Dusting Our Entropy, or: Why Bother?

Duster bin
photo credit: gpshead

NTROPY HAS long been a compelling concept even to me, a dyed-in-the-wool, card carrying science failure. My Webster's Ninth New Collegiate offers several definitions of entropy, the easiest for me to grasp being #3: "the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity."

The completely obnoxious definition is #1b (italics mine): "A measure of the disorder of a closed thermodynamic system in terms of a constant multiple of the natural logarithm of the probability of the occurrence of a particular molecular arrangement of the system that by suitable choice of a constant reduces to the measure of unavailable energy."

I kid you not. A show of hands, please, for those who think this definition should be taken out back and introduced to a state of inert uniformity.

In case you're wondering what practical use the discussion of entropy may have in your life, what entropy has done for you lately, let me just point out that, as we speak, the top of your entertainment center is growing a layer of dust deep enough to support Mayan ruins.

This rather disgusting state of affairs exists because dust is not only a collection of skin cells and stray particles of matter. No siree Bob. Dust is a little bit of entropy itself, paying you a personal visit, sending you a cloudy reminder that as soon as you turn your back for one minute, the universe's urge to fall apart is going to get ugly.

Yes, entropy will plant permanent black speckles in your accordion lamp shades and establish real estate in the curlicues of your picture frames. As if that weren't enough, entropy will inspire small-appliance engineers to design little vents in everything, thus distorting time and space as evidenced by your driving repeatedly to Best Buy for replacements.

And you thought dust was your fault, that it was an indication of your laziness or tendency to shed. Au contraire. It is a universal law, like electromagnetism, or Madonna. Just as it is beyond the realm of possibility that future humans will be able to avoid a glimpse of The Material Girl's bottom in historical footage, so too shall a mere dust cloth fail to reverse the inexorable progress of entropy.

So don't be too hard on yourself. I've done a little research, and there happens to be a theory called The Amazing Entropy to Inert Object Ratio! which states that "the entropy upon any inert object cannot exceed pi of the logarithm² of the particulate of the solution in the vector of a constant in the universe minus the probability of suitable choices, more or less."

Put another way, this means that dust is, by universal principle, no more removable from your home than humor is from a Lutheran. Also, if you sit still long enough, it (entropy, not the Lutheran) will coat you rather nicely. This might embarrass you, but it will never kill you, as long as you do not breathe in too deeply by the nose—the human version of little vents—which leads right to your brain—the human version of expensive electronic parts—which no doctor—the human version of a small-appliance repair person—ever seems to carry a spare of.

At last we are all now liberated for more meaningful pursuits, such as willing our Chemistry report cards to science.