On the Thermodynamic Equilibrium in the Universe
We live among glowing filaments of matter and energy, clustered together in a background of vast nothingness. Stars, planetary systems, galaxies, nebulae, black holes -- all are incredibly concentrated specks in the colossal void of space. If the entire universe can be understood as a thermodynamic system, this theory spells out the certain consequence. In the far distant future, all these hot heavy specks will all be spread out into the enormous cold void, mixing until everything is a thin uniform mist. Like boiling water added to a bowl of cold soup, the two extremes will balance out and leave lukewarm broth.
Heat death originated from the work of several prodigious physicists who began the study of understanding how machines transform heat into mechanical work. Lord Kelvin, Sadi Carnot, and others formed an empirical understanding of how steam engines and other suppliers of motive force do this. They discovered that the machines were harnessing the tendency of energy to flow from hot areas to cold ones.
Eventually, the entire system settles down to an intermediate temperature and no more net energy transfer occurs. This is the maximization of entropy. The stars will continue to give off heat from their superheated cores until around 10 to the 39th power years from now 1,,,,,,,,,,,,, This will be called The Black Hole Era. A similar fate awaits your website. At some point in the future, the project will be abandoned and your website will start to degrade.
Some websites die quickly.
2. The Problem of the Direction of Time I
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The second law is ruthless. The End I cannot guarantee that your website will be important to anyone in the far future of the Degenerate Era.
Physicist proposes a thermodynamic explanation for the origins of life
See all articles by Marcin Gorczyca. Did you like this article? Why not share it:. Author Marcin Gorczyca Read bio. After that point, no further changes involving the conversion of heat into useful work would be possible.
In general, the equilibrium state for an isolated system is precisely that state of maximum entropy. This is equivalent to an alternate definition for the term entropy as a measure of the disorder of a system, such that a completely random dispersion of elements corresponds to maximum entropy, or minimum information. See information theory: Entropy.
Thermodynamic Asymmetry in Time
For example, if a film showed a glass of warm water spontaneously changing into hot water with ice floating on top, it would immediately be apparent that the film was running backward because the process of heat flowing from warm water to hot water would violate the second law of thermodynamics. However, this obvious asymmetry between the forward and reverse directions for the flow of time does not persist at the level of fundamental interactions. An observer watching a film showing two water molecules colliding would not be able to tell whether the film was running forward or backward.
So what exactly is the connection between entropy and the second law? Recall that heat at the molecular level is the random kinetic energy of motion of molecules, and collisions between molecules provide the microscopic mechanism for transporting heat energy from one place to another. Because individual collisions are unchanged by reversing the direction of time, heat can flow just as well in one direction as the other.
Thus, from the point of view of fundamental interactions, there is nothing to prevent a chance event in which a number of slow-moving cold molecules happen to collect together in one place and form ice, while the surrounding water becomes hotter.
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Such chance events could be expected to occur from time to time in a vessel containing only a few water molecules.