The Second Law is full of Ignorance and is Widley Misunderstood

"In this direction, the second law of thermodynamics, as famously enunciated by Rudolf Clausius in 1865, states that: 'The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.'"

This shows the ignorance of the second law even by the founders of it. That forumulation of the law says entropy must head toward the maximum. Clausius said it himself.

A humorous revision to the second law would be
"The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum, except in cases where entropy is protected in a low entropy state for millions of years, i.e. oil and coal reserves during dinosaur times".

The second law is confusing, widely misunderstood, widely mis-stated, and full of ignorance unfortunately. Even physicists at top educational institutions don't fully understand the second law since there are so many generalizations about it and so many formulations. In a way, the second law is similar to trying to understand quantum mechanics (but maybe not as difficult). If you think you understand the second law, you don't understand the second law. (inspired by Richard Feynman's quote on quantum mechanics).

The oil reserves we had underground temporarily withold the total maximum entropy of the universe to a less maximum one (i.e. entropy is slowed significantly) because we must include ALL parts of the system added together All "local" entropy decreases such as low entropy oil/coal sitting in earth before humans burn it must be included as slowing down the entropy of the universe. These entropy "holds", like coal and oil which are protected by ordered rocks and soil, decreases the ability of the entropy to head toward maximum, compared to if it had gone to maximum entropy through e=mc2 or through a burning fire. This leads to not a maximum increase in entropy but less of an increase. When someone says the entropy of a closed system cannot decrease, they aren't informing you that it can be severely slowed down. What are they comparing it to and at what time did they pause the universe and calculate total entropy? What if the universe is an open system and has energy feeding in from the multiverse? It's even possible in a closed system that a whole bunch of microscopic violations of the second law improbably lower the total entropy of the universe and reverse it for a nano second or more, but it is unlikely.

The internet is full of low entropy information, which is far more useful information than photons from the sun - so when sunlight shines down and effectively creates the internet, are we saying that photons are lower entropy than the internet, and the internet is in a higher entropy state than photons ramming at the earth? Is entropy subjective where we find the information on the internet far more useful than a bunch of photons ramming into earth. The reason I mention the sun and photons is because the internet ultimately had to generate low entropy from another source of low entropy ... and our only major input of energy to earth is the sun. But photons coming from the sun aren't exactly spectacular information, they are just simple photons ramming into earth - so how does simple photons become low entropy extremely organized internet information?

The second law is utterly misunderstood with people claiming that "only local entropy decreases, and all entropy overall increases to a maximum", when in fact a local entropy decrease such as low entropy oil being locked inside earth underground, is a virtually permanent entropy decrease of the whole system compared to a universe with just a constant nuclear fire all over. (eventually an asteroid hits the earth and burns Oil and coal up into high entropy - but we can't ignore the fact that for 1 million years oil may sit underground in a low entropy state unaffected, temporarily decreasing entropy of one section of the universe - and the total entropy is the sum of all parts of the universe). In other words entropy doesn't always tend toward maximum, it sometimes slows down not to maximum (overall entropy still increases, but not to an absolute maximum).

If entropy tended toward a maximum, all particles would be undergoing e=mc2 really fast and producing tons of entropy. In actuality, "tends toward a maximum" is like saying "sometimes, depending on, if, but". The word "tends" is simply a loophole and is a vague non rigorous word used in the second law.

It's pretty much obvious that over all entropy tends to increase over time - this is patronizing and almost everyone knows that. What is misunderstood is the fact that long periods of low entropy can exist, such as low entropy oil sitting underground (or coal) for millions of years, unaffected. Oil and coal, which are actually just compressed plant material, DID NOT radiate the entropy back into the universe immediately and maximally (entropy did not tend toward a maximum, in fact it tended to less of a maximum). The oil got packed down underground until someone digs it up and burns it. But in dinosaur times... no one dug underground and burned oil and coal because no human existed during that time, hence a long low entropy hold for millions of years. Overall, it is a small dent in the entropy of the entire universe, but it still is a dent. Therefore entropy does not always tend toward a maximum, sometimes it tends toward less of a maximum for millions of years. What is stopping oil from being burned to a maximum? Oil is protected by order - rocks, soil, etc. cover the oil and protect it from being burnt in a forest fire or similar. In fact, oil/coal is not even as flammable as gasoline.. making oil and coal hold low entropy for a longer time due to chemical order and properties.

The internet (organized low entropy database of information) is also protected by continual mirrors, backups, and archives. Indeed it takes energy to continually power a web server and create copies of the information (so it doesn't become corrupted), but if this energy came from the sun, and those low entropy photons are what we are using to ultimately keep our internet database alive, are we certain that simple photons ramming the earth is as low entropy as organized english information and mathematical texts? I'm not necessarily arguing for a second law violation (i.e. does the internet violate the second law), but what I am arguing is that there must be extremely low entropy in photon light, which allows seemingly lower entropy internet information to exist. Going from low entropy (simple photons) to thousands of pages of english text and mathematics, seems like we are going from low entropy to even lower entropy.. I use the word "seems", because obviously there is likely not a second law violation. There may be a paradox, or a subjective entropy.

One has to wonder whether the information in all our text books and the internet that ever existed, is more useful information and lower entropy than basic sun light photons ramming the earth.. Even if it was billions of photons in a low entropy state required to power the internet and all our text books, those billions of photons don't seem like very useful information or lowest entropy, compared to the extremely low entropy organized internet. True, the internet also has a few high entropy spots (spam, misinformation) but just take a look at a scientific journal website and ask yourself: how could simple photons ramming down at earth turn into such low entropy information? The photons would have to be lower entropy to begin with. Are they? They don't seem as low entropy (again using the word "seem") compared to structured english, programming languages, mathematical texts, etc.

If entropy is somewhat subjective, then the sun photons must not be very subjectively low entropy compared to our internet information which is very low entropy. Humans, find language, mathematical texts, and other pages on the internet far more useful information than simple photons coming from the sun ramming down at earth.

How was this order of the internet and our mathematics, and powerful computer programming languages just created, if photons simply rammed down on earth without being super low entropy mathematics texts themselves? One would have to believe (or scientifically verify) that all our mathematical texts and all other information ever created, is higher entropy, compared to simple photons ramming down at earth semi randomly (the photons are indeed "directed" motion, but still they randomly bounce and move all sorts of places - just because you have a can of photons, doesn't mean those photons should just spontaneously become Shakespeare articles - the key required is all sorts of structure and order to collect the photons and do something with them).

Even if the internet and all our information violated the second law (which it likely doesn't) this is not a reason to invoke a God. Science would just have to be updated in order to understand entropy further. God of the gaps doesn't explain much. Another interesting read is "Negentropy" pieces by Schrodinger.

© 2012-15 Larry Olson http://olsonb.com    Email: mail at olsonb dot com