I sent a copy of my collection of poems and essays, Could a “Heat Death” be Necessary for Life? to New Mexico physicist and writer, Dave Thomas, written under my pen name of Kane S. Latranz. I was honored when he invited me to speak at the November meeting of New Mexicans for Science and Reason about how the theoretical heat death lends to the existence of Earth and life, and how the second law of thermodynamics, commonly abbreviated as entropy, supports our existence.
I'm not attached to the heat death concept, also called the big freeze, but it is currently the most accepted theory for a final state for the universe. Much of the point of the title essay is that I've never found any mention that Earth and life appear to be aspects of a very early stage of the heat death in progress, although this seemingly counter-intuitive notion becomes fairly obvious.
In thermodynamics, concentrated heat energy, such as the chemical heat potential in a full gas tank, is “order.” Expended gasoline dissipated in fumes from the exhaust as the fuel supply diminishes is entropy; thermodynamic “disorder.”
The empty space of the cosmos is extremely cold, contrasted by intense heat from stars, those stars liken-able to a fuel supply for the universe. It is expected that no new stars will form some 100 trillion years from now. When the last stars are expended, the universe will be like an empty gas tank, the stars having dissipated their heat energy in the cold void of space. The temperature will be in a state of comparative equilibrium, no longer characterized by extremes of hot stars and cold space. At the same time as this is equilibrium, it is a condition of maximum entropy and thermodynamic disorder. A cold universe without stars cannot support life, such as the sun supporting life on Earth.
In my talk, I mentioned how Stephen Hawking's, The Theory of Everything includes his example of mixing 2 types of molecules as entropy, and disorder. This made me think of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen and oxygen cannot bond without mixing. By that definition, if the disorder of entropy is not understood in a very specific thermodynamic context, the existence of H2O, which could not come about without mixing, would qualify as disorder. Never mind that we could not exist without water!
Another concept I learned from that book is the arrow of time. A water glass falls off a table and shatters on the floor. The fact that it will not reform up on the table demonstrates that time moves only forward, not in reverse.
By applying time's arrow, that represents the one-way street of time in terms of irreversible processes, in many different ways, I realized that entropy facilitates evolution and life at every turn. Eventually I found many of my realizations, shy of the heat death itself, corroborated by the work of retired chemistry professor, Frank Lambert, who has recently had entropy redefined in over 30 text books, no longer by the confusing term of disorder, but as energy dispersal.
e=mc2. All matter, being energy, includes some measure of heat, so entropy as heat loss applies to the finite nature of all forms. Harvesting plants and animals is an irreversible process without which we could not exist. You cannot un-slaughter a cow or un-harvest wheat. Time's arrow, and entropy. I gave many examples, from the death and replacement of cells in our bodies that extends our lifespans to the creation of fertile soil from decay. You cannot un-burn gasoline. Cars, among all forms of transportation, as well as energy-driven industry, technology, and manufacturing, would not function without directed entropy.
The late Dr. Carl Sagan famously said “We are star stuff.” What many do not seem to realize is that star “stuff” comes from stars that have aged, processing their hydrogen fuel into things like carbon, which is an irreversible process, and stars that have died in a supernova to make that life stuff available. (Think of a water glass shattering on the floor.) The death of stars is a progression toward the heat death in which there are no more stars burning at all, but the aging and death of stars is also necessary for our existence as “star stuff.” Therefore, a universe that ends in a heat death, itself, makes life possible. We, as a product of dead stars, are an aspect of an extremely early stage of that theoretical heat death in progress.
Please us text editor to correct styling. You copy pasted it from somewhere else that is why it is not showing correctly.
Yeah. Sorry. Thanks.
I will try to work on this some more in a bit but it should be at least readable now. Have to run. ._.
Ah, but how to explain crystalization in terms of entropy? (asked with tongue somewhat in cheek)
I will have to look into that. :) I did explore how Stephen Hawking's water glass came about in the first place, from the melting of silica sand, that sand being the result of crumbling quartz.
But crystallization is the opposite of crumbling. My answer would probably be that entropy is a trend or tendency, not a law applying to every single thing that happens in the universe.