Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Enigmatic entropy

Have you ever heard the song "Return to innocence" by Enigma.I just love that song,for the eerie feeling of earthiness or ..I cant find the word...of the primeval..... that it brings,its lyrics,and most of all its theme.Have you seen the video of that song?Its the most creative video that I have ever seen.Now think of this.What is it that relates that song to thermodynamics and engines.I wanted to set this question in my Technical Quiz at Pragyan this year but I was scared off by others who said it was too random:) and too much like me:0,whatever that meant:)
Coming back to the question.Its a haunting video,which starts with an old man eating a poisoned fruit and dying.Thereafter it goes backward,with the fruit going back to the tree,the tree growing smaller,the man growing younger.Lots of other things-bread turning to wheat,a newly married couple with the wedding played backward,a notebook full of writing being "unwritten",all with glimpses of a Unicorn running backward all the while.It reminds me of what I read somewhere,that if we live life backward,it would end in an orgasm:)That sure is something to think about isnt it?:)(of course the video doesnt go as far back as that:))
The relation with thermodynamics is entropy-the dreaded term ..described loosely as the Second law of Thermodynamics.Entropy precludes the concept of reversible time,giving what is often termed as the 'arrow of time'.That is what prevents things from happenning backward.That is why you cant turn rice into paddy or bread into wheat,that is why time goes as it does. So that was the connection-that it was a thermodynamically unfeasible video that violated the IInd Law:)And not a bad question at all,I still think[;)]
There is lots more to say on entropy,but first more on the song.There is a school of thought that since time goes backward in the song,to understand what it really means ,you have to play the song backward.Well, one night in Topaz when myself and Somu were twiddling our thumbs,we did just that using CoolEdit.It was a pattern of rhythmic unearthly white noise for the most part,except for a small interval of a few seconds when you hear the words"Hell is nice".Thats why it is known as a song to the Anti Christ,the rumour we were trying to confirm.That track of a few seconds is still saved in Somu's computer;)
Returning to entropy,it is often taken as a measure of chaos,that like chaos which can only increase ,and never decrease,so is entropy .I will never forget the marvellous words that the HOD used in 3rd semester (it seems like aeons ago..) when closing the chapter on the second law.He likened entropy to a manifestation of divinity,and gave a brialliant analogy to the spoken word.Each word when spoken goes into the universe,and increases its entropy.And words once spoken cannot be recalled.This was a precis of what he said.Perhaps that is the basis of the adage speech is silvern,silence is golden?
Entropy is a rather subtle thing to understand,and it takes many readings before you come to appreciate its beauty,if you ever do.In fact the whole of Thermodynamics is rather abstruse,an opinion that will find many takers I am sure.That was the reason I balked at taking an Advanced course in ThermoD here.
Recently one of the profs here told us something interesting that bears out what we students have always felt.He quoted from a book titled (ironically), something like, The chequered history of ThermoD:)Apparently one of the reasons it appears to be difficult was that unlike other sciences which grew from mathematicians,this was developed mostly by skilled experimenters.They had to invent their own mathematics to expalin their results which is evinced by all its idiosyncrasies and confusing definitions of property,exact and inexact differentials and so on.In short its filled with traps for the unwary and there is nothing called lucidity in any book:)This view seems quite correct to me.
It is probably the hardest subject to explain to the layman.But I finally found one way.
To end my rant which seems to have digressed quite far from Enigma:),here is a wisecrack on the 3 Laws,(of thermoD, what else?:)
You will be able to appreciate it all the more if you know ThermoD.:)
1st law- You cant win
2nd law- You cant even break even.
3rd law- You cant get out of the game.

Probably as witty as it gets.How I wish I had come up with that.!!!!!!


Anonymous said...

the question was as chat as u :)


Soul said...

Did you look into string theory.. its quite fascinating...
Link it with thermodynamics... space time wraps and the arrow of time..

Its absurd.. but its worth a shot..

Entropy.. tendency.. randomness.. universe.. the end...

MaVeRicK said...


Thanks for the tip.. I guess the two of us have come a whole circle doing complete justice to those excruciating sessions of MU's banter we went through during college, although I must admit you have done most of it! ;-)

Remember the time, when we ended up asking seemingly profound questions? He blew us away casually with a contemptuous remark that it was all beyond the scope of our cognitive abilities to understand such concepts! ;-)

I guess we have come to terms with what he had to say, but we're yet to come to terms with the enigma called entropy! ;-)

Good job...

pritha said...

now THAT was a ride back home! "Return" to inncocence.. reversibility possible?!
You keep talking of entropy.. the thermodynamic arrow of time
I agree with you on almost all of it.. u have that strange subtle force in your writing as u do while talking.. if u were ever into debating, it wud be difficult for an opposing team mate to realise when he is being pulled over to ur side.. just coz the force with which u make ur point is handed in so gently! anyway, I kept expecting u to pop up the word T-symmetry.. since if time were perfectly symmetric then it would be possible to watch a movie and everything that happens in the movie would seem realistic whether it was played forwards or backwards as one wud define it.. T--> t=-t. That may not be what happens in ur video. coz ur video makes sense when played backwards only. entropy implies time as being asymmetrical wrt order of a system. time increase=more disorder. (now i know being from a particular "gharaana" bans me from saying entropy = disorder! but i'm not trying to define entropy.. not now atleast! i'm talking of time) The asymmetry of time in this sense can be used to distinguish between events of past and those of future. A sequence can be given to these events (time) depending on which event had greater disorder.
Now going back to your video. well it most definitely is showing the asymmetry of time. the entropy of all ur systems in ur video keeps reducing! a cup falls down and breaks. tries to achieve minimum state of energy and maximum entropy. but YOUR cup assembles from the shards of glasses and jumps back up. now imagine how much energy u got back! and extrapolate it to the orgasm!
good writing thoh.. love the subtlety of ur writing. and maybe u shud have seriously considered putting that question in the quiz ;-)