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Talk:Second Law of Thermodynamics

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The Second Law of Thermodynamics article was unprotected on 19 March 2007 by Tsumetai (talk)

Protection and other issues

The trend towards protecting articles by users in edit conflicts is worrisome. Furthermore, the protected version is simply wrong. One of the Conservapedia Commandments is that everything should be sourced. I therefore would very much like to know if there is any source for the claim that "he Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of the universe tends towards a maximum" This statement is wrong at multiple levels- the 2nd Law is about closed systems (or can be stated about open systems with a some tweaking of the consequent), it says nothing about the universe. Furthermore, tending towards a maximum doesn't even mean that the entropy levels can't decrease. For example, the sequence, 1,3,2,5,4,7,6,9,8... tends towards infinity but is not an increasing sequence. JoshuaZ 04:05, 4 March 2007 (EST)

Second law also says nothing about an upper bound to the entropy of a system; the entropy of the Universe could increase without limit, in principle, making the 'maximum' part wrong too.
To be fair to Philip, the increase of the Universe's entropy is a tendency, not an absolute. The total entropy of an isolated system can decrease; it's just hugely improbable on the scales we're used to dealing with. Quantum effects can lead to a decrease in entropy; one has to deal with a very small system over short periods of time to actually notice this, however. Arbitrarily large decreases in entropy are also possible, given sufficient time. This is true whether one is discussing the fluctuation theorems of QM, or good old-fashioned classical systems.
But these are not, strictly speaking, parts of the second law. Second law doesn't say anything about tendency. The rest of physics just says that second law is not absolute. So I don't think using the word 'tends' in the definition is very useful.
The main problem with the article is, of course, the part about evolution, which as Horace says is just wrong, and painfully so. It's a seductive argument to the layman; after all, entropy is all about order and disorder, and evolution clearly requires the production of order. Right?
Wrong, of course. The second law of thermodynamics is a statement about thermodynamic quantities; 'order' is not one. One can choose to define the term 'order' in thermodynamic terms, in which case the statement that the Universe must become, on net, more disordered over time is true, for certain definitions. But the price for that is rejecting one's intuitive understanding of what constitutes 'order' and 'disorder,' and going with the maths. By a thermodynamic definition of order, my hot chocolate is self-organizing as we speak. Therein lies the danger of describing esoteric physics in terms which carry the baggage of their lay definition. Better to stick with entropy, and check one's prejudices at the door.
Perhaps the simplest way to illustrate this is with a different statement of the second law; the Clausius statement, which reads:
It is impossible to construct a heat engine which, operating in a cycle, produces no effect other than the transfer of a quantity of heat from a colder to a hotter body.
Now, precisely which part of evolution violates that? This version of the second law makes it abundantly clear that we're talking about a specific, mathematically rigorous statement about heat flow, not some general philosophical statement about order and chaos. Tsumetai 07:51, 4 March 2007 (EST)
Oh, yes, I forgot to weigh in on the page protection issue. Tonya Harding strategy, right?
A while ago, I suggested to ASchlafly that a written policy on when page protection should be used, and for how long it should last would be helpful. Anyone else agree? Tsumetai 07:58, 4 March 2007 (EST)

The following is incorrect

From the article:

"It is impossible for the total entropy of an isolated system to decrease, therefore the universe is becoming more and more disordered. In this way the Second Law of Thermodynamics disproves evolution."

The first sentence is true, but the second is false. Evolution does not cause the total entropy in the universe to decrease, only local variations. By analogy, a fridge does not cool the universe, only a small part of it at the expense of the rest. Please correct this clear error to avoid the increasing levels of criticisms being levelled at this wiki. Nematocyte 07:45, 5 March 2007 (EST)

To add my thoughts on this: there are two errors in this article. First, the second law only applies to isolated systems, not to systems that are merely closed, let alone open. Then it becomes clear that the "disproving" of evolution by referring to the second law is severely flawed. There is nothing against a local decrease in entropy, as long as it is balanced by at least as large an increase elsewhere. Moreover, the assumption that evolution is directly linked to a decrease in thermodynamic entropy is not immediately obvious. I agree with Nematocyte that in its present state, this article will just serve to invite more criticism. PaulB 09:16, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
Strictly speaking, second law applies to all systems; for instance, consider the Clausius statement, which I posted up the page. No mention of an isolated system there. Tsumetai 12:01, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
That not what my stat.mech. text says ;-). Let's put it this way: the entropy formulation only applies to isolated systems. In fact, I think that the heat engine in the Clausius formulation should itself be taken as isolated. If we allow it to be (thermally or otherwise) coupled to anything else than a hot and a cold "temperature bath", I think we could make the heat flow up the temperature gradient, at the expense of course of something happening outside the engine. Of course, these thermal reservoirs are abstractions, etc. etc. Anyway, here as well, either we should take the system (engine) as isolated, or we should take it as the entire universe. Both cases are not going to help disprove evolution at any rate. PaulB 12:24, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
I think even the entropy formulation will work with open systems, so long as one takes care to quantify the entropy flow through the boundary. The requirement then becomes that entropy decrease within the boundary is no greater than the net entropy flow out of the system through the boundary. Tsumetai 12:37, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
I think it's effectively the same as looking at an isolated system made out of two parts, inside and outside, and applying the second law to the total system. But what you propose should indeed work. I hadn't thought of doing it that way. PaulB 13:04, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
Absolutely; you can always expand the boundary of an open system to obtain an isolated one, in principle. But it's very useful to be able to work with open systems, if the boundary terms can be computed, since it allows one to ignore entropy generation in the environment. Tsumetai 13:08, 13 March 2007 (EDT)

Time to unprotect

OK, it's been over a week now, and no one has attempted to defend the inclusion of such rubbish. Might we have the article unprotected so that those of us who actually understand elementary thermodynamics can fix it? Tsumetai 07:50, 12 March 2007 (EDT)

Nothing doing sir, the numbskulls are the experts. Who said Sri Lanka became independent in the 1970s, none other than the owner of this site! Zaheerabbas 02:12, 15 March 2007 (EDT)

Ressurection a violation?

