The scientific definitions of entropy can be difficult, and are
mostly involved with the tendency of concentrations of energy to flow
out to even concentrations everywhere.

     A more useful definition of entropy is a measure of the uselessness
of energy to a given purpose, because in the end energy can neither be
created or destroyed.

     For example a hungry man needs energy to stay alive.  If you give
him a battery, which has energy in it, he won't be able to utilize it
because he can't eat it.  Thus the battery has high entropy relative to
the needs of the user, even though it has a high concentration of
energy.  It is a USELESS concentration of energy to that particular

     On the other hand if you give bread to a man lost in a dark cave
whose flashlight has gone dim, again the bread will do him little good
because he needs the battery!

     As energy is expended in one form, like the battery burning the
light bulb, it tends to expand out into another form, like light
racing across the universe.  That light is still energy, but it is of
no further use to the original user of the battery once it is gone.

     Unless of course he is signalling mars with his flash light!

     But once it hits Mars, the light gets absorbed as heat and is no
more, again it becomes useless to anyone unless one is trying to heat

     You see how it goes, in many ways entropy is the state of energy in
relation to its usefullness to a particular purpose.

     Now it is tempting to say that there is none the less an absolute
state of entropy, a state where energy is useless to everyone, meaning
no longer capable of transforming into any other kind of energy (which
is all that usefullness is), and thus everything eventually becomes an
unchanging state.

     But one has to remember that energy comes in two forms, potential
and kinetic.  The battery is potential, the light is kinetic.

     The Sun is a source of kinetic energy which hits random carbon
dioxide moecules on EARTH splitting them up.

     You start with some photons and CO2, and you end up with no photons
and Carbon and Oxygen.  Is that a higher state of entropy?  Well
relative to the sun yes, but relative to an animal no.

     Although highly simplified here, the carbon forms plants and trees,
and act as a storage battery for the light from the suns.  Plants are
the battery in a state of charge.

     Animals would much prefer that a plant cell trap a photon, than a
rock where the light is 'lost' to heat.

     But the heat keeps the plant warm, and alive, for if it gets too
cold, the plant won't live.

     The animal eats the plant using up the charge in the battery, and
turns it into muscle power which it uses to plant more plants or build
silos for plants, or tranportation systems for plants, a civilization in
other words.

     Thus we have a small eddy of anti entropy that takes photons from
the sun, stores them as plants, gets eaten as animals which do useful
work (relative to them) to build civilizations.  THEN the photon escapes
as heat into space never to be useful again :).

     Until it hits Mars and helps them grow plants too (in the future).

     So the flow of energy from high concentrations (anti entropy) to
low dispersed uselessness is not a simple path, and what happens along
the way is everything we call life.

     Life is the death throes of anti-entropy heading for entropy.

     In this model life is swirls in a river where things go around and
round, but eventually EVERYTHING gets swept out to sea (final entropy).

     But in all this we need to remember that what started out as
kinetic energy from the sun, ends up as potential energy, first in the
carbon of the plants, and finally as background cosmic radiation.

     Take a ball and throw it up in the air, when it reaches it's top it
no longer has an kinetic energy, but all the energy is still there as
potential energy.  Some was lost to friction in the air as heat and it
is gone to the great dispersement in the sky, or off to heat Mars.

     But the rest is recoverable as the ball falls back down and hits
your hand as fast as you sent it up, almost.

     So the entire universe is expanding and thus storing all of its
expended energy as gravitational potential energy.  This might be
useless to any thing in that universe near the end when things are at
maximum expansion, and maximum dispersement, but the energy is all still

     *IF* the universe turns around and starts to collapse under its own
gravitational field, just like the ball turning around and dropping,
then all that dispersed energy gets concentrated again until the
universe either crashes into itself at an infinite point or passes by
itself, or through itself at a very small point and starts another
expansion cycle.  At that point all the potential energy is now again

     If the universe never turns around and just keeps expanding forever
because its original impetus had escape velocity, or because new energy
is being pumped into the system, then entropy will grow forever, but the
energy is never lost.

     Because there is nothing saying that a universe must fundamentally
expand forever, entropy then is only king while its in the lime light,
for in a universe that does contract, like the ball falls once thrown in
the air, anti entropy becomes king during the reverse process.

     Since life depends on a balance of anti entropy and entropy,
not an excessive amount of each, as the universe collapses back
into itself, it may be that the life forms that survive will be
the ones that create the greatest ENTROPY for themselves to keep
themselves alive for a while.


Homer Wilson Smith     The Paths of Lovers    Art Matrix - Lightlink
(607) 277-0959 KC2ITF        Cross            Internet Access, Ithaca NY
homer@lightlink.com    In the Line of Duty    http://www.lightlink.com

Sun May 13 00:05:46 EDT 2007