From the second law of thermodynamics to the Law of Entropy

2016-01-31

There are two fundamental laws in thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics is the law of the conservation of energy. The energy of the universe is constant. The second law is the principle of maximum entropy. The entropy in an isolated system does not decrease.

1. What is the law of entropy?

I explained what entropy is at the previous issue, but you can understand this second law without understanding what entropy is, because it just physically explains the natural phenomenon that everyone knows in fact.

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A piece of ice will make boiling water lukewarm, but lukewarm water does not "self-organize" ice surrounded with boiling water. Heat flows irreversibly from a hot region to a cooler region. A glass full of water might fall from a table to be broken into pieces with water scattered, but you cannot expect glass fragments, gathering water, will of themselves get restored to their original condition and jump onto the table. Entropy increases or at least never decreases.

2. The law of entropy compensation

You must pay attention to the proviso of the second law "in an isolated system". An isolated system is a system that does not exchange any energy, substance or information with environment. A thermos bottle can be considered as a quasi-isolated system, but no system but the whole universe can be a perfectly isolated system. The second law does not apply to closed systems, which exchange energy and information with environment, nor to open systems, which exchange also substance with environment. In other words, when entropy decreases within a non-isolated system, it must be compensated for by much more increase in entropy in the environment.

If you stir water and oil, leaving them to themselves, oil will dissociate itself from water and seem to self-organize an order. However, if water and oil are stirred within an isolated system, since it does not emit any heat energy into which the movement energy is turned, the temperature of the system will go up and water and oil will remain mixed.

A refrigerator can lower the interior temperature and entropy by evaporating, which is only possible so long as the heat of condensation outside is compensated for the heat of vaporization inside. Moreover, refrigerators emit much heat, as they require electricity.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, the universe has tended toward the state of disorder ever since the Big Bang till the maximum thermal equilibrium is achieved. On the earth, however, against this trend of the universe, life evolves and human civilization seems to have made progress. This is because living things and civilization are open systems and they can decrease entropy, while the sun and the earth in their environment dissipate (namely increase entropy of) their low entropy resources. The living things and human civilization are systems that are enabled by increase in the entropy in the environment. We not only consume the low entropy resources gained from ingesting food like other animals, but also consume low entropy resources by combusting a fossil fuel and so on.

3. The non-thermodynamic law of entropy

Low entropy created by men is not confined to material resources such as bodies and buildings. The symbolic world created by us has also low entropy because information denies the disorder of meaninglessness. The difference between material systems and information systems consists in that the environment of the former is the physical exterior while that of the latter is virtual world of meaning.

As we are not ruled by instinct, we are free and exposed to indeterminate environment, so we must select our own conducts and reduce information entropy. The language through which we decrease information entropy is differentiated. For example, the concept of "right" is enabled by its negating concept "left". As the symbolic world is differentiated, referring to other possibilities, and therefore more excessive and complex than the actual world, we must reduce this complexity.

4. Three levels of negentropy

Negentropy can be classified under three patterns:

  1. The increase in entropy in the material environment creates the low entropy of material systems (usual cases of the second law).
  2. The increase in entropy in material environment also creates low entropy of information systems (breathing and metabolism enables information processing of our brains and electricity that of computers).
  3. The increase in entropy in information environment creates low entropy of information systems (denying meaninglessness and falsehood enables meaning).

Let’s illustrate the third pattern. A statement "Fascism is whether right or wrong" has no information value. "Fascism is right" is meaningful because it eliminates the other possibility "Fascism is wrong". There are two candidates of predicates for one subject and selecting one candidate makes the statement meaningful. But it does not prove the statement to be true.

Whether the statement is true or not is decided by the meta-level selection by social systems. Suppose a certain politician stood as a candidate for a president and campaign for fascism. Electors must select one candidate and reduce social entropy. If the politician is defeated in the election, it means that the subjective selection "Fascism is right" is not selected intersubjectively. In social systems, an order is created by such interselections.

5. The layer structure of the law

My conclusion is:

  1. Material systems enable their negentropy by maintaining less random motion of molecules than that of its environment.
  2. Information systems attain meaningfulness by eliminating other possibilities in the excess of differentiated meaning.
  3. Social systems form their order by excluding deviate agents and the undesirable alternative in the interselective indeterminacy.

The increase in social entropy means the increase in alternative ways of our behavior and this increase in freedom enables low entropy, that is to say, selecting a desirable way of life.