I think we should add a section about the resurrection of Jesus and that it "technically" violates the second law of thermodynamics, but that since it was a miracle, it does not need to adhere to the second law. Thoughts?

...*blinks* Are there sources that are actually saying that? *honestly curious* --Sid 3050
I think the latter part is pretty obvious, and negates the need for the former. Tsumetai 11:58, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
Gonna back Tsumetai up on this one. Also, it's shocking and appalling that this article is protected while containing such tripe in the content of it.--AmesG 12:00, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
Not to mention the fact that in the ten days since criticisms were first raised, no one who supports the article in its current state has bothered to defend it.Tsumetai 12:03, 13 March 2007 (EDT)
Agreed. I'll leave a message on the protecting admin's Talk page, maybe it'll help. Talking on here doesn't seem to have any impact. =/ --Sid 3050 12:05, 13 March 2007 (EDT)

Oh, of course. Many intellectuals here! Long live the stone age numbskull army!!! Zaheerabbas 02:11, 15 March 2007 (EDT)

AmesG, aren't you the person who owns and wrote for the blog Submitted to a Candid World. Many people would find it shocking and appalling that several of your close friends are engaging in polyamory (See: Atheist leaders and immoral relationships). "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" - the Apostle Paul.
By the way, I noticed you stopped writing for your blog in late 2012. That saved you from writing about liberalism/progressivism/Darwinism having a very bad year in 2013.[1] I wouldn't start up your blog again in 2014. :) Conservative 21:36, 8 February 2014 (EST)

This law and evolution

Timothy Wallace wrote:

  • Evolutionist theory faces a problem in the second law, since the law is plainly understood to indicate (as does empirical observation) that things tend towards disorder, simplicity, randomness, and disorganization, while the theory insists that precisely the opposite has been taking place since the universe began (assuming it had a beginning).
  • Beginning with the “Big Bang” and the self-formation and expansion of space and matter, the evolutionist scenario declares that every structure, system, and relationship—down to every atom, molecule, and beyond—is the result of a loosely-defined, spontaneous self-assembly process of increasing organization and complexity, and a direct contradiction (i.e., theorized violation) of the second law. [2]

Comments? --Ed Poor 16:24, 3 April 2007 (EDT)

Its a considerable misunderstanding. Points:
  • The second law refers to the flow of heat, it is unclear how exactly that translates into "disorder" and "order" when applied to something like life.
  • The second law refers to closed systems, open systems are a much more complex processes and the "law" does not apply cleanly here. Life and Earth are open systems.
  • Evolution is essentially a favored random walk, these systems are able to produce violations of "disorder" all the time. For example any Monte Carlo method algorithm demonstrates this beautifully, you can reach local "maximum" and avoid "minimums" by using evolutionary algorithms and many other variations on the theme.
  • Complexity theory and Self-organizing systems also routinely violate the maxim that order can not be created from disorder. The sorts of things needed to produce an SOS or complex system are just the kinds of things we find in life.
Life is not a good place to be trying to appeal a mathematical description of heat. Etaroced 16:31, 3 April 2007 (EDT)

Also, applying the second law to evolution reflects a plain misunderstanding. Beings today are not "more perfect" than those that came before. Greater "perfection" may be a violation of the idea of entropy. However, evolved organisms are not more "perfect" than earlier organisms, since Darwin's point is that there is no biological level of "perfection." Evolved organisms don't violate entropy anymore than older organisms (a 20 year old relative to a 10 year old) do!-AmesGyo! 17:02, 3 April 2007 (EDT)

Ames, you're disagreeing with one of the best Renaissance minds, William Shakespeare:
  • "What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! ". - (Hamlet, Act II, Scene II).
Now, how does Evolution explain man evolving through an unguided process from one-celled organisms? --Ed Poor 17:56, 3 April 2007 (EDT)

Shakespeare is not a scientist. Science and art are different. I realize they may not be for creationists, which is shocking and kind of funny. But they are different in the real world.-AmesGyo! 18:15, 3 April 2007 (EDT)

Discuss here before deleting information

OK. I deleted the "three types of systems the Second Law can apply to," because it only applies to closed systems. I also deleted the claim that it disproves evolution and relativity, because it doesn't. Evolution is nonsense, but isn't disproved by the Second Law because EARTH IS NOT A CLOSED SYSTEM. As for relativity, the Second Law has no connection to it at all. This article is about one of the key laws of science, and if it's blatant nonsense the credibility of the whole site suffers. --DonauKind 23:47, 16 February 2012 (EST)

