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                                                 Ultimate Entropy

The world of physics has changed a great deal in the 30 years since I completed my degree.  Continued study insists on revealing secrets of nature that embellish the faith of even the most doubting fundamentalist.  There are things going on that are beyond our comprehension.

When a particle (an electron, for example) is exactly the same as another existing somewhere else in the universe, they two become, by one point of view, indistinguishable.  Now this is not just two electrons, but two with precisely the same energy, the same inertia, the same spin, etc.  I use the phrase “point of view,” because that is what it was 30 years ago.  Some amazing experimentation has appeared to reveal that transfers, or the equivalence of transfers, occur over distances without the required time for travel and without any path available.  There is the necessary possibility that transfer never really has occurred, but that the equivalence was so complete that it didn’t matter which electron was considered; they were one and the same anyway.  Physicists who are deeply into such studies, however, reject the notion that this may be treated like a metaphor.  To them, the actual transfer is evidenced.

My Mother, Iola, and her sister, Viola, are identical twins.  The term identical here refers only to the genetics.  Their fingerprints are not the same.  Random processes were involved in the fingerprint design.  Many other things about them are not the same.  They have different husbands, different children, different lives.  When I was a little boy, they could play games when one visited the other.  I would come home from school and kiss aunt Viola when I entered the house, declaring,  “I love you, mom.”  Then my real mom would enter the room and the two identical twins would laugh heartily.  It is interesting even if obvious, that they always knew who was who.  Each had a personal awareness different from the other’s.  Because I was on the outside, I had no such awareness, and sometimes I could not tell who was who.  The sameness of the aforementioned electrons is not like this.  They are the same.  They are so much the same that if they were aware, they themselves would not know who was who.

Now this is obviously not going to be a scientific treatise.  There will be none of the necessary mathematics to discuss entropy as a group of physicists might.   I always wished, while in college, that there had been a major one could choose called qualitative physics.  I enjoyed most of the math that was the language of quantitative physics, but that complex language got in the way of free thinking.  I’m not talking about metaphysics here, which for me is far from being physics; I’m talking about physics that involves thinking about what might be so, experimentation, observation, and reasonable, if not proven, conclusions.  These conclusions would be subject to the quantitative physicists’ work for confirmation or rejection or shelving.  Sometimes, it would be difficult to find “real” physicists who would choose to do or who could find anyone to pay them to do this follow-on work.  Often, any follow-on work would simply be fruitless.  This is because, as a qualitative physicist, much of what was considered would be outside or beyond the ability of the developed quantitative tools’ ability to cope.   In the somewhat distant past, physicists were called “physical philosophers,” and this is something like what I wanted to become.  This essay will be the result of that kind of thought.  Nothing is proven, but things are considered.

The second law of thermodynamics is a fundamental law of physics.  When I took the required thermodynamics course on the way to a degree in physics, I was much dismayed by some of what I had to accept in order not to reject the law.  The law is stated mathematically by a partial differential equation.  To write that equation into this paper would make this a different paper entirely.  I won’t go get the special fonts necessary to write such an equation with the word processor.  There are at least two reasons I won’t do that.  The first is that many readers would stop right here and couldn’t care less about what else I might have to say.  I well understand this.  The second reason is that I cannot disprove the validity of the equation, yet I have generally believed it to be unsound.  Lately, I’ve had a little turn of thought.

