entropy-aint-what-it-used-to-be

A little later than I’d like for today. Had a moment last night where I realized my angle was flawed, and I struggled to bring it back around. The problem is in my straw-creationist in the first comic. While many of you informed me otherwise (thanks tweeters!), I have a feeling that the old “evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics” argument for creationism* has gone the way of the banana man.

My bad.

It all started the other day when I was trying to make sense of this article about the spontaneous organization of magnetic fields from plasma streams. As I understand it, the scientists at Lawrence Livermore were able to create a model of how magnetic fields shape plasma flows, with the implication of learning how these flows may have aided planet formation in young solar systems. If there was ever a need for an “Explain it to me like I’m five years old” hotline, it was when I was reading that article.

Not even a day after it was published, another article popped up that jumped to the conclusion that entropy was broken and therefore Jesus. Or so I thought. What they actually said was that entropy was broken and therefore “oh hey, order out of chaos isn’t so impossible anymore.”

My bad.

My reading comprehension snafu or not, the problem here is that order arising from chaos has been confused with a reversal of the arrow of time, which just won’t happen. Spontaneous order and emergent behavior—which a whole different monster from entropy—is fairly well studied, though poorly understood by the likes of me.

The confusion often comes into play due to the subjective nature of emergent behaviors. The ordered form of a snowflake is always there, it just takes a loss of energy and subsequent crystallization to see it. While a single snowflake is well ordered, a collection of snowflakes is a random mess.

Entropy is one of my favorite topics, so I was bummed I couldn’t come up with better jokes about it. Then again, my reason for liking it is in its bleak prospects, so I suppose my mind isn’t in the right place. Are you down with entropy? If not, let MC Hawking lay it down for you.

 

*It’s really more of a rebuttal against evolution. There really is no argument for creationism.