There is no such thing as a perfectly closed system, so your attempt to limit the important Second Law to closed systems is misplaced. The Second Law is far more meaningful than that.--Andy Schlafly 23:49, 16 February 2012 (EST)
Irrelevant. The Second Law only applies to closed systems. If a system isn't closed then energy can be added, thus reducing entropy. That is the MEANING of the Second Law. --DonauKind 23:52, 16 February 2012 (EST)
OK, give me a statement of the Second Law that works in an open system. --DonauKind 23:53, 16 February 2012 (EST)
Your approach would appear to limit the Second Law to something that doesn't exist. It's more meaningful than that. Its entry here explains its insight.--Andy Schlafly 23:58, 16 February 2012 (EST)
No ideal gas exists either, yet the Ideal Gas Law only applies to this non-existent hypothetical gas. --JoshuaB 00:00, 17 February 2012 (EST)
The Second Law isn't an insight. It's a description of energy available for work in a closed system. It doesn't have some deep meaning that can be applied to whatever you like. The Second Law is an accurate description of entropy (note: entropy, not disorder) in a closed system, and if ever a closed system is found then rest assured that overall entropy will not decrease inside it. But to say it disproves evolution is nonsense, especially when you yourself admit that Earth is NOT a closed system! --DonauKind 00:05, 17 February 2012 (EST)
And your point is ....? Attempts to limit the Ideal Gas Law to perfectly ideal gases would be misguided also.--Andy Schlafly 00:02, 17 February 2012 (EST)
Uh what? How can the Ideal Gas law be applied to something that isn't an ideal gas? --DonauKind 00:06, 17 February 2012 (EST)
The Ideal Gas Law has insights that extend beyond ideal gases. Ditto for the Second Law with respect to closed systems.--Andy Schlafly 00:10, 17 February 2012 (EST)
OK then, tell me an "insight" that the Second Law can bring to a system that is not closed. --DonauKind 00:14, 17 February 2012 (EST)
The entry explains this well.--Andy Schlafly 00:25, 17 February 2012 (EST)

After going back and re-reading the article a few times, I think I know where the confusion lies with some editors. It appears that the article is conflating the thermal definition of entropy with the information theory definition of entropy. This conflation allows the topic of "disorder" to arise. Which has absolutely nothing to do with thermaldynamics. The basic definition of thermal entropy is simply a measure of energy that is unusable to perform work in a system. How a law that breaks down in layman's terms to: "heat won't travel from a cooler body to a hotter body without an additional input of energy" or "no process is possible in which the sole result is the transfer of energy from a cooler to a hotter body" can be used to "disprove" evolution or relativity escapes me. --JoshuaB 02:19, 17 February 2012 (EST)

Perhaps this discussion sheds some light on Aschlafly's misconception of the 2nd law. AugustO 08:27, 17 February 2012 (EST)

The thing is, is that there is a link between thermodynamics and disorder. This is the tour de force result of statistical thermodynamics vs classical thermodynamics - i.e. that the macroscopic quantity which we can measure called "entropy" is related to the number of possible microstates the system can explore. As has been correctly pointed out, the problems start when we directly equate this with "information", or entropy as defined in information theory i.e. "Shannon entropy". This is an analogous concept, based on the fundamental information content of a system. But there isn't an equivalence between information-theoretic entropy and thermodynamic entropy. In the actual physical world, there is no need to directly connect the quantities of "disorder" and "information". This, in part, along with the more important facts that all these things apply to closed systems and the Earth is not a closed system, means that any argument based on how "entropy" disproves evolution due to some information argument is bogus. User:DanPW

Second Law and Evolution

I have removed the statement about the Second Law disproving evolution. It is pretty obvious that Mr. Schlafly does not have a correct understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and with all due respect, his inaccurate contributions to this article must be removed. From what I understand, Mr. Schlafly's reasoning is based on his belief that evolution is "disorder changing by itself into a more ordered state," which is not true. This has been explained in most of the above sections on this talk page, so I will not rehash arguments. I just expect a better explanation if the article is to be changed back to saying that the Second Law does disprove evolution.

I suspect that the Second Law does not disprove the theory of relativity either, but I have not looked into the arguments for or against this claim so I am leaving this in the article.

--Randall7 01:31, 9 June 2012 (EDT)

Your edit was reverted because the Second Law does ban disorder becoming more orderly, just as it bans heat spontaneously flowing to hotter locations. The theory of evolution is based on the contrary claim that random (disordered) mutations create greater order.--Andy Schlafly 01:35, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
In thermodynamic terms, the concept of "order" is not usually applied to the Second Law except in rigorous terms of "molecular ordering," which you have not made a clear connection to the theory of evolution. Also, you are ignoring the fact that the Second Law only applies to a closed system (and the Earth is not a closed system), which has been explained many times above. --Randall7 02:02, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
And just what is this "closed system" that the 2nd Law here has to be restricted to? Karajou 02:16, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
The standard thermodynamic definition of a closed system is one that cannot exchange mass with its surroundings. But in the context of Mr. Schlafly's assertions about the Second Law and evolution, his misunderstanding about the thermodynamic concept of order is even more significant. --Randall7 02:38, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
And why can't that happen on earth? Karajou 02:42, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
The Earth is actually pretty close to being a closed system, but obviously it is possible for matter to leave or enter the Earth's atmosphere. But the main problem with the Second Law being used as an argument against evolution is the claim that evolution requires "disorder changing by itself into a more ordered state" (this was most recently stated on Talk:Main_Page) and the idea that "disorder" (however that is defined) is always increasing. Mr. Schlafly has not provided any substantial evidence or explanation for this, and that is why I removed the claim about evolution from the article. --Randall7 03:05, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
You and everyone else above kept right on saying that earth is a closed system; now you're changing it to "pretty close to being a closed system"? Have you ever put together logs in a fireplace and watched them burn? Which was more complex: the logs assembled, or the ashes several hours later? Karajou 03:10, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
As I stated in my most recent 2 comments, the fact that the Earth is not a closed system is not as relevant to Mr. Schlafly's Second Law vs. evolution argument as is his concept of order. (And I do believe much of the discussion above on this talk page is not well focused.) I am not seeing the connection between your burning log example and evolution. Please elaborate. --Randall7 03:27, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
Now it's back to being a closed system? Did "pretty close" just disappear? Answer the question about the logs. Karajou 03:45, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
The logs are more complex; in the act of burning them, matter goes from an ordered state to a more disordered one, and energy is given off. Are you going to elaborate on how this relates to evolution as Randall asked? CWest 08:28, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
That is correct. Now explain why the 2nd Law only applies to a closed system. Those are your words, Randall7, and I expect you to answer it...not CWest. Karajou 12:41, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
The two statements that make up the foundation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics - the Kelvin-Planck statement and the Clausius statement - both describe systems that exchange heat and/or work with their surroundings, but not mass. But as I said before, my concern is less about the closed system argument and more about the abuse of the concept of "order" to claim that the Second Law disproves evolution. --Randall7 20:37, 9 June 2012 (EDT)

Several more questions, Mr. Randal7, because now you're drifting away from the "closed" system here.

