1. If baryons and electrons and some other of the subatomic particles are only a small percentage of the stuff that constitutes the universe, why is it that they are the only thing that we observe in our tiny part of the universe? Why don’t we observe dark matter or dark energy in our immediate surroundings, whether in/on our planet or in the immediate space surrounding it? If a certain element of something is a very large percentage of that something, we expect (although don’t know) that we’ll see quite a bit of it around us. So, for example, oxygen is the third most common element in the universe, and it is hard to find a place in, on or above the earth that doesn’t have (in some molecular structure) a great percentage of oxygen. (Even, for example, in the crust of the earth.) But to my understanding, we observe nothing besides baryons et al. in our immediate surroundings. Is this because dark matter or dark energy are unlikely to be found in the kind of space that we occupy? Or is this again a consequence of the fact that they are “dark,” that we can’t observe them directly, and we have reason to believe that there are significant amounts of dark matter and dark energy around us that we cannot observe?
2. I’ve always understood the old “dropping a tea cup” vision of entropy to be largely metaphorical. I understand, to the degree to which I’m able, the four laws (including the zeroth, that is) of thermodynamics, or as much of the math as I’m able to handle. I understand that the entropy of a thermally isolated system never increases decreases (fixed, stupid mistake). The trouble is that people seem to take as the major message of the second law the idea that time trends towards chaos over order, that absent an expenditure of energy, matter will move from a more ordered to less ordered state. (I am ready to be savaged for my I’m sure egregious misrepresentations of the science.) The trick for me is that I think that thermodynamics defines order only as a system which requires more energy to reach than the alternative. But most people I’ve encountered, when talking about entropic order, think about order additionally in what I can only consider human terms, and involve ideas of practicality and human use that (it seems to me) are a result of human history and aren’t some facet of the order of the natural universe.
So what confuses me about the tea cup example– the idea that it is much easier to take the ordered state of the tea cup and make it disordered, by dropping it, than it is to take the constituent parts of the cup and make it into a tea cup, and that this demonstrates entropy– is that people seem to speak as though there is something inherently related to our thermodynamic science about practical human considerations of “order,” rather than order being for the purposes of entropy only a state which requires more energy to attain. In other words, people talk as if there is something inherently more ordered about the cup in the state of a cup than the cup in the state of hundreds of shards of porcelain. That is, that the cup as a cup is more ordered not simply because it takes more energy for it to be put into a cup than put into shards, but because of some sort of inherent “order” to the cup taking the cup shape. To me, that’s applying human attitudes to the fundamental states of the universe in a way that I find unscientific. The universe doesn’t give a shit about the cup being capable of holding water.
One way I like to think about science is to think about what a non-human intelligence might say about a given phenomenon, what they would observe similarly to what we observed because they have to. A non-human intelligence would bring with it no human baggage in terms of norms, tradition or philosophy, but would observe the same things that must be observed. So, for example, a non-human intelligence would look at a thermally-closed system and observe entropy rising, because they would have to. Their conclusions might be different, how they apply that observation might be different, but if they are measuring the energy in a thermally closed system, they will observe the same increase in entropy that we do. So far, so good. What I don’t think is clear is that the non-human intelligence would look at the cup and say that it is more “ordered” in any sense other than the fact that it requires more energy to turn it into cup form than to turn it into shard form. This is because the alien (or whatever) intelligence would not necessarily have the same vision of the practical use of a cup versus the practical use of shards of porcelain. They would necessarily see the cup as requiring more energy to be put into cup form than for it to later be turned into shards; that’s an empirical observation independent of practical considerations. But I don’t think it’s at all clear that they would see the cup as more functional than the shards. It’s hard for me to understand how hundreds of irregular porcelain shards could have more practical function than a tea cup, but then, I’m human, and I’m constrained by human convention.
So– am I right that people assume into entropic principles a human notion of practicality and use on top of the question of amount of energy to reach a certain state, and erroneously? Or is there some aspect of higher-energy-to-achieve states like tea cups compared to porcelain shards (or clean rooms to messy rooms, etc.) that makes them likely to appear to us to be of greater practical use? Or do I have something deeply wrong in my basic conceptions of these things?
Forgive me if I’m not being particularly clear.