Thursday, May 8, 2008

Entropy

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.

9 comments:

Gracie J said...

Apparently I know a little about science then, because I sometimes feel like I know a good deal about the "Entropy" which you've just described.

I love those professors who stick with you through the years because they were so good at making things clear or making things understandable or relatable (is that a word)?

It does still seem so sweet to me that you were just always so artsy and good at writing and then lo and behold, you just major in biology and minor in chemistry. My smart, smart science friend Nank.

Perla said...

You rock, sister, because that is really funny and yet it makes total sense to me. I think if a professor had ever described entropy to me like this then I might have tried to remember it longer (like you i managed to learn just enough to get A's on the tests and then quickly forgot it all--whoa--is my brain a closed system?). I am experiencing entropy right now as I try to clean my home for somebody to come see it tomorrow. The kids get all crazy because of this order that i have tried to perfectly create here. And yes, it is nice to know that my house is not my fault if there is not a high level of order on all levels at my house!

By the way, before anybody else says it, "Don't hate me just because I believe in Sciiience."

Perla said...

by the way, i think you are a genius.

Liz said...

This entropy thing does make sense. I am always so busy trying to keep the house clean and dinners made and closed washed and I never have time to just sit quietly and enjoy my kids. Maybe I should switch it up and let the chaos be on the house side of things and focus on creating order with my kids. That would really freak Jay out when he got home from work. He would wonder what happened to his clean freak wife.

Nancy said...

Geez, thanks for calling me smart and genius girls! YES!! P.S. WHy don't I know where your quote is from Shan?? I mean sure I know, "I love technology . . ." but what about the "don't hate me because I believe in sciience"?

BS and the Kids said...

I really can't believe you are trying to fool us into thinking that you aren't a smarty pants. I have studied with you and know that you are very gifted and smart and a hard worker and all of those things combined makes a very entropic mind (is that even a word?) I love the thoughts though. I love entropy as well. Thanks for putting my home into perspective for me. And the bitterness of a B+ is life-long. I know the feeling.

Perla said...

the "science quote" would be Esquelito from Nacho Libre. If you recall, he hated all the orphans in the whole world and only believed in science, but its ok because nacho came up and baptized him before one of their matches and in the end esquelito even liked orphans

Heeere's J-dude: said...

One time in college I was getting a bad grade in one of your science classes - or not one of your science classes - I forget which after just reading about it....anyway, I met with the prof in his office and as he was explaining the concept I seemed to not be grasping I looked up to the ceiling and saw a hugomongo glob suspended from said ceiling. Without realizing it I interrupted whatever it was that I was not understanding/not listening to and exclaimed "WHAT IS THAT???" and yes,I spoke in capital letters. He did not even blink an eye to the fact that I had so rudely interrupted him but just kept right on talking and explaining the concept that I was most certainly failing. And then as annoyed as ever as he finished his explanation he ended with "And that, my dear, is a cow stomach!"

And when I read this post about your entropy and didn't understand it any more than any other science concept I have ever studied I almost had the impulse to just click on 'comment' and randomly ask...

"WHAT IS THAT???"

And you would have responded to me, your dear blogger friend, that it was a cow stomach, or something closely related - because it seems to me that anyone that has smarts in science could use that answer and it would apply very aptly.

And you will just have to arm wrestle Shanners for who gets to be my BFF. Right now, I'm with the professor - we, and the cow stomach, are tight. But I think the prof died not too long ago so, ya know, you guys will just have to figure it out. But Shan might die tonight in her nighty taking pics of druggies, so maybe save your strength and wait for tomorrow to see what happens.

Mugsy said...

I yi yi, All you need with this completely complex post (at least complex to sister dumb dumb) is a picture of you with your awesome glasses. The same glasses, I might add, that helped keep you so pure and perfect for when Mike came along and somehow saw past the beautiful windows you wore. Hee hee....JK

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...