1. Is iron more complex than rust? And when iron does rust, does it constitute an improvement, or a breakdown?
2. What happens to boiling water when you turn off the stove? Does it stay the same, or does it get cooler?
3. Is CWest's statement above correct, in that "matter goes from an ordered state to a more disordered one"? Does that statement apply only to the fireplace? Could it also apply to a freshly-cleaned living room, just prior to adding three eight-year-old spoiled brats with pop guns and a baby sitter unable to control the outcome? Karajou 03:25, 10 June 2012 (EDT)
I feel like this discussion is becoming less productive and more of a waste of time, but I'll answer the questions because I want to see how you relate them to the Second Law of Thermodynamics disproving evolution. (I so far have failed to see the connection.)
  1. Iron is generally less complex than rust. (Although "complex" is not a very precise term.) Iron is a single element, whereas rust can be a number of iron oxide or iron hydroxide compounds. Iron is usually much more homogeneous than rust. When iron rusts it is a chemical and thermodynamic improvement - it would not happen spontaneously if it were not energetically favorable. In practical terms, rusting is not an improvement because pure iron is more useful for structural or electrical applications, but pure iron does not usually stay pure for long because of its propensity to oxidate. This is why iron alloys are much more common.
  2. When the stove is turned off, boiling water cools as heat is transferred from the water to its cooler surroundings. Entropy is generated from this heat transfer.
  3. In the burning log example, it is true that "matter goes from an ordered state to a more disordered one," and there are plenty of other examples where this statement is true. There are also many instances where matter goes from a disordered state to a more ordered one, such as water freezing or magnetization. But in theses cases of matter becoming more ordered, net entropy of the matter and its surroundings will still never decrease. The statement could also apply to a room of spoiled brats, but in this case the term "order" is no longer being used in a thermodynamic or chemical sense.
--Randall7 15:27, 10 June 2012 (EDT)

My answers to Randall7

With regards to the iron, you are wrong. Rust is a breakdown; it is a disintegration of the iron itself. The rust can be stopped; the iron can be prevented from rusting further, but rust in and of itself can never be restored into iron. It goes one-way only. Likewise the water on the stove; take away the heat which makes the water boil, and the water temperature will drop to the lowest level possible, which one can call "room temperature". Likewise the fireplace logs, likewise the living room. One-way only. Complex to simple, order to disorder. It never, ever happens in reverse.

The 2nd Law of thermodynamics is the same way. You can restrict the 2nd Law to heating and/or energy concepts all you want, but the very core of this law is the same thing cited above: order always goes to disorder; complex always goes to simple. The 2nd Law may be about heat, but turn off the fire and what do you get? Water cooling down, heat cooling and dissipating, complex to simple, order to disorder. The fireplace scene has the heat, but the logs always end up as ashes. The ashes never turn back into logs.

And the final answer to the question "what does this have to do with evolution?". It was evolutionists who stated we should accept their scenario as to how life came to be: simple organisms evolved into more and more complex ones over time. Simple to complex; disorder to order. When making scientific investigations the very first step of the scientific method that must be followed is observation; a scientist has to observe what is going on, and every single minute of every day scientists and layman alike are observing the 2nd Law in action; no one can get away from it. Observation proves complex always goes to simple; observation proves order always goes to disorder. Observation, scientific or not, confirms the validity of the 2nd Law. The examples I posted above - the fireplace, the iron, the living room, the stove top - are perfect examples of the 2nd Law in action, closed system or not. It's impossible to go into reverse.

That is why we're going to post the impossibility of evolution on this website, vis-a-vis the 2nd Law. Case closed. Karajou 01:14, 12 June 2012 (EDT)

