parties, civilians and such long for the negation of meaning, long for a kind of insect noise information, long for that abyss?

s.

Lamont Sanford
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Re: A question about bombs

For every action there is an opposite and equal action. Take Darwin's Theory for example. Remember the stupid ape at the beginning of 2001 A Space Odyssey? I know, there were a lot of stupid apes. I'm referring to the one with the bone that beat the shit out of some stupid liberal ape. Now you remember. Well, he threw that bone up into the air and the bone turned into the Monolith. Get it?

Anyway, yeah when a bomb goes off it creates new information.

geoffkait
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Re: A question about bombs

Let us look at this a different way. Black holes contain what used to be the atoms and subatomic particles of imploded stars and other objects and gas that are sucked into the hole. The atoms and subatomic particles are crunched down and completely destroyed, so there can be no record, no information as to the contents of the black hole, having been reduced to generic, highly compressed "soup."

It was proven in the 1960s that black hole Information consists ONLY of electrical charge, mass and spin. The black hole contents' information has been destroyed - the atoms and subatomic particles that were pulled into the hole were destroyed by gravity like a giant cement mixer.

Speaking of the 60s, that was the decade when Hawking and Bekenstein proverd that the Entropy of a black hole is proportional to the area of the black hole's event horizon.

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Re: A question about bombs

Not to split hairs Lamont but when the ape threw the bone into the air it cut to a space station (that was loaded up with nuclear missiles). The missile part was only made clear in the book however. The monolith was what gave him the knowledge to use tools and solve the sticky problem of scarce resources. But the point is the same- his action led to the evolution, but eventual potential destruction of all future ape/humans.

Yeah- a bomb sends a message for sure: somebody, some where, needs to get his bashed in with a leg bone 'cause he hasn't evolved very well and is a drain on the rest of the species!

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Re: A question about bombs

Maybe this will help you reach a conclusion:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxD44HO8dNQ

boom!

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