To begin Chapter 6, which focuses on the 2nd law of thermodynamics, Preston Harold sets us up nicely:
The realm of physics is paradoxical, topsy-turvy, poetic, as inexpressible in the last reaches as any mystic revelation that has confronted man.
In his “The Nature of the Physical World” Sir Arthur Eddington writes, “Sir William Bragg was not overstating the case when he said that we use the classical theory on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the quantum theory on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.” Preston Harold says this shift of theory is necessary because scientists have had to divide their laws into different compartments, classic and quantum. Eddington continues, “Unfortunately, our compartments are not watertight…The classical laws are the limit to which the quantum laws tend when states of very high quantum number are concerned…The disagreement is not very serious when the number is moderately large; but for small quantum numbers the atom cannot sit on the fence. It has to decide between (classical) and (quantum) rules. It chooses [quantum] rules.”
Preston Harold pulls us into the realm of religion:
Here, the first parallel may be drawn; when large numbers are concerned, men must operate under classical law, outgrown from the Ten Commandments, and humanity at large will tend to operate according to the classical patterns history presents; but operating within each human being are quantum psychic laws that contradict the classical picture he presents, and as an individual, he is subject to these laws primarily. Just as one psychic law – the Golden Rule – bridges the dichotomy between man and society, so the physicist deals with one law that fits in either quantum or classical compartment. This is the second law of thermodynamics which, in Eddington’s words, “has been equally successful in connection with the most recondite problems of theoretical physics and the practical tasks of the engineer.”
In our next installment we will hone in on the second law of thermodynamics and explore it’s meaning and consequence. Until then, peace.