The second law has an interesting result.  It dictates that everything is becoming less and less organized in any closed system.  A “closed system” is a system wherein nothing outside the system is acting on or affecting the system.  A case for consideration, though it’s certainly not completely closed, is a terrarium.  In a glass fish bowl, or perhaps an aquarium, sealed tightly shut, plant and other organic life is placed, and it can be observed looking through the glass that life continues and grows and changes for quite a long time with no intervention.  Scientists have built large versions of these.  They contain plant and animal life, including humans.  No watering is done from the outside, no fertilizing, no food brought in, etc.  In the case of the smaller home-project terrarium, light still enters and exits, thus we can observe.  If truly closed, such observation could not occur.  In a completely closed system, entropy may increase, but never decrease.  Entropy is a measure of disorganization.  The more organized something is, the lower the entropy.   Consider a closed system consisting of two cans of paint, one red and one blue.  There is distinct organization here.  All the red paint is on one side, and all the blue paint is on the other side.  Now if we start the system with only one can, but with red paint in the bottom, and then pour blue paint carefully on the top, and then close the system, we can imagine what will happen over time.  In some amount of time, there will be only one color of paint.  It has become less organized by random action.  This is an increase in entropy.  If we started the system with the paint mixed together, we would not expect the red and blue to separate.  Now some of you will argue that if one paint is oil-based and the other water-based, perhaps they will separate by the heavier (water-based) paint going to the bottom.  This may be true, but it’s because the system is not truly closed.  Gravity is acting from without.  We must imagine a truly closed system.  Consider how easy it is to take the two colors of paint, mix them, and end up with only one color.  Consider how difficult it would be to now separate the colors, molecule by molecule, until we had two cans of paint, one red and one blue.  The process of mixing is irreversible, or nearly so.  There are many irreversible processes in our universe, and all involve increased entropy in the easy direction, and decreased entropy in the difficult or impossible direction.  “Humpty Dumpty,” is a child’s story depicting this irreversibility.  “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,” could not reverse the process that so easily moved in the direction of increased entropy (disorganization), the breaking of the egg..

The entire universe is probably the only truly closed system.  There is nothing outside to act upon it.  People will argue that God is outside, or something else, but this denies the definition of universe, which is all that is.  If anything is outside, then that also is part of the universe.  Nothing can be outside, or what we are considering is not the universe.  In this complex closed system, paint may separate, but in doing so, entropy is lowered by the heavier being separated from the lighter, or by some other disorganizing (homogenizing) function.  Something may be burned to provide heat to boil one from the other, or something else may occur wherein entropy is increased more than the reduction occurring to separate the colors.  The decreased entropy due to the color separation is more than canceled by the increased entropy due to the density separation, the burning, or whatever, and thus the total entropy goes up.  If the organization represented by the color separation were more organization than the density separation, then the mixture with dense at bottom and less dense at top would reorganize to separate the colors instead.  Whatever happens, this law will rule – entropy must either remain the same or it must increase in the closed system.  In nearly all activities, there will be an increase.

This is a little hard to picture, because all the systems within which we operate on a daily basis are open, not closed.  When we clean up our room, it appears to become more organized, and thus we may think that entropy has been decreased.  We have, however, expended chemical energy to do the task.  We have burned calories, and much disorganization has occurred while the room became more organized.  The total must be more disorganization and less organization.  Some millionaires have argued that everyone could be as rich as they, if the others would just work as hard.  What a millionaire possesses is actually reduced local entropy.  A new car is a local low-entropy area.  In the factory, much was disorganized to produce the local organization.  For everyone to have such as this, there must be all the labor done to produce it.  When a person gains possessions in one year that require ten man-years of work to produce, he has the wealth that ten men produce.  It’s mathematically impossible for each person to have the fruits of ten men’s work.  The average must be the fruits of just one man’s work.  For one to have more, others must have less.  By increasing what one man can do, of course, we may all become possessors of more reduced entropy, but somewhere, somehow, entropy in total must have increased.  Even if we gain wealth by the operation of machinery that operates at night while we sleep, entropy is being increased as the machinery operates, and we receive reduced entropy locally.

So here we have it – a universe, which according to the second law, is becoming less and less organized.  When it becomes completely disorganized, what will it look like?  Well, no one could look at it.  A person cannot exist without a person being an organized part of the universe.  The completely disorganized universe is entirely homogeneous.  No piece of it is different from any other piece.  There could exist no persons.  There could be no planets with emptiness in between.  Planets and emptiness are not the same, and thus this would not be homogeneous.  Like the two paints, all is mixed up so perfectly that all is the same.  That is maximum disorganization.  That is maximum entropy.

