Sunday, March 27, 2011

Breaking the 2nd Law

The second law of thermodynamics, very roughly stated, is that the order of an isolated system will tend to decrease. Put another way, things fall apart, rot, decay. Gases dissipate. Suns explode and, eventually, disappear. The cinder blocks under the car in my front lawn will eventually crumble and the car itself will rust away in a few hundred years and the polymers it contains in a few thousand.

But I'm not sure I buy that. It seems to ignore the rather startling fact that there is a consciousness in the universe positing all of this. It seems to ignore the fact that out of the chaos of a gas cloud, a solar system coalesced, formed a planet, and on that planet through some chain of events, atoms linked into molecules of the right type, and those molecules of a certain sort tended to amass into "active" complex proteins and enzymes and whatnot, and all that mess finally organized into me typing this idea out on a laptop.

I know nothing about the proper way to measure entropy. I probably can't afford an entropometer. But it seems rather sensible that the amount of order in a single paramecium or simple bacteria  is rather large. The complex interaction of dna, proteins, lipids, etc... that provide for material intake, metabolism, and pro-creation of those little buggers is astounding. The "order" in a single bacteria cell must counteract the disorder in an exploded sun, in the entropy balance.

When considering the massively astounding amounts of order and on-going pro-creative activity on this planet, it seems quite possible it outweighs all the disorder in the balance of the universe.

This makes me wonder about time.

I have read that entropy is a demonstration of the "arrow of time". What has happened to that arrow since this big bag that gave rise to all this freaking order and information of elements arranged just so on our modest little marble in space?

How can anyone say with a straight face that "entropy tends to increase" when the very sentence comes from the one of the still most astoundingly organized information filled object know to us... the human brain cum consciousness.

I sure have a lot to learn about proper discussions of entropy, but I think scientists who insist entropy tends to increase need to look in the mirror and explain what they see, or even that they see, or even that there is a mirror.


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MyoChi said...

Hey Lauren,

How are you doing? not sure I understand a whole lot about entropy but I am finding it hard to believe that they do not consider the fact that whatever deteriorates, is not disappearing but is actually getting converted into some other form. Is this entropy thing in conflict with the law that total energy in this universe is constant and it neither increases nor decreases? How did you get into this entropy stuff?

Lauren said...


Hi. I am by not means an expert on entropy, but I am very interested in theories of reality. Entropy is not about energy, but rather organization. As I have always seen entropy described it is that things tend to fall appart and become disorganize. That is, wall crumble, cars rust, and we die and rot. Entropy can be address by some very sophisticated discussions that require, I think, math skill I do not posses. But, I wonder if the theories of entropy give proper consideration to the fact of our existence. Do they notice that in this little corner of the universe stuff has aggregated over time (rather than deteriorated) into "spaceship Earth" and the billions of living things upon it.