Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thoughts and Thermodynamics

(Warning: long post about thermodynamics and theists using it against me!!!)
Sometimes I just feel an urge to make a post of talk about atheism or something similar. I've kind of been out of the 'atheist' mood for 3 months, but now I'm getting back into it.

Watched Collision, and I enjoyed it. Nice collage of Hitchen's things said with a preacher who had a couple interesting points. About to watch The Nature of Existence. Also finished reading God and His Demons by Parenti, which I'll talk about once I finish The End of Faith and whatever third atheist book before making another book post. But I have to say the book was good, Parenti basically makes his points by listing off dozen after dozen after dozens of examples from history of how religion or the idea of God is bad and used for bad things. He isn't an anti-theist; he, like me, supports moderate religion where it's good, but for him there is still not enough moderate religion and far too much fundamentalism in the world. Good read.

For anyone who believes in the Bible I don't think they have any right in trying to compare me to Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Jeremy from Reasonable Doubts in a debate humorously brought this point up and made me laugh, for someone who believes in a book and God who routinely asks for genocide, murder, and in the off-chance of not wanting annihilation, rape, to condemn atheism based on genocide is hypocrisy at its best. Second since when should atheism be compared to religion in the first place? And for new atheists isn't science and inquiry and freethought a major part of who we are, atheism being another facet of that? Another component? Why should we care about Stalin or Mao who obviously raised societies as dogmatic and close-minded as any theocracy?

And Hitler is out, at least Christian till 1939, anti-atheist till he died, was into all kinds of crazy things, both sides should give up on him, all he proves is how you can use religion to continue genocide and dogmatism.

I've been reading up on Science! and I'm enjoying it. I've been studying thermodynamics, though it wasn't my intention when I went out. I have actually had the argument of the second law of thermo. thrown at me, by my home-teachers last summer, or June, right before, or right after, the bishop came by. The argument goes something like this:

Do you understand the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (or Law of Entropy) that states: an expression of the tendency that over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential equilibrate in an isolated physical system. This is thanks to Wikipedia.

The question continues with "if we closed off this room and came back a million years later, would it be more ordered or less ordered than how we left it?" When I received this question nearly a year and a half ago I was like, "oh, well gee, God makes more sense."

Buzz! Wrong. But still ....

You can also read up on the law here, at this amazing very non-Christian site. Oh wait, it sounds like the site is postulating a God theory! Good gravy, how do you refute this?! There must be a way!

The quick answer is that we're not in a closed system. But I'm all about length, so ...

This is almost like Joseph Smith and the BoA with him translating hieroglyphs wrong from step 1. First, this is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The first law is this: energy can be transformed, i.e. changed from one form to another, but cannot be created nor destroyed. It is usually formulated by stating that the change in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of heat supplied to the system, minus the amount of work performed by the system on its surroundings. Also thanks to Wikipedia. What these are saying together is that you can't make a perpetual motion machine, and you can't get more energy out of what you put in. A standard car is only working at about 30% efficiency. Sad but true. Out of the 100% energy we put into our vehicles, only 30% is being properly used, a lot being expended on friction/heat with the tires, gasoline burning and engine mechanics, and air force.

Essentially = the universe is increasing in entropy and eventually will die.
Very bleak.

But it isn't talking about order and chaos. Or law and riot. It's talking about energy and heat. After the big bang everything was pretty hot, matter and energy were full of, well, energy. One thing to note is that matter and energy, as a property, are the same thing in different forms. And all kinds of forces are working with them, such as gravity, strong force, nuclear force, electromagnetic force, blablabla. And these forces work on each other, some 'stronger' than the rest. So, in the beginning protons and electrons and neutrons were moving around very quickly, and working very efficiently.

Once these particles slowed down in speed and cooled down in temperature could we finally have elements, from that large table in biology and physical science rooms. See before these particles were working to well and with too much energy, they needed to go down in their efficiency to form more complex, but less efficient, material. With noble gases coming into the fray we could then have stars. Now, my understanding is fuzzy here, but I am led to believe that the earliest stars didn't have planets and were usually very close to other stars. The way the universe was working then it allowed for elements to make stars in nebulae. And when stars died they would form new nebulae to make new stars, albeit less efficient ones.

Also, I should note, heat is being produced by all this and heat is one of the most least efficient forms of energy.

