You have to be careful when you tell anyone you were a science major. They automatically assume all sorts of things about what you know or what you can tutor their children in. It is biology alone where I have some level of understanding. “Yes,” you might say, “but you minored in Chemistry, certainly you would know enough to . . .” but no, I wouldn’t. It was a minor filled by default. And, that’s the trouble with “science” it encompasses Chemistry and Physics (which is oh so closely related to math). Naturally, being the whiz that I was, I generally managed to get A’s in any Chemistry or Physics I had to take (OK, I got my first and only B+ in one chemistry class, and the bitterness of that B+ lingers on), but those A’s were achieved through a very special method of learning, a very tricky method, a method that somehow allowed me to pass my tests without truly ever understanding a thing.
There were a few exceptions to my inability to truly connect with these subjects. I had a pretty good grasp on Biochemistry because it was all related to Biology. I also had an Astronomy class from an adjunct professor (who worked at Morton Thiokol by day). He made the aspects of Physics we discussed so fascinating that I owe him entirely for my mind taking up the idea of majoring in anything other than English (I love English, I’d just never ever thought of myself as someone who might enjoy, much less understand, anything sciencey). Although it is all very blurry now, he was so excited and animated as he told us a little about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and a little something about Quantum Mechanics that it was all I could talk about for days after. Now it is all lost and jumbled somewhere in my mind so that I could only mumble something about time slowing down and something happening to mass and length as you reach the speed of light (which all of us in the class were eager to do – while we left a twin behind on earth to see the differences in how we’d age etc.). There was also something about electrons existing and not existing as they jumped energy levels – I don’t know, but I liked whatever it was.
The one concept that I held nearest to my heart in Chemistry or possibly Physics (one of those “science” classes that weren’t “my science”) was Entropy. I don’t think we spent a great deal of time on it. It had something to do with energy and disorder and chaos and things naturally tending to head in that direction, and it all struck me as perfectly easy to understand (not in any way related to what the teacher was talking about, but related to life in general drifting toward chaos). As I’ve become a mother and tried to make some efforts toward maintaining order in my home, the word “entropy” keeps flitting into my mind.
I read a little on entropy the other day to see just what it really was. And, with out knowing physics lingo, I can’t be sure, but it would appear that it relates somehow to the concept that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Apparently, the Law of Entropy does not state that order must always decrease (as many have wrongly assumed). In fact, what I read stated that “it is possible for a closed system to produce order, even highly elaborate order, so long as there is greater increase in disorder somewhere else in the system.” Now, there is the key. No wonder this spoke to me so. I’m sure my home isn’t necessarily a “closed system,” and I doubt entropy was meant to apply to the chaos of our homes and lives . . . or maybe it is. It makes perfect sense. Yes, you may produce “even highly elaborate order” somewhere in your home, but it must then always follow that there will be a larger increase in disorder somewhere else in your home. I could apply this to so many aspects of my life. I am not sure if it makes me feel better or worse about how things go, but at least I know the fault doesn't simply lie with me -- it’s chemistry . . . or maybe physics. Either way, it’s a law of the Universe and there is no use fighting it.