You make a good point that irreversibility is an unavoidable consequence of the Second Law. There is no such thing as a truly reversible process and all processes generate entropy. But your claim that "order always goes to disorder; complex always goes to simple" is absurd. More ordered/"complex" materials can be formed through work. ("Simple" and "complex" do not have rigorous thermodynamic definitions, by the way.) Otherwise every single ordered object would have to have existed existed exactly as it is since the beginning of time, or have existed in a larger or more ordered form. Organisms gain energy - the capacity do do work - by eating, respiring, photosynthesizing, or otherwise absorbing energy from their surroundings. This allows them to become more ordered or more "complex," but this is not in violation of the the Second Law because during their processes of converting energy and exerting work, net entropy is generated. --Randall7 23:57, 12 June 2012 (EDT)
Randall7, these organisms do take in food, use it as energy, and continue on with their lives, but their status as organisms remains unchanged until they cease the work; when that happens they wither away and die; they decompose, they turn to dust. Complex to simple, order to disorder. Karajou 00:03, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
I suppose that is true, but you did not refute anything I just said. --Randall7 00:11, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
If you can sit there and "suppose it is true", then I did refute everything you just said. Karajou 02:00, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
You seem to focus very much on the "withering away" part of the cycle. What about the observations of growing crystals, growing plants, growing children? Those processes do go from simple to complex - whether the complex states can exist forever (they can't) is not relevant, what's important is that these processes occur naturally. And they're not in contradiction to the second law either; e.g. in the case of crystal growth the evaporating water occupies a larger volume afterwards and hence has increased entropy. --FrederickT3 02:35, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
Frederick, "growing" crystals do not constitute life. Grown humans and plants are still the same species; I don't see children take on a totally different form when growing up into completely-normal adult human beings, and I don't see an acorn grow into anything other than an oak. You don't have a valid argument. Karajou 22:50, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
Oh, Frederick, don't forget to tell the viewing audience here that your "crystal" things are actually water-soluable; they dissolve in water, and reappear back into crystals when the water evaporates. Nothing to do with entropy, the 2nd Law, or the antics of trolling via China. Karajou 23:08, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
The physical processes that I mentioned are exactly the processes to which the Second Law applies. Growth of crystals is a very simple process that can be described quantitatively in much detail; it's a toy model for the growth of living beings (not evolution!). I used it to clarify the relationship between entropy and order: A crystal is an ordered state that arises naturally from the unordered state of a solution. This process is compatible with the Second Law, because if you take the entropy of the evaporated water into account, the entropy of the full system increases. Of course the crystal is water-soluble, and the dissolution is even the simpler process, because the increased entropy of the crystal's particles alone is sufficient to fulfil the Second Law. What it shows is that order can arise from disorder in full compliance with the Second Law. Which is just as well, because otherwise we wouldn't be here. God created the Second Law, and it allows His creation to grow and prosper. Now, evolution is not a thermodynamical process, the Second Law has no relevance to it and it is not a good argument against it. My point is that if we argue against evolution, we need the right arguments - forwarding wrong or irrelevant arguments, making up or arbitrarily changing the meaning of words will not help the cause. --FrederickT3 02:45, 14 June 2012 (EDT)
Now, I can concede your argument about the crystals, but only to a certain extent. It cannot be a model for living organisms because the crystals are lifeless. Evolution is not a thermodynamic process, but as I said above, the core point of the 2nd Law - and this is confirmed every day by direct observation - is that complex always goes to simple. Period. The explanations by scientists - and I stress the fact that they are nothing more than explanations - concerning evolution is that life came from simple cells which evolved into more and more complex life forms. It is on that context which violates the 2nd Law. Karajou 02:56, 14 June 2012 (EDT)

Discussion about order/disorder

Andy, how do you explain the growth of a crystal (an ordered arrangement of ions) from a solution (a disordered arrangement), if "the Second Law does ban disorder becoming more orderly", as you say? --FrederickT3 03:39, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
Order is not really increasing when a crystal grows in a solution, or when water changes its phase and becomes ice. If the crystal or ice is melted again, then one back to where it started. This is no increase in order.--Andy Schlafly 19:53, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
Mr. Schlafly, it is clear that your concept of order differs from the thermodynamic concept of order. When water freezes, its entropy decreases and when ice melts, its entropy increases, but during these processes the entropy of the water's surroundings also increase/decrease (such that total net change in entropy is never negative, and in reality is net positive). I would like to hear an explanation of how changes in "order" during evolution relate to the actual Second Law of Thermodynamics. --Randall7 20:37, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
Mr. Schlafly, are you honestly suggesting there is no change in entropy when water melts? --MatthewQ 01:57, 10 June 2012 (EDT)
That's a question about semantics - the answer depends entirely on how one decides to define "entropy".--Andy Schlafly 01:01, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
Entropy has a very clear definition which you can look up in any textbook on thermodynamics. According to that definition, the entropy changes (increases) when water/ice melts. And of course a clear definition is prerequisite to being able to formulate and understand the second law properly in the first place. --FrederickT3 02:35, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
I'm aware of two definitions of entropy in the context of thermodynamics. The statistical entropy, S, of a system is defined as where is Boltzmann's constant and is the probability of the system to be in the ith microstate (this reduces to where when all the microstates are equiprobable and is the number of microstates). Alternatively, one has the thermodynamic definition of entropy where in an infinitesimal change in heat and is the temperature of the system. However, Boltzmann showed this was equivalent to the statistical entropy, so these two definitions are really just two different descriptions of the same thing. In any case, the second law of thermodynamics is talking about the statistical/thermodynamic entropy. It clearly changes when ice melts. If you have your own definition of entropy Mr. Schlafly that's fine, although it's confusing to use a word that already has a clear meaning and then use your particular definition in the talk page of the second law of thermodynamics. However, people here are using 'entropy' as its understood by actual scientists. What is your definition? --MatthewQ 22:00, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
I don't have any reason to doubt your formulas for entropy, and thanks for posting them. But for the purposes of the Second Law the dictionary definition for entropy works fine: a measure of disorder in a system. It's always increasing unless there is some kind of intelligent intervention, like God creating the world. Perhaps faith can operate to reduce entropy. Otherwise, without intervention or faith, disorder is always increasing, and the Second Law is an expressing of that logical truth. Otherwise a perpetual motion machine would be possible, and it is isn't.
Considering we're talking about physics the definition used by physicists should take precedent. But fine, often "a measure of disorder in a system" is used to define entropy for the layman. However, under this definition the entropy still increases when ice melts since the structure becomes less ordered. --MatthewQ 23:15, 13 June 2012 (EDT)
The melting of ice is simply a phase change to reflect the temperature. Refreeze the water and it's back to where it started. Observing water rather than ice is logically the same as observing the temperature on a nearby thermometer. This doesn't illustrate the basic truth that a perpetual motion machine is impossible. Do you think a perpetual motion machine -- one that that moves forever in a consistent manner without intelligent intervention -- may be possible?--Andy Schlafly 23:34, 13 June 2012 (EDT)

While this isn't really my area a scientific expertise, there are a few things I'd like to say.

1. Perhaps a "layman's dictionary" definition of entropy could get away with just saying it's a measure of disorder, but that really isn't good enough for a web site that prides itself on its articles on science and math. Look at the Banach-Tarski Paradox for an example of the sophistication we have. By the way, my Webster's New Twentieth Century (yeah, it's out of date) Dictionary is a layman's dictionary, albeit unabridged. It gives its first definition as "a thermodynamic measure of the amount of energy unavailable for work in a system undergoing change." In any case, if you use the hand-wavy "disorder" definition, you can't then talk about thermodynamics and the fact that entropy increases. You'd have to explain how the act of cleaning one's room, or sorting a deck of cards, doesn't violate the second law. Of course we know why it doesn't, but we can't explain that without at least some thermodynamic terms. One needs to understand the connection between decks of cards naturally becoming ordered when we shuffle them, and heat spontaneously flowing from a colder object to a warmer one. It's not simple.

