Entropy in Five Words or Less

I’ve been trying to make sense, lately, of what exactly entropy is. Entropy is apparently a very important concept applied by physicists to help explain the Big Picture, relating to the workings of the universe in sub-atomic terms. I guess it has something to do with heat distribution: how hotter things like the sun give off heat as energy which is absorbed by cooler things in an ongoing move toward systemic equilibrium.

When the Big Bang happened, so the story goes, entropy began, and, over time, continues to increase so that atomic configurations grow ever increasingly complex and chaotic which is the point in time we are right now. But, eventually all this chaotic complexity will blend together in a homogeneous soup and everything will return to a state of equilibrium as the last star blinks out.

Which all seems somewhat understandable, but then we’re told entropy continues to increase even though everything will have been reduced to undifferentiated matter, which is pretty hard to understand. And this is not to mention the idea that entropy measures the amount of work that CAN’T be done using available energy and the whole concept can be reduced to mathematical formulae.

So, my understanding of this illusive concept remains in the shadowy grays if not quite the complete dark, and I’m left with little choice other than reducing the concept to: the measure of change over time. I know this must be terribly simplistic but I’m pretty confident it’s all I really need to know about entropy.



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