My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Tue, 31 Jan, 2006

Joules of information

There's all kinds of energy, according to my physics teaching site. There's potential energy, kinetic energy, elastic potential energy, and gravitational potential energy. When it comes to mechanical energy, "Potential energy is the stored energy of position possessed by an object… An object which possesses mechanical energy is able to do work." The unit of work is the joule, which describes "one Newton of force causing a displacement of one meter." It's not a lot, as heavy hauling goes, but it's a start.

There are lots of other sorts of energy, such as heat energy, light energy, chemical energy, electrical energy, and nuclear energy. Someday I'll get to all of those. There is also the energy of information, a form of energy which is just being recognized in the last decade or so. Informational energy is measured in "bits," but maybe the energy of such a bit could be called an "i-joule?" I have not yet decided what the standard measurement for an "i-joule" should be. Perhaps an "i-joule" would be the amount of intellectual work needed to solve a simple high school physics problem. The joules would multiply quickly as the problems became more complex. And so, with the solution to those physics problems which have never been solved, the i-joule quantity may approach infinity. There may not be enough i-joules in the whole universe to do the work.

But as many modern physicists now suspect, there is more than one universe. There may be universes out there which are rich in informational energy but lacking in mechanical or chemical or even electromagnetic energy. If we could just create some sort of working tunnel between these worlds, then we could tap the vast resources of i-joules in that otherwise barren universe, for our own use. We would send, in exchange (to satisfy the conservation of energy) physics texts loaded with problems, as well as philosophy texts and software user's manuals.

There may be universes which have no physical basis at all. They are composed purely of informational energy. These universes, which are known to some people as "myths," have their own rules and laws and qualities. And yet, they too possess informational energy measured in i-joules. Scientists are usually familiar with the idea of alternate or mythical universes, if only from their reading of fantasy and science fiction. One of the more valuable qualities of a scientist is that he (or she) can ask the question, "What if…" without getting scared. However, this openness has its limits, for when most (or those who write the most) scientists encounter religion, their ability to use their imagination goes out the window, and a sort of simplistic literalism takes over. It takes a great deal of i-joules to continue to ask, "What if…" when religion is concerned.

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