Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Syntropy: The Energy of Life

Book Review: Syntropy: The Energy of Life – by Ulisse Di Corpo and Antonella Vannini – kindle ed. cr. 2005)

This is a short book that was oddly fascinating. It reminded me at once of E.O. Wilson’s call for the integrating of science with the humanities as a good recipe for the future. However, there were also some overly speculative sections of this text. I do think it is a valuable way to explore the subjects though as it had a sort of structural quality where there was the beauty of defining the world – taking Einstein’s E=MC2 as an abbreviated form of the fundamental equation of the universe, that is, in the universe that is moving forward in time and where entropy increases through time. Syntropy is an opposite of entropy (as is negentropy in a slightly different context).

The authors first note that Einstein’s Relativity restored the relativity of Galileo that speeds are added or subtracted depending on their direction, which also made it possible to generalize the laws of physics {perhaps more elaboration would have been helpful here}. Einstein’s equation solved the paradox of the constancy of the speed of light. They note that Einstein’s full equation is a second order equation and that a square root is needed to obtain a value for energy.

“Square roots always yield two solutions, one positive and one negative. The positive solution describes energy that diverges from a cause {or a source} … The negative solution, on the contrary, describes energy which converges towards an attractor placed in the future. More exactly, it describes energy that diverges backwards in time.” 

This is a fascinating notion but very difficult to depict or prove, even if the math orientation seems coherent. The authors note that the negative solution was rejected by physicists in the late 1920s. Wolfgang Pauli’s 1925 discovery of the spin of electrons required a mass balance based on the negative solution. 

Apparently, it was the mathematician Fantappie, a Princeton colleague of Einstein, who first expounded on the qualities of the positive and negative solutions to the fundamental equation of the universe. The positive solution results in increasing entropy and movement forward in time (divergence from a source in past) while the negative solution results in increasing syntropy (as an opposite of entropy) “appearing” backward in time with divergence from a source/attractor in the future. The negative solution was apparently rejected by some sort of consensus. The authors use the term “refusal” but do not elaborate. Detail would have been useful here. Were there scientific reasons for rejecting it or was it simply not a good fit?  Interestingly, Fantappie noted that living systems were syntropic, they increased in complexity. Oddly, this suggests that “life …. {was} caused by the future  and not by the past.” The authors state that Random Event Generators (REG systems) allow random manipulation of future causes so that “retrocausal relationships” can be studied. Oddly, effects are thought (at least by some scientists) to precede causes in some systems, the autonomic nervous system being one. The authors quote the work of biophysicist Robert Rosen from his book, Anticipatory Systems,” who notes that life at many levels exhibits “anticipatory systems” where the classical laws of causality are violated and the future somehow influences the past.

Syntropy implies properties such as complementarity, unity, information, emotions, exchange, resonance, convergence, etc. Complementarity is implied in the equation that shows the relationship between syntropy and entropy: 

Syntropy = 1-Entropy.
The work of the founder of information theory, Claude Shannon, as well as that of Edwin Schrodinger led American physicist Robert Lindsay to define the opposite of entropy as negentropy in the equation: 

Negentropy = -Entropy.

Negentropy has been associated with information and so an increase in entropy is often associated with a decrease in information. Mathematician Chris King noted two types of information: 1) quantitative and objective info which arrives from the past and 2) qualitative and subjective info which arrives from the future. Emotions come into the picture with the idea that life-sustaining energies are associated with inner feelings. Syntropy is associated with inner feelings in the form of converging energy. Exchange is exemplified in biological processes such as metabolism where such processes are divided into anabolism where simple structures are transformed into complex structures and the process is syntropic, and catabolism, where energy is absorbed and complex structures are broken down into more simple structures with the process being entropic. Each of these biological systems oscillates between peaks of syntropy and peaks of entropy. Resonance refers to the cumulative effects of oscillation, that when they are synced then information begins to flow.

