Thursday, November 10, 2011

Space, time and...entropy

After my two youngest sweeties were in bed last night, I managed to sit down for half an hour and watch the last half of Nova with AKD.  They were talking about space and time--pretty interesting stuff.

So one of the questions posed was why time only moves in one direction.  According to the laws of physics, it is possible for time to go backwards, so why doesn't it?  I shouted out the answer before the announcer had a chance to reveal it: it's because of my old enemy, entropy.

Very simply stated, entropy is the measure of disorder within a system, and entropy always increases.  In other words, everything always tends toward increasing chaos.  Well, I've certainly found that to be true in my life, haven't you?

Anyway, this Nova host dude said something amazing.  He said that entropy is not only increasing, but it is increasing at a faster and faster rate all the time.  That's right, my friends: entropy is accelerating.  If Leslie P. Leifer ever told us this, I must have been distracted at the time (no doubt by his losing his place while writing on the board--this, for sure, would have been something that would have made him turn around to peer blindly at his captive audience of p-chem students). 

Oh yes, it's so, so true!  I used to be able to bring order to my household on a fairly regular basis.  Now?  Not so much.  But now I know it's not just me (whew! what a relief!)--accelerating entropy is to blame.

So, the next question was why entropy only moves in one direction.  Well, my friends, according to physicists (my goodness, that's a lot of esses in that word), entropy, and time, only move in one direction, because they were set in motion by THE BIG BANG billions of years ago.  Billions of years ago, the universe was ordered and compact, but after that one moment in time, the universe started becoming disordered and expanding.

AKD took that moment to ask, "so why was the universe ordered in the first place?"  Wow talk about a {insert baseball analogy about an easy to hit pitch}.  I said to him, "in the beginning, God created..."  Oh, what a moment!  AKD replied, "oh...right," but I know it made an impact on him.  How else would an ordered universe have come to be?

So anyway, back to Nova.  Apparently, time had a beginning, and was set in motion a long, long ...time... ago.  And, according to physicists, time will end at some point, when entropy has run its course and everything is utterly disordered.  I found that to be kind of a disturbing thought, until I remembered (seconds later) that I've placed my hope in eternity.  Of course, time, as we know it, will cease to exist.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. ... 
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children."
Revelation 21: 1, 4-7

Well, there you have it, friends.  God in the beginning.  God in the end.  Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting!

    Except for a few points...
    (1) God is not an answer. God is purely a matter of belief and faith. I of course respect your religious views, so don't think I'm knocking them. However, saying "it was God" is tantamount to answering a mystery with another mystery. "Where did the universe come from?" "God created it!" "Where did God come from?" [crickets!] Of course, you might say that "God always was." Okay, but that's just begging the question. If God does not require a creator, then why should the universe? The fact is, there is absolutely no prima facie reason to believe that the universe has any discernable origin. We have no a priori indication that the universe had an origin. We have a strong a posteriori indication (the Big Bang Theory). However, granting the current state of physics, we really do not know enough to give any sort of answer. It is perfectly fine if that is your faith-based belief, but to declare that an authoritative answer is premature and reactionary. Really no different to ancients attributing rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, lightning, and thunder to the gods before the emergence of meteorology; or claiming that mountains were built by, and earthquakes started by gods before the discovery of plate tectonics.

    (2) Which brings up the next point. Has it occurred to you that the expansion of the universe is finite? That eventually expansion will stop and the universe will contract, becoming a singularity once again? Perhaps this is the explanation for the Big Bang. We inhabit a cyclic universe. The universe is eternal, but it is not eternal in the Newtonian sense, not an eternal, static universe. Each cycle or "incarnation" is finite, maybe a brief 100 billion years, but the universe expands and contracts over and over again ad infinitum.


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