Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Second law

Cartoon in last week's New Yorker: Kid in his incredibly messy bedroom says to his frowning mother at the door, "I blame entropy."

Well, yes. The universe is a mess, and destined to get messier all the time. That's what happens in isolated systems. Like a universe. Like a kid's room.

But here and there we buck the trend. We take advantage of not being in an isolated system. We take advantage of the fact that the Sun is getting messy big time to build pockets of order here on Earth. Sistine Chapels. Sewage systems. School houses.

Sun: debit. Earth: credit. Entropy enjoys the edge.

You want to know what life is? Life is a clever way nature has devised to go against the flow. To make messy rooms neat.

6CO2 + 6H2O + sunlight = C6H12O6 + 6O2       (photosynthesis)

C6H12O6 + 6CO2 = 6CO2 + 6H2O + Sistine Chapel       (respiration)

This paragraph bucks the trend. Instead of reading tghjsmnvsuishgrwq, you read this. A nice little grammatical sentence. Thanks, Sun.

But it's only temporary. The bits and bytes stored on my computer and Goggle's servers will eventually evaporate, get stirred back into randomness. Can you tell THIS -- 01010100 01001000 01001001 01010011 -- from this -- 0100100011 1100101 00110 10011101001? The first is ASCII code, the second is a messy room.

The Sun will burn out. The Earth will die. Before that happens I will be reduced to dust. Ashes to ashes. Mess to mess. I blame entropy.