John Wheeler

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In existographies, John Wheeler (44 BE-53 AE) (1911-2008 ACM) (Kanowitz 50:49) (CR:19) (LH:9) (TL:28) was an American theoretical physicist, semi-ranked as a greatest physicist ever, noted for his 1967 coining of the term “black hole”, his 1971 puzzlement that black holes seem to flout the second law, and for his “participatory universe” model and diagram.


Wheeler’s 1989 spacetime diagram, captioned: “matter (large stone) tells spacetime how to curve’ spacetime tells matter (pebble) how to move”.[1]

What molecules think?

In c.1960s, Wheeler seems to have developed some type of aversion, likely theologically-rooted or anthropomorphically-biased, in entropy and the second law, at least the version he was familiar with:

“Ask any molecule what it thinks of the second law of thermodynamics and it will laugh at the question.”
— John Wheeler (c.1980), Publication; cited by Richard Morris (1984) in Time's Arrow (pg. 123) [2]

Ricard Morris elaborates on this Wheeler single molecule view as follows:

“University of Texas physicist John Wheeler sums up the statistical character of the second law of thermodynamics as follows: ‘Ask any molecule what it thinks of the second law of thermodynamics and it will laugh at the question.’ What Wheeler means is that the behavior of a single molecule can only be described by the basic, time-symmetric laws of physics, such as those of mechanics or quantum mechanics. The behavior of an individual molecule is not constrained by the law of increasing entropy. If we are willing to indulge in a bit of anthropomorphism, we could say that an individual molecule has no way of distinguishing between the two directions of time.”
— Ricard Morris (1984), Time’s Arrows: Scientific Attitudes Toward Time (pg. 123) [2]

Entropy = disorder | Humans blessed with memories

In 1989, he gave following so-called "dumbed down thermodynamics" take of his, a view common to physics:

“The second law of thermodynamics relates probabilities to time's arrow. It says that any system left to itself (free of outside influences) will tend toward greater disorder. There are more ways to be disorderly than to be orderly. Disorder is therefore more probable than order. If the system is quite complex, the probability of disorder exceeds the probability of order by an enormous factor—so enormous that, for all practical purposes, there is only one direction of change (for an isolated system): from order to disorder. Picture an adobe house in a desert community. Left untended, it deteriorates and erodes. After enough time passes, it will be a mound of earth. Still more time—perhaps hundreds of years—and there will be no evidence that it was ever there. That is the second law of thermodynamics at work, order changing spontaneously to disorder.”
— John Wheeler (1989), Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (pgs. 347-48) [1]

He continues, by saying that humans are "blessed" with memories, whereas electrons are not:

“The intriguing thought that follows from these considerations is that we are aware of a one-way flow of time only because we are ourselves complex systems interacting with other complex systems. We remember the past and not the future not because there is any fundamental asymmetry in time but because of the overwhelming disparity between the likely and the unlikely in everything that we are and do and see. Back when Dick Feynman and I were talking about electrons moving with equal ease backward and forward in time, we realized that such a way of thinking made sense because of the extreme simplicity of the electron. You can tell by looking into a person's face something about what that person has been through. You cannot tell anything about an electron's history by looking at it. Every electron is exactly like every other electron, unscarred by its past, not blessed with a memory—of either the human or computer variety. The electron pays for its freedom to move forward and backward in time by remembering neither future nor past. We remember the past and are trapped in one-way motion through time.”
— John Wheeler (1989), Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (pgs. 348)

Hence, in his mind, whereas electrons are free from the second law, humans are not (unless one is in touch with god), or something along these closeted-theism lines of argument. He then goes on to talk about possible time-reversals at the subatomic level, e.g. in radiation or K meson, also about "faith" in science, and how he believes that "time participates in complexity, fluctuations, and uncertainty".

