Ideas, Stories, and Profiles

One thing I’ve enjoyed learning about, lately, is the concept of entropy.

In the normal dictionary, entropy means a “state of disorder, confusion, and disorganisation.” In the science of physics, entropy is referred to as a measure of disorder or randomness in a system: the higher the entropy, the greater the disorder. And all this is at the heart of the second law of thermodynamics.

Entropy is an interesting concept because it explains why there are immensely more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. In a closed system (that is one without input of energy), entropy can only increase.

To better understand entropy, think of a living room that stays untouched for days — it becomes messy. Dust, insects, and other living organisms — if not worse — will take control and create disorder. In order to keep the room tidy and ordered (low entropy), somebody must put in some work. And, essentially, there are (extremely, extremely) very many ways in which the room can be in a disordered state as opposed to how many ways it can be in an ordered state.

Perhaps best to explain is Prof. Brian Cox, a great science communicator:

Entropy explains why, left to the mercy of the elements, mortar crumbles, glass shatters and buildings collapse. And a good way to understand how is to think of objects not a single things, but as been made up of many constituent parts.

In this compelling video, he makes it much more easy to grasp:

If you’re interested in understanding systems, this is an essential concept to understand. From a broad perspective, entropy makes the case for innovation (and much more) and why we keep things in order and why confusion and disorganisation cause chaos.

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