More Thoughts on Messy Room Entropy Dust Falling Drops Falling

When you walk into a room and find dust on the furniture, as a physicist you might think "high entropy state, no one has cleaned this mess".

Dust is unwanted material sitting on furniture, shelves, and the floor. It appears to be high entropy (analogy) since over time it takes energy to clean up this mess (dust the shelves). It also takes energy to make low entropy states.

However consider water drops falling. Is this a case once again of subjective high entropy (another man's junk is another man's treasure)... If water falls down and you collect the water drops on furniture, or in bowls, this could save your life if you were dehydrated. On the same token, if there was a dust eating bug or insect that could digest or somehow utilize dust, the dust falling on furniture over a period of a month would actually save the bug's life. The more messy dust that accumulates on the furniture, the bigger and tastier meal the bug gets.

So it appears high entropy messes can be subjective. One man's mess is another man's meal.

This of course is dangerous to use analogies in physics as obviously dust and messes have little to do with actual particle physics fundamentals. Still, physicists use the messy room analogy all the time to describe entropy.

Imagine millions of years of dust falls and everyone keeps throwing it in the garbage cursing the dust, as it is extremely obnoxious and a great annoyance. Then some chemist finds that dust actually contains a cure for some disease if you extract from the dust, a chemical found in almost all dust... (this is all hypothetical). It's similar to canola, which is a weed, normally useless... up until the point where you extract oil from canola and then the weed becomes very useful, possibly even solving some world hunger issues.

I am not proposing dust is of any use to us, I still find it extremely obnoxious and useless. However, why is it we consider dust on shelves a mess - which is just particles collecting over time on a surface, but when water drops fall in a campground into someone's bowl, and that camper is dehydrated, that's not a problem? Is entropy in these cases subjective? If a dust eating bug on a surface needs dust to lower its entropy (survive) since it digests it, is dust not considered a mess to the bug but actually a low entropy feast of high quality food?

Again I will warn that this article has little to do with physics fundamentals and more to do with laymen entropy. Another man's mess is another man's treasure.

The other interesting area of discussion regarding entropy, which I may have discussed elsewhere on this site in another article, is accents of different people in different countries. If you cannot understand the words coming out of someone's mouth because of their accent, it seems the words coming out of their mouths are high entropy (disorganized). But yet if you take that same person and have them speak to someone in their own country very familiar with that accent, that person finds the conversation low entropy (easy to understand, all information transferred in an organized state). Is this another case of subjective entropy? One man's information (with british accent) is junk to a francophone.... but to a Brit it's perfect langauge?

How does all this relate to information theory, if to some receivers, information is high entropy, but to another receiver that same exact information is low entropy? It depends on the software (de-encrypter) installed on the human brain I suppose.

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