2. The connection between iron and rust, and the connection between wood and ashes, is not one of "disintegration". Iron does not disintegrate when it rusts. (In fact, because of its place on the nuclear binding energy graph, iron is the most indestructible element that there is.) Iron combines with oxygen. That is a chemical reaction, and it can be reversed, though, unfortunately, it doesn't naturally reverse itself when rusty objects are left outside. An understanding of how chemical reactions work, and how they can be reversed, is the result of the hundreds of years of research, first by the alchemists, followed by the more careful research of people like Priestley, Lavoisier, Dalton, Scheele, Gay-Lussac, and many others.

3. The oxidation of wood to make ash (it's more complicated than that, actually) is another chemical reaction, and it is also reversible. Trees burn down all the time. The ash goes into the ground, and, eventually, the forest grows back. The cycle repeats again and again, all over the world. The change in entropy between water and ice also goes in cycles, every year. When water freezes in winter, the entropy goes down. When the ice thaws, it goes up. Repeatedly. The heat budget of the Sun-Earth system (warm in summer, cold in winter) is easily enough to drive the entropy of all of these reactions. The same thing is true of salts going between solution (disorder, and high entropy) and crystals (order, and low entropy.) The energy needed to make these reactions go back and forth is easily available, from, say, a Bunsen burner. Or just leaving something out to dry.

4. The same sort of thing happens in the field of biology. The transition from a bunch of amino acids (disordered system) into, say, a kidney (ordered system) can take place easily, because the necessary energy is available. By the way, the force involved in turning amino acids into kidneys is related to the force turning a salt solution into a crystal. The ribosomes that put an amino acid into place are acting under electrostatic forces, albeit in a much more complex pattern than a positive Sodium ion falling into place next to a negative Chlorine ion.

5. In discussing the second law, one must keep in mind that there are two kinds of hypothetical "perpetual motion machines." A "perpetual motion machine of the first kind" violates the first law of thermodynamics, that is, conservation of energy. It is what people usually think of when they talk about perpetual motion machines. A "perpetual motion machine of the second kind" violates the second law of thermodynamics. It makes a cold thing colder and a hot thing hotter, while conserving energy. That is, it moves heat "uphill" without any external energy source.

6. Biological evolution is, of course, more complicated than all that. Whether the second law makes biological evolution impossible is a complicated question, and I have to defer to scientists who have studied this in much more detail than I.

JudyJ 00:51, 14 June 2012 (EDT)

Thank you, JudyJ, for your context and your perspective. One thing I was a little confused about was the heat budget of the Sun-Earth system "driving" the entropy of the reactions you discussed. But I think your point about materials going back and forth between high- and low-entropy states is a good one. This is absolutely possible as long as the total entropy of the materials and their surroundings always increases (so this is not true reversibility in a thermodynamic sense). Even ashes can go back to logs, but this requires substantial work, changes at the atomic level, and usually many processes, all generating net entropy.
Mr. Schlafly, no one here is seriously arguing that perpetual motion machines are possible, so please stop bringing them up as a distraction. Instead, please address the substantial criticism of your position: Entropy/disorder is not always increasing everywhere all the time. Local decreases in entropy can occur without violating the Second Law. Simply saying that entropy or disorder is always increasing cannot be used as an argument against evolution because it is not always true - it is true for the universe as a whole, but not for every single thing in the universe. --Randall7 21:02, 14 June 2012 (EDT)
Nearly all processes, with a few exceptions that are easily explained (such as phase changes), are thermodynamically irreversible and thus generate an increase in disorder or entropy. Only intelligent intervention can preserve order. Do you agree with that? If so, theories that defy this Law are no more plausible than suggesting that heat can flow spontaneously to a warmer location.
The impossibility of a perpetual motion machine that keeps going with constant energy illustrates this. But notice how some deny, or won't admit, its impossibility. If you agree this type of perpetual motion machine is impossible, then why do you think it is impossible, if not due to the Second Law?--Andy Schlafly 00:33, 15 June 2012 (EDT)
Why do you ignore half of what I'm trying to say? I do agree with almost everything you just wrote (although even phase changes are thermodynamically irreversible because they require heat transfer or some other irreversible factor). But that doesn't change the fact that individual objects/materials/subsystems can have decreases in entropy (increases in "order") even though overall net entropy increases. That is why you can't use the argument "everything becomes more disordered" as an argument against evolution. --Randall7 20:37, 15 June 2012 (EDT)
I repeatedly addressed the arguments, yet I don't recall any response anyone explaining why a perpetual motion machine is impossible. The reason is this: disorder is always increasing, except when there is intelligent intervention. This is the essence of the Second Law, and explains the many formulations, such as heat always flowing spontaneously to colder locations.--Andy Schlafly 00:23, 12 July 2012 (EDT)
Even if we ignore the unfalsifiable assertion about intelligent intervention, that is not the essence of the Second Law. Order can and does increase all the time without violating the Second Law. You know this, but you choose to ignore it for the purpose of making an ideological argument about another scientific theory that you have a history of misrepresenting.
I can see you've made up your mind about what Conservapedia's version of the Second Law is, so I will not argue further. --Randall7 19:20, 13 July 2012 (EDT)

This discussion has been dormant for a while. If no refutation of evolution is presented in the next few days based on a proper application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I will remove the part of the article in question.

