Quote: Degrees of freedom as phase space

“However, we might choose to consider our laboratory as part of a far larger system, let us say the rest of the entire Milky Way galaxy within which we reside, where there are enormously many more degrees of freedom. By including all these degrees of freedom, we find that our phase space will now be enormously larger than before. Moreover, the coarse-graining region pertinent to our calculation of entropies within our laboratory will now also be enormously larger than before, because it can involve all the degrees of freedom present in the entire galaxy, not just those relevant to the contents of the laboratory.” — Roger Penrose, Cycles Of Time

Phase space is essentially the field of potential outcomes in an experiment. Very literally, science excludes most of reality in order to isolate phenomena. However, because phenomena take place in the universe, scientists often miss the actual explanation for, or causation of, events that are too large or small to measure. We do the same to ourselves when we imagine that, without recourse to the information provided by corporations and governments, we cannot decide for ourselves about a purchase, a law. Instead, our inquiries expand the phase space — the realm of potential — of the market, government and even science. People do science. People tell computers to science, they would not do science without the human impetus.

Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.

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