Vanity of vanities, says the teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity….All things are wearisome; more than one can express….There is nothing new under the sun. -Ecclesiastes chapter 1
Thus is the poetical scriptural witness to the second law of thermodynamics. It is the law that entropy always increases. The International Dictionary of Physics and Electronics states:
Application of the “second law” of thermodynamics leads to the conclusion that if any physical system is left to itself and allowed to distribute its energy in its own way, it always does so in a manner such that this quantity, called “entropy,” increases; while at the same time the available energy of the system diminishes. This law applies to the universe as a whole, hence the proposition that the total entropy increases as time goes on.
Sir Arthur Eddington says:
“The law that entropy always increases…holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature…if your theory is found to be against [it] I can give you no hope…From the property that entropy must always increase, practical methods of measuring it have been found. The chain of deductions from this simple law have almost been illimitable.”
Might there be a “yes, but…” response to this iron-clad law? Is all really vanity? Is there any hope that can rise above and beyond this theory? Preston Harold comes to the rescue:
As physicists understand this law today, it appears to spell in some billions of years the heat-death of the universe. But as Dr. Rolf Alexander points out, the anti-entropic nature of living things may point to a “simultaneous process of entropy and creation…the process of nature observed by physical science are but a fraction of the picture…”
Here we see the door opening into the realm of “both-and,” leaving the area of “either-or.” Not either creation or destruction, but both creation and destruction. And in the Hindu god Shiva we see that the ancient Shaivas, the oldest sect of Hinduism, had a hold of this concept millennia ago.
Preston Harold continues:
Structural alterations are going on in the realm of physics, and physicists themselves project that there are other laws yet to be discovered, so that all one can say with certainty is that the real meaning of entropy in universal terms may not yet be known.
Ah, the realm of not knowing; the unknown. So frustrating to some of us. Seems to be connected to the “both-and” realm which is full of paradox and uncertainty.
In our next post we’ll continue to explore the second law of thermodynamics and more specifically the “random element.” Until then, peace.