--Randall7 13:56, 4 July 2012 (EDT)

Since it's been a while since any new argument has been presented, I removed the claim that the Second Law disproves evolution from the article. The above discussion makes it clear that this claim was being based on an incorrect understanding of the Second Law. Please do not re-add this claim unless you make a supporting argument on this talk page based on what the law actually says. --Randall7 19:03, 11 July 2012 (EDT)
Attempts to limit the insight of the Second Law are misplaced. A correct understanding of it does not try to limit its implications.--Andy Schlafly 00:24, 12 July 2012 (EDT)

Zero sum game ==Liberal abuse of the second law of thermodynamics==

A zero sum game is a mathematical game whereby the gains of one player is directly matched by the losses of another. This section mentions 'zero sum game' and then goes on to state something about increasing the gains of everyone.

What is discussed might be more accurately considered a type of Pareto effiency. A pareto improvement is one which causes no loss to other people. It has nothing to do with zero sum games. None of this has much to do with the 2nd law of thermodynamics, as far as I can infer. LucoDaw 00:22, 6 July 2012 (EDT)

The section is correct in stating that free-market economics is not a zero-sum game, and that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not a great analogy for natural resource economics. However, that does not necessarily mean that there are no limits to economic growth. Also, there is no evidence given that "it has become common in recent years for environmentalists to claim that the second law of thermodynamics implies limits to economic growth." (There is no indication that this is a widespread belief.) --Randall7 21:33, 6 July 2012 (EDT)

Perpetual Motion Machine

Mr. Schlafly recently reverted a change I made explaining the impossibility of a perpetual motion machine. I believe saying that "entropy will inevitably reduce the amount of energy available to keep the machine in motion" is a more precise explanation than saying that "entropy will inevitably derail the machine." The reason given for the reversion is "energy issues are not the only reason a perpetual motion machine is impossible." So I am wondering, what are the other issues? --Randall7 11:06, 29 September 2012 (EDT)

Mr. Schlafly, for many days I got no response from you here or on your talk page, so I decided to make some further improvements to the explanation of the impossibility of a perpetual motion machine. Now I see that these changes have been overwritten within hours. Setting aside the other changes you have made to the article, I fail to see how the current sentence about a perpetual motion machine is an improvement. It is so vague and imprecisely worded that it is almost useless in an encyclopedia article.
  • Why do you insist on using the word "derail" instead of describing what actually happens from a thermodynamic standpoint? (Increasing entropy decreases energy available to keep the machine in motion.)
  • The phrase "even if energy remains constant" is too vague. What energy? I believe you are referring to the total energy of the machine's system, implying that the system is isolated and the First Law of Thermodynamics holds true, but this is not very clear. Keep in mind that true hypothetical perpetual motion machines are isolated systems by definition.
--Randall7 16:52, 11 October 2012 (EDT)

100 billion

It is mentioned in the article that some estimate that the Earth can harbor 100 billion people. This seems like the kind of thing that should have an external link attached to it for those who want to know who "some" are. I don't know if the person who originally added that still has the relevant information handy.

I suspect the estimate comes from here. I fail to see how this issue relates to the second law, tho. PeterKa 05:01, 8 February 2014 (EST)
So is it something that should be trimmed from the article to keep it concise? The article does look like it meanders a bit (compared to, say, refrigerator). JamesWS 19:57, 8 February 2014 (EST)
IMO, the entire "liberal abuse" section is tangental at best and should be removed. Entropy doesn't directly relate to the issues of overpopulation or how many people the world can feed. PeterKa 01:25, 9 February 2014 (EST)
It does seem tangential, but it is placed lower in the entry. There is an appropriate reluctance to delete educational information that some may find to be enlightening.--Andy Schlafly 03:37, 9 February 2014 (EST)

Statistical Nature of the law

I just want to point out that the second law is statistical in nature, which has not really been discussed. Suppose you have a container with a partition separating two gases A and B. When the partition is removed, the entropy increases as the number of different microstates for this state is greater. It is possible that, just by chance, all the particles of gas A end up on one side and those of gas B on the other, so that it is the same state as when we started. Now there is only one microstate corresponding to this state, so the entropy has decreased. However, we never see this happen because the number of microstates for a more disordered system is vastly greater. My point is that it is wrong to say things like "heat always flows from hot to cold" or that "it is impossible for order to come from disorder". (Note that I'm not intentionally trying to quote anyone or say anything about evolution, I'm just talking about the physics)--bobklein 14:34, 2 August 2016 (EST)

It's interesting that a new user has come along with some new insights into the second law. Some people have, in the past, had difficulty editing that article. If this happens to you, feel free to edit my new page Essay:Commentary on Conservapedia's article on the second law of thermodynamics. SamHB (talk) 23:03, 2 August 2016 (EDT)

Recent reversion by User:Aschlafly

The introduction and part of the main body of the page was reverted to an older version by User:Aschlafly. I suggest some of it be changed back since some of the current version is wrong. For example "This principle correctly predicts that heat will never flow from a cold body to a warmer one" is clearly wrong, otherwise refrigerators would not function. The second law is not derived from quantum mechanics as the current introduction suggests, it may be better to refer to statistical mechanics. It may be better to put a bit more emphasis on the statistical nature of the law, that entropy can decrease in a closed system, but it is extremely unlikely, so not observed for all practical purposes. Richardm (talk) 09:42, 25 September 2016 (EDT)

This is not a scientific statement: "entropy can decrease in a closed system, but it is extremely unlikely, so not observed for all practical purposes." Statistical mechanics is a primitive, pre-quantum mechanics approach that leads some to make non-scientific claims, like the quoted one.
I will add "in the absence of intelligent intervention" to "This principle correctly predicts that heat will never flow from a cold body to a warmer one," although it is already implied.--Andy Schlafly (talk) 15:32, 25 September 2016 (EDT)

Could you explain why that statement is not scientific? I thought it was but might be wrong.

