Entropy

The ancient Greeks looked at chaos (the void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos) as being the primeval emptiness of the universe before things came into being, or the abyss of Tartarus, the underworld.  Chaos was the empty, unfathomable space that came before Gaea mother earth and the offspring of Chaos were Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night). Nyx begat Aether, the bright upper air, and Day.  Nyx later begat the dark and dreadful aspects of the universe (Dreams, Death, War, and Famine).  Chaos was a shadowy realm of mass and energy and everything that exists today came from chaos the primordial god.

Everything that begins will eventually end, it is just the way things work.  I took a Thermodynamics course in college which is an extension of Physics, and it has laws just like Physics, in fact it has three laws and two of them are related to entropy.  The first law, which is also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system, thus energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.  The second law states that the entropy of any isolated system always increases.  The third law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero.

Concerning the first law of thermodynamics, the total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another, but over time energy will dissipate as heat.  Many theoretical physicists believe the Universe will end in what they call The Big Freeze, which will be the result of the universe expanding to a point where entropy will increase until it reaches a maximum value.  The vast supplies of gas that create stars would be spread so thin that no new stars would be able to form.  Under that model, time becomes an endless void in which nothing ever happens, as there would be little to no energy left in the Universe.

Entropy was the hardest concept for me to grasp in that Thermodynamics class.  In classical physics, the entropy of a physical system is proportional to the quantity of energy no longer available to do physical work.  Entropy is the reason why life always seems to get more complicated.  Drawing on Murphy’s Law which states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”, trouble is waiting around the next corner and anything that causes trouble will make things more difficult.  Problems will naturally arise on their own, and solutions to resolve them require our attention, energy, and effort, once we are alerted.  Over time our lives become more complicated and gradually decline into disorder rather than remaining simple and structured.  There is only one possible state where everything will fit perfectly together in order, but there are a nearly infinite number of states where the pieces are in disorder.  Mathematically speaking, an orderly outcome is incredibly unlikely to happen at random.  Entropy is the natural tendency of things to lose order, and it always increases over time.

With that said, Fandango asks, “Are humans better at creating or destroying?” for his provocative question this week.  To respond to this, I have to understand what it means to be human and then figure out if humans do more positive things or more negative things.  One definition of being human says that we have the ability to communicate systematically using words, symbols, body gestures, and facial expressions and we can make our own decisions and bear the consequences of them.  The human brain is hardwired for negativity, making us remember the bad things more than the good.

Humans lie, cheat, steal, gossip, bully, torture, kill and we are skilled in deception and manipulation and some of us have a selfish attitude, so we do many destructive things.  We are supposed to be an intelligent species, but we often do stupid things and we seem to crave violence.  We have many bad habits and we are solely responsible for global warming, although the methane produced by all the cows that we keep is not helping.  Humans are not all bad, as a race we are inherently good and some of us do good things.  We are biologically programmed to seek friendship or companionship and when the chips are down and the lights are off people will come together, as humans are instinctively concerned with the welfare of others.  Even bad people like Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot, the Cambodian leader who killed so many of his own people did some good in their lives.

It is hard to balance the scale of human existence and judge us as being better creators or destroyers, as human beings possess a remarkable capacity to build things up, as well as being able to break things down.  Humans have creative and destructive tendencies and in the short time that we have been living here on Earth, we have left an impact on everything that we touched.  Humans enjoy creating their own space to live in and this is often don with no regard for the other animal species that were there before us.

Humans have created many good things, but we have also invented many bad things, like weapons, bombs, poisons and viruses that can be used to destroy stuff.  We have done things that no other species is capable of doing, like creating music and poetry, but then again in the process we also developed rap, which probably is not such a good thing.  Birth and death happen every day, the freshness and life that spring brings and the decay and death that winter brings are a constant reminder of how fragile we are, the smooth skin of a baby will become wrinkled as old age sets in and death is imminent for everyone and everything, which leads us back to chaos and entropy.  Shit happens and we need to learn how to live with it, especially since humans seem to be equally good at creating stuff as we are at destroying things.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #57 – Are humans better at creating or destroying

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