Doug Bruns

Men in Trunks

In Life, Science on February 8, 2013 at 6:00 am

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I’ve been traveling and missed a few days at the pool. I’m a swimmer. Upon returning, a friend mentioned that he hadn’t seen me and that it was good I was back “fighting the battle.” I asked if he was familiar with the second law of thermodynamics? Mind you, this dialogue is occurring between two men standing naked, but for their Speedos. I described to him the theory of entropy, which states that the universe moves toward chaos and disarray. I explained that if he’d ever had teenagers in the house or was married to a slob he would know what I meant. Test the theory at home. Don’t clean the kitchen for a week and you’ll see what I mean. Teenagers are too often walking examples of entropy. They are, to use a term of physics,¬†isolated systems spontaneously evolving towards the state of maximum entropy.

It seems the battle he was referring to was the battle against entropy, that in fact the universe is aways moving in a direction contrary to our wishes. Eventually everything will fall into a state of entropy, including, yes, ourselves. Physically and mentally we are going to hell and there is nothing to be done but to pull on your Speedo and wage war. Sometimes locker-room talk might surprise you.

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If, for some reason, you want to think more about entropy:

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And if you want to pursue the subject down the rabbit hole, I suggest James Gleick’s Chaos. (You might recall I suggested reading Gleick’s biography of Richard Feynman in a previous post.) Chaos is not properly about entropy but a background to64582 the development of chaos theory. The two concepts are intertwined. And for what it’s worth, Gleick is one of our best science writers. Any excuse to read him is rewarding.

Thanks for reading and have a terrific weekend.

d

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