The uncertainty in qm is not the reason the second law exists. How is statistical mechanics primitive? It is a highly mathematical theory. Just because a theory does not include quantum effects does not make it useless and completely wrong (if that is what you are suggesting)

What other non-scientific claims does it make.Richardm (talk) 16:17, 25 September 2016 (EDT)

If a hypothesis is not falsifiable, then it is not scientific. The assertion that "entropy can decrease in a closed system, but it is extremely unlikely, so not observed for all practical purposes" is a belief, not science. The assertion is not falsifiable (or plausible with respect to the first clause).
Quantum mechanics is the reason the second law exists. Statistical mechanics was a primitive attempt at explanation prior to discovery of the quantum mechanics.--Andy Schlafly (talk) 19:00, 26 September 2016 (EDT)
No, the assertion is completely falsifiable. One can imagine doing experiments in which (under all the requirements of isolation) heat spontaneously moves from a colder body to a warmer one, cooling the former and warming the latter. It is not observed. It is a Statistical impossibility. So the statement of the second law effectively says "You will never observe heat flowing uphill." And we never do. It's as nice a case of theory matching observation as you can get.
No, it isn't really related to QM. Thermo makes no statement about where the randomness comes from; it simply hypothesizes randomness in the initial conditions, and indicates how that randomness unfolds in bulk matter. if QM continually pumps randomness into the system due to Heisenberg, that doesn't matter, and it is infinitesimal relative to the randomness that is continually being propagated around by molecular collisions.
SamHB (talk) 21:01, 26 September 2016 (EDT)
The hypothesis that "entropy can decrease in a closed system, but it is extremely unlikely, so not observed for all practical purposes" is not science, because it is not falsifiable. As to the point about quantum mechanics, it provides a better understanding of the Second Law than what predated QM.--Andy Schlafly (talk) 01:02, 27 September 2016 (EDT)

You haven't actually said why stat Mach is primitive compared to qm. Just because classical stat Mach doesn't include qm doesn't mean it is useless. Besides, the scale on which stat mechanics operates is too large for quantum effects to be significant.

Arguably it is falsifiable. Given a container containing chlorine and helium, you can work out the expected length of time for the two gases to separate (entropy decrease). Then work out the length of time such that the probability it doesn't happen is less than 1 in a million (or the 5 sigma needed to claim a discovery) and watch the container for that length of time. If it happens then entropy decrease in a closed system is possible otherwise you can claim it is not. Just because the time is impractical doesn't mean it is not falsifiable. Richardm (talk) 08:53, 27 September 2016 (EDT)

"the scale on which stat mechanics operates is too large for quantum effects to be significant" - not true. The underlying effects of quantum mechanics have an undeniable influence in increasing entropy at all scales.
The claim that the Second Law would not hold over infinite time periods is not falsifiable, and hence not science.--Andy Schlafly (talk) 12:03, 27 September 2016 (EDT)

Entropy can be defined as:

Where is the number of microstates that corresponds to a particular macrostate.

Suppose the gases are completely mixed, so the system has maximum entropy as it is in the macrostate with the greatest number of microstates. It is possible is it not that the gases could separate. This will have fewer microstates and so a lower entropy. Although this is unlikely, it is possible. Hence entropy can decrease in a closed system. Also I'm talking about finite time periods, not infinite. Richardm (talk) 12:49, 27 September 2016 (EDT)

Your assertion is less scientific than assertions in the Bible. Your assertion that "[i]t is possible ... that the gases could separate" is not falsifiable.--Andy Schlafly (talk) 14:01, 27 September 2016 (EDT)

To the person who wrote something here that got reverted and vaped

If I recall correctly, you were user "ILoveJesustoomuch", a name obviously intended for trolling. I don't think anyone would say the sentence "I love Jesus too much" in serious conversation. People routinely get blocked for that sort of thing. So I'm writing this for other people, perhaps more serious ones, who make edits such as yours. Perhaps we can help prevent things like this in the future.

Your point was to take exception to the claim that the Second Law disproves relativity. Your point is well taken, but there are two things to note about acceptable behavior here at CP.

  • People coming here, creating accounts, and posting things along the lines of "You people are a bunch of idiots" or "You people are all wrong" is very strongly frowned upon here. Perhaps most strongly of all by Andy Schlafly, who happens to own this site. People are expected to earn their reputation and bona fides with constructive edits, before getting into fights. Looking through the logs, one can find numerous instances of people violating this precept and being shown the door.
  • You need to know that there is a big difference, in scientific and mathematical articles at least, between what is above the Table of Contents (TOC) and what is below. The material above the TOC is the property of Andy. Ordinary people may not change it, however strongly they disagree. I have had a number of my above-TOC changes reverted by Andy. Material below the TOC is maintained by regular contributors, and is generally left alone if it is well-reasoned. Perhaps the best example of this is the end of the first paragraph of E=mc². See my short essay on my user page Reinhold Niebuhr Quote.

SamHB (talk) 16:34, 28 August 2018 (EDT)

The Theory of Relativity cannot be reconciled with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Search and both and the lack of reconciliation is striking. The Book of Genesis describes a fundamental underlying uncertainty; the Theory of Relativity denies it.--Andy Schlafly (talk) 19:15, 28 August 2018 (EDT)
I assume you meant "search for both ...". I did the search, and I don't see a "striking lack of reconciliation". In fact, the 1933 R. C. Tolman paper seems to show that people (much more knowledgeable than I) have thought about such a reconciliation, and have not come to the conclusion that one or the other of those theories must be false.
Whether Theory X and Theory Y are consistent with each other is not determined by doing a Google search for "Theory X" + "Theory Y". That's not how science works. SamHB (talk) 01:02, 29 August 2018 (EDT)