Entropy

If you remember from your high school physics class, there are three laws of thermodynamics.  The second law concern the tendency in isolated systems for the amount of energy available for work to decrease.  In other words, everything slowly degrades into a uniform state of disorder.  This basically describes the efforts of a one year-old, so I can assume that Rudolf Clausius, who first put forward the concept of entropy, was a young father at the time.  He had only to watch his son or daughter wander through his house for a few minutes to observe this phenomenon.  If the wake of destruction my daughter could cause and were left intact, my wife would find, upon returning home, the following:

  • From the kitchen sink cabinet, a pile of dishwashing detergent mixed with a pile of filth from the compost bucket, overturned nearby.
  • Every pot and pan, tupperware, tea bag, zip lock bag and spice container scattered on the floor.  Later, we would find a muffin tray in the bathtub and a measuring cup behind the firewood rack.
  • If it weren’t for the dog, there would be a hardened crust of fruit, yogurt, cheese and bread below her highchair.  And frankly, if you take adult supervision and the doggie clean-up crew completely out of the equation, she would eat it later on her own.
  • A layer of children’s books, her cloth diapers (which I had neatly stacked), and every baby blanket from the drawers would eclipse the her bedroom floor.  Luckily the dresser that holds her clothes has sticky drawers.
  • Stuffed animals and toys would comprise a landmine field for the nocturnal wanderings of barefoot parents.

The second law is a law, so you can’t prevent entropy from increasing inside your little universe, but you can change it’s composition.  You can pick up clothes and books, and dutifully put them back in their hamper or shelf, all the while converting calories from breakfast into work and giving off heat.  It’s this heat, the inefficiency of our cells, that is final stop in a system’s accumulation of entropy.

In fact, we’ve evolved to take advantage of this law.  Freed from relying on the sun’s direct rays like our reptilian predecessors, we could expand out of the Rift Valley, into the higher latitudes and converting Mammoth meat into heat, survive the Ice Ages.  And given the current weather, I rather don’t mind a little extra heat, even if it comes from sweeping up a spilled bag of lentils on the kitchen floor.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting hungry and have to go sharpen my spear.

 

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