Black holes | Second law

In 1971, Wheeler told Mexican-born Jewish physicist Jacob Bekenstein that black holes seem to flout the second law of thermodynamics; about which, a year later, in 1972, Bekenstein gave his solution to this issue with the argument that black holes should have a well-defined entropy (see: black hole entropy).[3]



In 1949, Wheeler was the PhD advisor of Feynman; the two of them, while Feynman was grading the paper's of Wheeler's undergraduates, talked about the awareness of particles[4], or something along these lines.

The Feynman-Wheeler theory (1949), and the idea of "entropy inversion", was the inspiration behind the time travel based film Tenet (2020), where the thermodynamic "arrow of time" becomes reversed, by some type of "algorithm" developed by a female Indian scientist, therein allowing people to travel back in time "inverted" as they are called.

It From Bit?

In 1989, Wheeler, during a talk at the Santa Fe Institute, coined the phrase “it from bit” (1989)[5], arguing that the universe could be boiled down to binary digits; this later inspired Seth Lloyd.[6] In his 1994 At Home in the Universe, he argued that reality can be thought of as binary units or bits. Likewise, his Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (1998) seems to be a subtle program to sell an "ontic opening"[7] version of god, based on bit arguments, and entropy argument confusion; for example:

“Acts of measurement, or ‘registration’, may affect reality. It is registration—whether by a person or a device or a piece of mica, anything that can preserve a record—that changes potentiality into actuality. I build only a little on the structure of Bohr's thinking when I suggest that we may never understand this strange thing, the quantum, until we understand how information may under-lie reality. Information may not be just what we learn about the world. It may be what makes the world. An example of the idea of it from bit: When a photon is absorbed, and there-by ‘measured’—until its absorption, it had no true reality—an unsplittable bit of information is added to what we know about the world, and, at the same time, that bit of information determines the structure of one small part of the world. It creates the reality of the time and place of that photon's interaction. Another example: The surface area of the spherical horizon surrounding a black hole measures the black hole's entropy, and entropy is nothing more than the grand totality of lost information. For a black hole whose horizon spans even a few kilometers, the number of bits of lost information is large beyond any normal meaning of large, even beyond anything we call ‘astronomical’. Nevertheless, it is not unimaginable. We have an it (the area of the black hole's horizon) fixed by the number of bits of information shielded by that area.”
— John Wheeler (1989), Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (pgs. 341)

Here, we see an example of someone lost in a confused idea. The universe does reduce to "bits" or 1s and 0s, it reduces to "joules", units of energy. In fact, there is nothing significant about the "bit".

“Bits [2 binary digits] and bytes [8 bits] are artificial constructs, not measurable physical dimensional entities.”
— Anon (2008), Yahoo Answer to “Is Memory (bits and bytes) and SI unit?” [8]
“If we arbitrarily decide to switch to ternary algebra, a base-3 numeral system, and to use ternary logic, logic built on three digits 0, 1, and 2, to build our a new transmission of information theory, according to which the ternary digit analog to the bit becomes the trit (trinary digit), where one trit contains (about 1.58496) bits of information, we have thus jumped to a new arbitrary mathematical unit construct. This cannot be done in the case of the joule: the mechanical equivalent of heat is a fixed ratio. Thus the bit, trit, or quatit (quaternary digit), if we were so inclined, are arbitrary numerical constructs, whereas the joule is not an arbitrary construct. In short, great confusion abounds in this conceived to be ‘unit issue’ when people begin to think that Shannon’s H-measure of information transmission has something to do with the entropy of thermodynamics or with Boltzmann’s H function.”
— Libb Thims (2012), “Thermodynamics ≠ Information Theory” (pg. 33) [8]

Mathematically, information, in short, could just as well have been written or coded using a "trit" (trinary digit) or "quatit" (quaternary digit) based system.

Participatory universe

A diagram of Wheeler's "participatory universe" model, wherein in the universe creates a thing that looks back in the past or to its origins.

In c.1998, Wheeler began to theorize about a "participatory universe" model, as diagrammed adjacent. The image is meant to represent the letter “U” where the right side is the eye of a human and the left side of the letter is the big bang.

