Saturday, August 25, 2012

MATTHEW 7:3 to Josh Floyd & Frank L. Lambert : Lighten up !

Science's uncivil War : Part XXXCCCVIII

Not a second goes by, but without some hard scientist bristling at the (mis)use of the term of entropy by someone without a PhD in , and a career, in the hard sciences. The usual depressing "science turf war while the world burns"  poop -- or so it must seem.

By way of complete contrast, not an Eternity goes by without all the world's hard scientists all ignoring the far more egregious (mis)use of the First Law of Thermodynamics in areas like geology (shout out to Sir Charles Lyell) or in economics (shout out to almost everyone with tenure).

Ignoring beams to focus on moles usually signifies a much deeper mental issue, as my old shrink Dr Jesus would say .

I would suggest this is because the First Law of Thermodynamics paints quite a rosy picture of Man's ability - particularly Scientific Man - to profitably manipulate the Universe, while the Second Law of Thermodynamics  is much less hopeful in this respect.

The Constant - conscious - touting of the First Law of Thermodynamics, by scientists, as the fundamental law of all human activity is what convinced gullible lay people all those years back to pay basic scientists to just sit about and think,  rather than to put themselves out to work as traditional ,Non-U, hands-on inventors.

Replacing the First with the Second threatens paycheques, pensions and (above all)  prestige and this why I believe the Second Law is always attacked when used as a metaphor while the first law's foundational use in, of all things, the science of human behavior cum economics is ignored .

Here is how I describe entropy to friends and foes alike : in the form of a joke.

In fact, a classic good news / bad news joke.

See, a feller walks into the bar and tells all the patrons that "There is trillions of dollars worth of gold just lying about in the sea".

That's the good news, he says.

The patrons ask - in one voice : well what then is the bad news ?

But the silly feller just repeats what he told them.

"There is trillions of dollars worth of gold just lying about in the sea."

Yes indeed. There is lots of gold in the sea but unlike in a miner's mother lode, it is so finely and widely dispersed over such immense distances and depths that it effectively worthless --- actually worth far less than zero .

This is because it will cost more ( money=energy) to collect it than it is worth (gold=money=energy),  when it is sold to pay back the energy used to collect it.

Now entropy as useless because dispersed energy versus concentrated and hence useful energy is not strictly a case of "order versus disorder", at least to the 70,000 or so hard scientists who object strongly every time lay people use this metaphor to describe entropy to other lay people.

But unfortunately the 7 billion rest of us find it works - as a metaphor - just fine.

Why ? I blame Mom.

A Iraqi college inside a brick building is nice and orderly, till a big smart bomb enters and blows all those bricks into a fine powder and the desert winds scatter that dust all over the Middle East.

Dispersed and useless and messy and dirty : disorderly, as my Mom would say.

Hard scientists  - like Floyd and Lambert - apparently never had a Mom - or at least not one like mine.

 My Mom had a acute sense of "disorder" being defined as me scattering (dispersing as people with PhDs say) all my clothes all over the floor,  instead of hanging them up neatly and "orderly" in one corner of my closet.

My advice to Josh Floyd and Frank Lambert ?

Get some Metamucil , loosen up, have a beer, watch some TV and think back again to whatever metaphors that their Moms did use whenever little Frankie and Joshie's rooms were messy .....

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