Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fight entropy!

A clean room over time tends to drift into a "messed up" state.  Leave my dog Rusty alone with a roll of  paper towels and he will fill the room with paper shreds.   When a log is burned it releases energy and produce ash with a low level of organization.  These are examples of entropy at work.  Entropy is the tendency for any organized system to become unorganized.  To prevent entropy requires the addition of a constant supply of energy.  
A Universal Problem!
A plant takes in sunlight, collects enough energy to oppose entropy, and it forms new tissues ... to ‘grow’.  A dead plant quickly decays back to simple soil and air again.

My body can’t take in sunlight energy directly so I must take energy from the bodies of plants or animals that I consume.  When I eat a hamburger I am adding greatly to the entropy of the cow that produced the meat, also to the wheat plants that produced the bread... but I acquire much of their energy to oppose entropy in my own body. 

Decay continues

The principal of entropy can be applied to any mechanical system.  The conversion of some mechanical energy to heat during friction is an example of increasing entropy and the loss of organization. Only about 15 percent of the energy from the fuel you put in your tank gets used to move your car down the road or run useful accessories, such as air conditioning. The other 85% contributes to the entropy of the gasoline’s stored energy.  It goes out the tail pile as heat.

Even mountain systems undergo entropy

Taking non renewable resources out of the ground ( oil and coal ), burning them, and increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere, contributes each mile we drive to the increased disorder of the earth.  Entropy happens with very small and very large systems.

When a mouse gains energy from the grass seeds it eats only about 10% of the sunlight energy taken by the sun to form those seeds is passed on to the mouse.  When a snake eats the mouse to maintain its body, only about 10% of the mouse energy is passed on to the snake. In each case the excess energy is given off as heat and lost into the atmosphere.  Both exhibit entropy at work!

Do you ever have this feeling?
Even our sun undergoes entropy as it converts hydrogen into helium and radiates energy out into space... it will one day take on the low energy state of a burned out hulk with no more energy to release...the ultimate state of high entropy (disorder)  for a star of our size.

How many people let entropy sneak up on them after a certain age. if I dont eat healthily , don't exercise, take the course of least resistance... it is a perfect formula for increasing entropy.  The only way to oppose entropy is to put consistent energy back into my life!

Desert ghost town slowly disappearing

Ask any teacher about entropy in the classroom!  To maintain a well functioning class requires a constant vigilance and expenditure of energy, on the part of the teacher, to plan meaningful activities and effective class management.  If the teacher feels sick or had a late night the function of the class declines and to fight the student entropy takes even more energy.

Sudden entropy - SanFrancisco earthquake 1906

Look at our government.  To maintain the high ideals of our founding fathers requires the commitment and energy of each elected official.  It is system is allowed to coast, entropy  (disorder and dysfunction) takes over.  If politicians try to use the system for personal agendas the entire system falters.  If politicians are more concerned about getting reelected and filling their election “war-chests” than meeting the needs of all the people entropy if gaining.  Hard work and commitment are required to oppose the slide to disorder.

Governmental systems are subject to entropic drift

There are similarities between the entropy of a plant and that of  government... both system have and continue to evolve.  As plants have evolved from simple algae to more advanced forms – the principal of entropy has been a constant for all forms. The nation that the writers of our constitution visualized had a small population of mostly small towns and independent farmers, many living a frontier life... And we have evolved into a complex multicultural population, with issues of poverty, unemployment, health care, immigration, and education for all -  that would astonish our founding fathers.  It takes real energy to adapt and grow our national system to avoid the entropy of trying to apply the “same old – same old” solutions to new problems.

Education is one way to fight personal entropy - UC Berkeley.

One of my favorite bumper stickers was was seen recently at the University of California in Berkeley... it said “Entropy isn’t what it used to be...” If you can explain that – you understand entropy...

Clouds represent masses of warm up lifted air - that slowly lose their heat concentration... entropy at work