Entropy is said to be divergent while syntropy is convergent. Syntropy is said here to converge towards an attractor (situated in the future). Syntropy is associated with well-being while entropy is associated with suffering. This idea resembles the Vedantic idea of two of the three gunas (modes of material existence) – sattva, the revealing principle associated with awareness and tamas, the concealing principle associated with ignorance.

Divergence leads to homogeneity and dissipation while convergence leads to the opposite and so an increase in complexity and differentiation. Even so there is also an increase in cohesion and unity. This is a bit unclear but the authors state that, “Syntropy leads to “Unity in diversity.”
We make choices based on information we receive from the past and from the future. Life involves choice, particularly human life. Life processes are here described as “evolution toward attractors,” and are thought to be strengthened by greater free will and choice. Since we are metabolic creatures our goal is to maximize syntropy and reduce entropy as much as we can through choices and the efficient utilization of information. 

The authors mention three types of time: causal time, retrocausal time, and supercausal time. Causal time is a feature of diverging systems like our expanding universe. Retrocausal time is a feature of converging systems like black holes and may be the reason no light is emitted by them. Supercausal time would be a feature in systems where diverging and converging forces are balanced. The authors give atoms as an example but do not elaborate. These time divisions are somewhat in accord with the ancient Greek classification of time as kronos, kairos, and aion. At the quantum level (the aion level), entropy and syntropy co-exist and we, as syntropic life in the macroscopic level, arise from this quantum level due to the remarkable and unusual properties of water, as Wolfgang Pauli discovered in 1925 when exploring hydrogen bonding. 

“Hydrogen atoms in water molecules share an intermediate position between the sub-atomic level (quantum) and the molecular level (macrocosm), and provide a bridge that allows syntropy (cohesive forces) to flow from the quantum level to the macroscopic level.”

Water shows highly unusual properties compared to other liquids. Although a few other liquids have hydrogen bridges (hydrogen bonding), only water has them to a degree that enables them to “build networks and broad structures in space.” These properties of hydrogen bonds and the syntropic properties of water suggest that water is constantly being acted upon by retrocausal forces, which may explain why the behavior of water molecules is difficult to predict. 

In explaining syntropy the authors explain some of the chaos theory of Lorenz, Mandelbrot, and others. Attractors, fractals, and chaotic structures are found in many aspects of life and the environment, often when magnified. Controversial biologist Rupert Sheldrake suggests in his theory of formative causation that morphogenesis is guided by attractors. Some of this idea is derived from that of mathematician Rene Thom who suggested that shape in development (morphogenesis) could be guided by attractors from the future. Water plays a key role, especially with its syntropic properties that may be retrocausal. This suggests that evolution is occurring retrocausally, guided by attractors from the future. This is science but if one were to project it to religion one might say that genesis comes from the future. This is also in accord with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of the Omega Point which corresponds to the origin of life in the future. Islam has a similar doctrine that Allah guides life from the future. 

The authors also think that this retrocausal logic may describe the mechanism for the success of homeopathy as it involves dilution in water and so the retrocausal properties of water, although many of us see placebo as the major force in homeopathy. In homeopathy the stronger medicine is the most diluted which would be in line with retrocausality. 

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi noted that: “The law of entropy does not govern living systems.” The mechanistic, rational, scientific views initiated by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Descartes came to distinguish mind and matter. Now, say the authors, we need a new paradigm, as de Chardin suggested. Unfortunately, the theory of syntropy cannot be validated by experiments, only perhaps suggested by the “anticipatory systems,” and perhaps by the unpredictability of those ‘random event generators.’

Overall, these is a neat theory, and an interesting way to explore reality, but as it requires such ideas as retrocausal time and supercausal time, it may be hard to convey and convince others and derive practical uses, at least in the near-term. My intuition (which perhaps is guided by an attractor from the future) does seem to think that they are on to something here but as of yet I know not what.    

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