Things I’d Like to Learn About: Entropy
There is a ton of stuff (inspired a bit by this post) I am trying to wrap my head around that I can’t really teach myself or just need explained. I am having trouble understanding the second law of thermodynamics and specifically the concept of entropy. My eyes tend to blur over when I read about it but I want to know more.
So if someone knows the subject a little, I’d genuinely appreciate being taught or discussing it. [ryan holiday (at) gmail.com] I’ll pay in books and dvds and cds that I get sent. I think I have some first edition printings of Tucker’s book too.
And also, as some people have figured out, if you have questions, send them my way.
wow, so i wrote up a whole synopsis of entropy in this box and forgot to put in the phrase. Now it deleted all my work, and I hate you.
To sum up the last sentence of it though, read “cosmic banditos.” It explains a lot of crazy concepts in physics such as entropy, randomness, heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, schroedinger’s cat, and all other insane quantum phyics in a totally understandable format. It’s what kept me trying to do well in physics.
If you still wanna know the rest, shoot me an email or something.
I have a BS in chemical engineering so I know a thing or two about entropy 🙂
Fransisco seems to have started you off in the right direction, and I’m mad busy for the next couple weeks or so, so for now I’ll give you my favorite layman’s description of entropy and later if you still have some questions we can talk in more detail.
One of the things you’ve probably heard is that all processes tend towards disorder. Many people wonder why this is. What is this force that causes disorder (entropy) to increase? Well the answer is there is no such force. Systems become disorder simply through probability. Here’s an illustration:
If you have two jars, and 5 blue balls and 5 red balls, you can, by a conscious effort, separate all the balls so that there are only blue balls in one jar and red ones in another jar. However, if you just randomly dropped 5 in each, the chances that it would come out this way are very low. There are much fewer ways to arrange the 10 balls so that the colors are separated than there are ways to arrange them in a mix. Each individual permutation has the same probability of happening. There is nothing unnatural about the few where the colors separate perfectly, they’re just more unlikely; there are less of them.
Put another way, what are the chances the the leaves on the trees in your backyard will all fall into one stack? One out of a trillion or something crazily low like that. But, what are the chances that next autumn, they would fall into the same exact pattern that they did the year before? Also, almost zero. The pattern that they fell into, while completely ordinary looking, is still unique. It’s just that there are a zillion other such patterns that look similar, so chances are it will be one of these, rather than the one (or few) ways that the leaves could fall into a neat little stack. So again, there’s nothing forcing nature into disorder, it’s just more likely.
Now I know this is just one facet of entropy, and not even one of the more crucial to understand in industry, but it’s a topic I’ve found people struggle with. I hope you find it helpful, or at least interesing.
just to tack on to what francisco said, and if you haven’t already read it, Film Drunk has an awesome interview with the author Allen Weisbecker.