The Wheeler U, of note, is the site icon for the Christopher Langan[9] based CTMU Community wiki.[10]

The Wheeler model, in short, seems to be an attempt to explain consciousness and god in terms of information theory, quantum foam, and Deepak-style "woo physics", supposedly.

Templeton | Category

Wheeler is grouped, according to Google search algorithms, along with: Paul Davies, John Barrow, Fred Hoyle, John Polkinghorne, Frank Tipler, George Francis, Brian Greene, Lee Smolin, Lawrence Krauss, Andrei Linde, Sean Carroll, Leonard Susskind, Seth Shostak, Alan Guth, Dirk Schluze-Makuch, Kip Thorne, Stephen Hawking, Seth Lloyd, and Max Tegmark (Ѻ).

The algorithmic closeness of Wheeler’s name to Davies, Hoyle, Polkinghorne, Langan, and Lloyd, indicates that his is “god coder”, i.e. one who attempts to sell god, or its incarnations, via a Sokal affair[11], using ontic openings[7], e.g. Shannon bandwagon[12] music, toolism[13]. This is corroborated by the fact that, in 2002, Wheeler was honored by the Templeton Foundation, at a conference[14], after which a multi-million dollar research grant was set up to study the physics-philosophy-cosmology interface, per the "spiritual vision" of John Templeton.[15]


Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Wheeler:

“Here’s my personal list for the title of greatest American physicist in history, in no particular order: Joseph Henry, Willard Gibbs, Albert Michelson, Robert Millikan, Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, Julian Schwinger, Ernest Lawrence, Edward Witten, John Bardeen, John Slater, John Wheeler, and Steven Weinberg. This list pales in comparison with an equivalent list of European physicists which would include names like Einstein, Dirac, Rutherford, Bohr, Pauli and Heisenberg; and this is just if we include twentieth century physicists.”
— Ashutosh Jogalekar (2013), “Who’s the Greatest American Physicist in History” (Ѻ)

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Wheeler:

“The black hole is a source of enlightenment.”
— John Wheeler (1985), Publication (Ѻ)
“In any field find the strangest thing and then explore it.”
— John Wheeler (c.1990), Publication[16]
“Space tells matter how to move and matter tells space how to curve.”
— John Wheeler (1998), Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam[17]

End matter


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wheeler, John. (1998). Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (spacetime, pg. 235; second law, pg. 347-48). W.W. Norton & Co, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Morris, Richard. (1984). Time’s Arrows: Scientific Attitudes Towards Time (pgs. 123). Simon, 1996.
  3. Baeyer, Hans Christian von. (2004). Information - the New Language of Science. Cambridge, (pgs. 205-11). Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  4. Wheeler, John. (c.2000), “Work with Richard Feynman” (YT), Web of Stories, Oct 9.
  5. Popova, Maria. (2016). “It from Bit”, Brain Pickings, Sep 2.
  6. Stenger, Victor. (2012). God and the Folly of Faith (pg. #). Publisher.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ontic opening – Hmolpedia 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Thims, Libb. (2012). “Thermodynamics ≠ Information Theory: Science’s Greatest Sokal Affair” (pdf), Journal of Human Thermodynamics, 8(1): 1-120, Dec 19.
  9. Christopher Langan – Hmolpedia 2020.
  10. CTMU Community – CTMU Community Wiki.
  11. Sokal affair – Hmolpedia 2020.
  12. Shannon bandwagon – Hmolpedia 2020.
  13. Toolism – Hmolpedia 2020.
  14. Tbartus. (2002). “Wheeler Honored at Conference”,, News, Mar 21.
  15. Anon. (2004). “New Horizons”,
  16. Crick, Francis. (1994). The Astonishing Hypothesis: the Scientific Search for the Soul. Simon and Schuster.
  17. Wheeler, John. (1998). Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (pg. 235) (Ѻ). W.W. Norton & Co, 2010.

External links

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