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Sep 1 2006 / Aaron

Information wants to be free energy

Today I went downtown for lunch with some of the Poker Academy guys. There was some discussion about the latest shenanigans over a Dublin-based company called Steorn making a big stir over alleging to have developed a free energy technology. Naturally, I’m exceedingly skeptical that they have broken the laws of thermodynamics. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. It seems every year there’s someone or some company that makes a similar claim. It’s always a hoax or a scam — a modern day proclamation of the perpetual motion machine. Terry, who never ceases to surprise me, tells me he’s been following the news for the past few years, as an personal interest. He also pointed me to another company called Black Light Power, which at least isn’t claiming to break laws of regular physics — but it does break the laws of quantum physics. As I said then, “Show me the money”. A pretty web-site isn’t gonna convince me. Give me a laptop battery I don’t need to recharge.

I remarked that we see the same kind of kooky claims come up year after year in the file compression world (information theory), where some kook claims to have invented an algorithm that can compress any file, including random data (which by definition, cannot be compressed). I then offhandedly remarked that the two claims are pretty much the same thing. This was just an intuitive guess, and I’ve been thinking about it all day. I’m not sure if I made the comparison because it’s just an obvious analogy, because it’s true in some sort of deep way, or if I merely read it elsewhere a few years ago, and simply can’t remember a source of attribution. I do recall that entropy is related in both thermodynamics and information theory. So is getting over-unity the same as compressing random data?

I’ve always been extremely interested in information theory. In high school I played with my own compression algorithms. A few years ago, I even came up with my own kooky scheme to compress arbitrary data using checksums and constraint satisfaction searches … knowing it had to be wrong, I bitterly worked out the math until I was satisfied it was impossible (but what a cool idea!). This week, I had to get intimate with random number generators and entropy collection. It’s just fascinating stuff to me. I would have pursued it beyond mere hobby, but my math skills are too weak to keep up, I’m afraid.

So now I’m all intellectually stirred up, but steadily getting sleepy. I’ve got about 20 web browser tabs open ranging from obscure sites of hydrino physics, information theory, compression, and energy scams. And now I’m getting too sleepy to read them.


One Comment

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  1. Thinkers stone / Feb 12 2008

    Dear Thinker – visit tom berdens site and you might get a ligt or two..

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