Winding Down Possibilities

For a technical scientific term, entropy is pretty popular. I mean, it was the title of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after all. Search the Internet for “entropy” quotes and you’ll find them by everybody from Anton Chekhov and Vaclav Havel to Frank Herbert and Philip K. Dick.

What’s more, a fair number of ordinary citizens even have a roughly correct notion of what entropy means. But understanding entropy more deeply is not so simple. For that, you need to master a related vocabulary word: ergodic. Good luck finding famous quotes about that. (I tried and received “We couldn’t find any quotes or authors matching ergodic.”)

Ergodic does have a fairly simple definition, though. It means something like “passing through all the possibilities.” To illustrate: Take 10 cards, numbered 1 through 10, and lay them out in any order. Arrange a system for swapping any two cards at random, over and over again. Every single possible numerical sequence of the cards will eventually appear. That’s ergodic.

via Maybe time’s arrow needs ergodicity as well as entropy | Science News.

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