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Information/Complexity: bacterium vs. Windows OS


TeleMad
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I've frequently heard it stated that the simplest bacterium is far more complex than anything humans have ever built. I care to differ.

 

Note that on the biological side we are restricted to the simplest cellular organism - I'll use Mycoplasm genitalium - whereas on the human-created side the scope is unbounded: we can look at the most complex system ever created by humans. To me, that would be the internet. But I feel that the internet as a whole - consisting of such things as hardware (server farms, client machines, routers, etc.), software (web servers, web browsers, operating systems, database servers, web applications, etc.), and protocols (TCP/IP, XML, HTTP, HTTPS, etc.) - is far more complex than the simplest bacterium, so I will start off with a much more limited scope....something smaller and easier to get a grasp on than the whole internet: the Windows XP OS.

 

So, which is informationally more complex: Mycoplasm genitalium or the Windows XP OS?

 

M. genitalium’s genome is 578 kilobases.

 

(578 x 10^3 bases)(2 bits/base) = 1.156 x 10^6 bits (maximum)

 

And a quick Google search turned up this for the Windows XP OS executable...

 

"When Microsoft did make the Windows XP SP2 binary itself available, it was dispatched to the Windows Beta site: rather like those Len Deighton spy exchanges where the captive is blindfolded and taken on a mystery ride before being released. However, this is emphatically the final release.

 

But here we are, and here's what you do. The English language version WindowsXP-KB835935-SP2-ENU.exe weighs in at 266.01 MB and is available from servers in Redmond, London and Japan." (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/0...eekend_release/)

 

So, the Microsoft Windows XP executable is 266.01 MB. In the computer world, MB can represent either 10^6 or 2^20...to make sure not to overstate this, I'll assume they used the smaller of the two.

 

(266.01 x 10^6 bytes)(8 bits/byte) = 2.128 x 10^9 bits (maximum)

 

And a comparison of the two...

 

Windows OS = 2.128 x 10^9 bits

M. genitalium = 1.156 x 10^6 bits

 

indicates that the information contained in the Windows OS executable is far more than that contained in M. genitalium: about 2,000 times as much.

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Yeah, but entropy is the principle of "increasing complexity over time", AFAIK. What MSOS does is in fact a *violation* of the second law of thermodynamics, which is an amazing feat (like going from 5 straight hours of chaotic music composition on my PC to a ice cold blue screen in a fraction of a second!). It's like that broken glass falling backwards and coming together again in your hand...

 

MAybe that's why Bill is so rich...he solved the entropy problem. Now the next thing will be the MS Time Machine. No, he already owns that, of course. That's why he could travel back to 1980 and write his MS(D)OS!!!

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Freethinker: Ah, but what of density? We are far from storing anywhere near as much data as DNA can.

 

Density != complexity

 

How about this....bacteria aren't as large as an OS! Gee, guess the OS wins another one! :-)

 

Not that density is really an issue, but bacteria are in trouble because their information density is basically fixed. We humans, on the other hand, keep making enormous advances in data storage technology. Remember years ago when a 1.44MB floppy was a huge amount of storage, and 1MB RAM was enormous. Well, we now have 3.5" hard drives that store hundreds of gigabytes and also can have multiple gigabytes of RAM. Here's something about density, now probably outdated...considering how fast technology advances:

 

"Current high-end 3 1/2" drives record at areal densities exceeding 20Gbit/sq. inch. Prototype drives with densities as high as 40Gbit/sq. inch now exist, which will allow 3 1/2" drives with capacities of 400GB or more in the next few years." (Upgrading and Repairing PCs: 15th Anniversary Edition, Scott Mueller, Que, 2003, p596)

 

Something roughly the size of a postage stamp can store 40 billion bits of information. We're not yet down to the DNA scale, but DNA density is a fixed target and the technology miniaturization trend continues.

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Originally posted by: TeleMad

How about this....bacteria aren't as large as an OS! Gee, guess the OS wins another one! :-)

Didn't hear the starter's pistol.

 

But the comparison is not entirely correct. An OS is constructed of lots of independant programs and subroutines. Thus we would need to compare it to a more complete ecostructure not just one cell of it. Esp something as bloated as Windows anything.

Not that density is really an issue, but bacteria are in trouble because their information density is basically fixed.

We are doing a comparison based on current existence, not future proises.

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Originally posted by: Tormod

Yeah, but entropy is the principle of "increasing complexity over time", AFAIK.

Tormod, I'm surprised. You have it exactly backwards!

 

Entropy - a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder, CHAOS, DISORGANIZATION, RANDOMNESS (WWWebster)

 

It is a DECREASE in complexity over time.

 

Thus going from a state of polycromatic moving displays with active interaction to a monchromatic fixed state is entropy. A reduction in information.

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However, I still maintain that MSOS is violating the second law of thermodynamics every time it bluescreens. It generates a deliciously simple blue-screen out of my endless amount of chaotic work in a microsecond. From chaos -> order, just like my broken glass analogy.

 

Except, of course, that the blue-screen is also an (now old-fashioned) Hawking black hole which forgets everything it sucks in. If it were a *real* black hole, even Hawking now admits we could restore my work. It would take a few billion years perhaps but hey, who's counting.

 

It took almost four billion years for bacteria to turn into human beings, and only 20 years for MS-DOS to turn into Windows XP.

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FreeThinker: An OS is constructed of lots of independant programs and subroutines. Thus we would need to compare it to a more complete ecostructure not just one cell of it. Esp something as bloated as Windows anything.

 

Pay attention FreeThinker. Here's the common-stated assertion that is being challenged.

 

"The simplest bacterium is far more complex than anything humans have created".

 

Based on that assertion, I am comparing two appropriate things.

 

 

TeleMad: Not that density is really an issue, but bacteria are in trouble because their information density is basically fixed.

 

FreeThinker: We are doing a comparison based on current existence, not future proises.

 

No, you went off topic and started comparing DENSITY. Since the thread topic no longer applied, and nowhere did you assert that in your offtopic tangent the future was out of bounds, I was quite free to look towards the future based on long standing trends.

 

Now, if you'd like to get back to the thread's topic, fine. But don't sit there and talk about something else, and then try to claim that I am off topic.

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FreeThinker: Tormod, I'm surprised. You have it exactly backwards!

 

And I'm afraid you've got it wrong too FT.

 

FreeThinker: [Entropy] is a DECREASE in complexity over time.

 

No it's not. Entropy is not a process.

 

FreeThinker: Thus going from a state of polycromatic moving displays with active interaction to a monchromatic fixed state is entropy.

 

No, it would be a CHANGE in entropy.

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Hm...I thought entropy was a measure of the state of disorder in a system. So you go from one entropy to another. But when I read around the web I see different usage - some call it a process, some call it a state, one says it's a reference to the "dissipated potential of the second law of thermodynamics".

 

Since the entropy of a closed system always increases, it is used as - for example - a way to compare how two events in the system are separated in time (the earlier state will have less entropy, the later more).

 

But I guess we're straying off topic...I just like the word "entropy". There, I did it again. Hit me one more time.

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