UK paperback

Entropic juggernaut

Atomic physics

John Gray reviews Jeremy Rifkin in the Guardian:

“Our rush to universal empathic connectivity,” Rifkin writes, “is running up against a rapidly accelerating entropic juggernaut in the form of climate change and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

IANAP, but doesn’t “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” contribute rather a (local) decrease in entropy — at least until they go off?

  1. 1  sw  March 16, 2010, 12:17 pm 

    Not quite sure I follow – surely Gray is saying that the social-emotional effects of “climate change” and “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” on the “rush to universal empathic connectivity” are, metaphysically, “entropic” — not that they are or are not in themselves entropic. It’s a bit confusing. “Our rush to get the eggs is running up against the juggernaut of inflation and neoconservativism.”

  2. 2  Bruce  March 16, 2010, 2:08 pm 

    I think you’re bound to get communication problems when you mix up the metaphors “empathic connectivity” and “entropy”. And I’d leave out metaphysics at this stage in the discussion (“metaphysically entropic”!). But I think I know what Steven was getting at.

  3. 3  Thomas  March 16, 2010, 9:10 pm 

    IAAAP and I think there is no “local” in the face of weapons of mass destruction. They consist of rare material, additional energy for manufacturing, and a lot of engineering time. Then they cause a threat. One could argue that this threat maintains peace (a sort of decrease in entropy), but … I don’t.

  4. 4  Jay  March 25, 2010, 10:35 pm 

    IIRC my thermodynamics and my vocabulary, “proliferating” weapons of mass destruction means going from a situation in which WMDs are concentrated in a few places to a situation in which they are spread more evenly across the globe. This represents an increase in the entropy of WMD distribution on earth, in much the same way that entropy is increased by taking a pile of, say, apples and flinging them about. You’ll find that, if you fling randomly, the odds of them all piling up again are quite small. Feel free to try this in your local supermarket.

  5. 5  Steven  March 25, 2010, 11:51 pm 

    I read “proliferating” as “the construction of more of”, ie gathering far-flung materials that are scattered about higgledy-piggledy and ordering them very precisely so as to constitute nukes etc.

  6. 6  Bruce  March 26, 2010, 9:59 am 

    Yeah, it’s the old metaphor of “rocks into silicon chips”, but with unfortunate applications.

hit parade

    guardian articles

    older posts