If the universe had already had an infinite amount of time for this disorganization to occur, it would be homogeneous now.  I think of the universe as always having been around, never not existing.  This puts me in the way of seeing the second law as an impossible hoax.  Neatly, scientists commonly believe that the universe has not had an infinite amount of time.  Perhaps 16 billion of our years ago, it started, with the so-called “big bang.”  If this big bang theory is correct, then we have a second law problem at its occurrence.  What was the entropy before the bang.  Did it go down dramatically all at once?  It’s obvious that the universe contains great amounts of organization.  Suns with planets going round, etc. 

Now there is much talk of this theory, and convincing measurements based on the speed of light and how far away the farthest things are today.  Other measurements indicate that the whole thing is still expanding.  But what happens at the other end?  What happens when entropy reaches its maximum, complete homogeneity, complete disorganization? 

Remember the two electrons?  If they are exactly the same, then they are one?  Well, you know, no matter how “same” they are, we view them to be in two different places. One is in one part of the universe, and another in another part.  To be identically the same, they must be the same color, the same size, the same mass, have the same energy, the same spin, and in the same direction, and, it seems to me, in the same precise place.  In other words, there is no such thing as complete homogeneity, unless every part of the whole is in the same place!

So in the end, when everything is the same with just the one exception of position, the very opposite of the big bang occurs.  GNAB !!, everything is at one point, and instantly there is another big bang to start the whole process over again.  Things don’t have to move back all those light years – this would be absurdly contradicting the second law.  When absolute homogeneity occurs, all is instantly one again, all at one point.  Distance no longer exists.  Distance is only a concept, and the concept has disappeared. 

If the process starts over again, is it the same?  This would be a sort of eternal life.  No memory would be here for anyone to know this had all happened before.  Or is it different each time, because of all the random processes involved.  Like the twin sisters, the genetics are identical, but there is so much more.  This would also result in a kind of eternal living, but different each time around.  Different life forms, different macro organization of the new universe, etc.

There is interesting verbiage heard in circles discussing quantum theory, as it has come to be called.  It’s called that because it depends on the idea that everything is made up of quanta.  Each quantum is the smallest amount of something that can be, and these little parts make up everything.  In particular, energy is thought to have existence is discreet amounts.  Half a quantum of energy does not exist.  One quantum, two quanta, three quanta, and there could be nothing in between.  It’s a very small amount, almost infinitesimal, but still defined and of a certain size.  One quantum is exactly the same size as any other, but there is a quantum of mass, a quantum of energy, etc.  (These are now interchangeable, and the quanta are still the same size.)  When all the quanta are evenly distributed, then perhaps we have total homogeneity, and instantly, all is one, one is all, and there is only a point, every single quanta at the same place.  Otherwise, we could say that this one is here, and this one to the left and this one underneath and thus there is still organization, and entropy has not gone to infinity (or to one, depending on the definition mathematically.)  Remember that a quantum is extremely small, smaller than anyone is able to imagine.  We can write down numbers, a trillionth of something, or a trillionth of a trillionth, but these numbers are completely unimaginable.  Our minds cannot measure such things.  A trillionth of a trillionth of an apple, for example, is something no one can reasonably imagine.  The term “quantum jump” is often heard, usually meaning some large jump.  It’s too bad, because that muddles the water.  A quantum jump, to the physicist, is the smallest possible jump, so small that a million would not be viewable with the strongest microscope.

All this allows the second law to hold, with the exception of that little end-point.   Understand it’s reasonable to call it “little,” as it takes up no time.  The consequences are massively large, but the event is so small as to be incomprehensible.  It happens in an instant.  Like a “point,” to physicists, an instant is not some specified amount of time, but a period of no time, not even a quantum of time.  OK, maybe it takes up one quantum of time.  I can’t know.  I can’t know one trillionth of one trillionth of all there is to know about a single grain of sand, and I still could not know this much if I spent my lifetime studying just that one grain of sand.  Physicists usually recognize this.  Not knowing, and knowing that one does not know, is a great deal of fun.  There is not only “something beyond us,” but everything is beyond us.  There are some things going on that are beyond our comprehension.  No, not some things, everything that is going on is beyond our comprehension.

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                                                                               Chuck Borough

                                                                                              May, 1998