Author Topic: This just in: Universe cheats at EVERYTING  (Read 458 times)


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This just in: Universe cheats at EVERYTING
« on: August 02, 2012, 10:15:07 pm »
So check this out. Guys is Japan have created a quantum scale "engine" which converts heat to information and then back to energy. WTF you say? Yeah, I had to double-take as well. You kind of just have to read the article, but they've given you a cute little analogy-photo with a little Maxwell's Demon silhouette.
Here's a fascinating piece of work. Build a tiny staircase and place a small polystyrene bead on the bottom step (a staircase is fairly straightforward to construct using electric fields).

It's easy to see the bead being jostled around by the random motion of molecules in the surrounding air, the well-known phenomenon of Brownian motion.

Most of the time, the Brownian motion tends to knock the bead down the stairs but sometimes the jostling is powerful enough to push the bead up a step.

Keep a close eye on the bead using a video camera and every time you see it go up a step, change the electric field so that it cannot drop back down again. This is like placing a barrier behind the bead.

As you repeat this process, the bead will move up the staircase, driven by Brownian motion.

This is exactly the experiment that Shoichi Toyabe at Chuo University in Tokyo and a few buddies have successfully carried out. The implication is that the bead is somehow able to extract energy from the environment, which at first sight, looks like a blatant violation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics....
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Re: This just in: Universe cheats at EVERYTING
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2012, 11:52:49 pm »
I knew there was some sort of connection between information and energy, similarly how there's one between mass and energy. It's also used in some (ridiculously high) upper-bound estimates on either computer processing power (actual physical limits to Moore's Law) or data storage or something.

Going to check those articles out, cool :)
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Re: This just in: Universe cheats at EVERYTING
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2012, 04:31:44 am »
Cool articles!
I am reminded of a quote from one of the faction leaders in Sid Meyer's Alpha Centauri.

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Re: This just in: Universe cheats at EVERYTING
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2012, 12:19:12 pm »
I hate to say it, but I don't get what the big deal is.

Air molecules have mass, and they have velocity (and by implication, acceleration).  Therefore, they have force (F=ma)

Left unhindered, that force is acting in every which way (sometimes the ball goes up, sometimes it goes down).

But if you have a situation where you can actively select a path the force can act upon (that is, barriers preventing the ball from travelling except in a certain direction), then of course the ball will travel in that direction, eventually.

This is sort of like lochs, only a lot smaller.  We block the river on one side, let it fill up, then release the block so the water can only go in one direction, repeat.

How is this revolutionary, or breaking the 2nd law of thermodynamics?
« Last Edit: August 03, 2012, 12:20:44 pm by LMNO, PhD (life continues) »

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Re: This just in: Universe cheats at EVERYTING
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2012, 03:11:58 pm »
I may have asked this before but does physics define information differently than a layman? I always feel that in this context im missing some sort of nuance. Like is it the same as the sky appears blue to human eyes or twid likes beer or is something more narrow? Like what does the question does information survive a black hole mean?
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