Once stars became the norm and space cooled down well below the freezing point we got that nice range for molecules to form which needed warmth but not extreme colds or hots. This allowed planets to form. I'll skip past how iron and nickle and such come out of this, or how life essentially can form in just about any system due to the prevalence of water in the universe (and how Venus and Mars probably had bacteria life in the least before their atmospheres messed up in simple but specific ways and worked in all other ways) but let's move on down the time-line.

Our sun will die and the planets will be torn apart, and in the result a new lesser star will form and new planets, with a decent degree of probability to support life, even if only for a short time. Repeat till we get dwarf suns and eventually die out in coldness.

Now, I use to think a big crunch was plausible for the universe, an infinite loop of big crunches followed by big bangs. However, the universe is spreading out rather than coming together. This is because gravitational pulls are not strong enough to beat the other forces in effect, and will eventually lead to our downfall.

And this is why:

Planets and suns, though complex, are more entropic than the particles after the big bang. They are less efficient. Heat does not last long. We had an abundance of heat for eons after the big bang, and it's been cooling ever since. This cooling allows for elements to form, suns, molecules, then planets. But it's always less efficient. Life is inefficient, it's always about obtaining enough energy to survive till the next time, and many species didn't make the cut. Complexity does not equal efficiency.

So for the question of the close room? First, they are applying the law to something it was never really talking about. And also, they are assuming that planets and stars are more ordered and efficient than what the universe had prior. In the sense of thermodynamics, no, planets are inefficient. Metals don't do much to keep energy going, they are more akin to a final cold product. Second, the room doesn't represent our solar system or galaxy or cluster. The sun feeds the earth, it isn't closed, the system is fed by other suns that have gone supernova, or matter floating around, allowing us to gather more resources. However, the universe seems to be a closed system and that's where it's true. If the room had a light in it, and we left it on it would be more correct to say we would come back into the room a million years later and find a much more complex space and light-bulb, but it just wouldn't be as bright.

Third, you could look at as a chart with x/y lines or coordinates. Entropy was somewhere near the bottom of y (being percentage) and order or efficiency was somewhere near the top. As the two lines go down x (time and space I guess) they head towards each other, eventually pass, and then replace each other on the other side of the graph.

Eventually all energy will be reduced to heat, spread out over the infinite wastes of space, and our universe will, theoretically, reach absolute zero. Cause heat is fickle and dissipates quickly. However, if we have the influence of other universes on any level, then we have a chance of surviving. Course, by 'we' I mean the universe, not the human race, cause I'm sure we'll wipe ourselves out much sooner than that.

All of this is more theoretical than proven. It may turn out that the universe is connected to other ones, or that some unknown force is acting and will lead the universe back into a big crunch. Think what you will, but know this - the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is no argument against atheism.

To quote Jim Jefferies, "And that's science!"


  1. Hi J-Dog! Very good post. Oh yeah, I was going to tell you this tonight but got distracted somehow. On Irreligiosophy when they debated the "Evidence 4 Faith" guys there was this really funny part where Leighton said, "I really respect you guys for not using that ridiculous thermodynamics argument" and then the evidence for faith guys were like, "Wait a second, that's a great argument!" and then Leighton has to go dismantle the argument. It was kinda funny.

  2. Lol. If you guys listen to the podcasts I recommend you will understand where I get some of my thoughts. I'm currently reading a book on energy and the beginning was all about thermodynamics and I thought I would share 'my point of view' on the topic. Thanks.

  3. I like this post.

    The 2nd law of thermodynamics is interesting because it's nothing more than statistics. Basically, if you have a container with a barrier in the middle with O2 molecules on one side and N2 molecules on the other, and then you remove the barrier, the number of possible states for the system given its random movement increases with time. Add these up, and all of the states that have O2 and N2 basically all mixed up are far more numerous than any that we'd call "ordered." Randomly choose a possible future state, and you'll probably come up with something "disordered."

    The funny thing about life is it is the epitome of entropic processes. Life exploits all available forms of energy around it and turns them into waste heat as it replicates itself. The once nice, ordered, mineral-covered surface of our planet has been ground into muck by biological processes. The amount of plant matter and animal flesh that must be destroyed and chemically reduced to produce everyone's favorite human eye is tremendous, and all but a tiny bit of that energy is lost to waste heat in the end.

  4. Dave - obviously you are someone who knows more about this than i do. the only hope i glean from thermodynamics is that as life we could possibly figure out a way to save our universe, if it is in fact a closed system.

    Also, to me, life 'seems' more organized but also less efficient than what we had at the beginning. what are your thoughts?

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