Comments on the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

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The importance of this subject cannot be overstated

by Norm Crawford, B.S. Aerospace Engineering

I am an engineer that has worked in the area of thermodynamics and thermodynamic modeling for nearly 30 years. I am not saying that I am an expert in the field, but that I do have a great deal of experience in working with thermodynamics and have lectured on this subject frequently. In this short discussion I hope to make some of the concepts of the 2nd Law a bit less vague and clear up some confusion on a few matters.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is one of the more esoteric and least quantifiable of the known laws of the universe, and thus there is a great deal of confusion in even coming up with a precise definition of it.

Since it deals with energy, and since pretty much every physical process known to man deals with some type of energy transfer, the 2nd Law has tremendous implications across a variety of disciplines outside of strict thermodynamic constraints. Even my college thermodynamics textbook admits that it has philosophical implications and raises fundamental questions on how the universe got into a state of low entropy. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is indeed an enigma for all who hold a naturalistic evolutionary view of the universe.

Engineering definitions usually center on the degradation of useful energy but in reality the most precise definitions of the 2nd Law deal with its probabilistic nature and the entropy property is defined in terms of probability. Specifically, “The net increase in entropy that occurs during an irreversible process can be associated with a change of state from a less probable state to a more probable state.” This is where the concept of “disorder” comes in, because without direction, everything tends to disorder, because randomness is the most probable state (randomness = disorder, non-randomness = order). From a thermodynamics perspective, disorder is often associated with usefulness from an energy perspective, but again, the law applies probabilistically to all processes in which energy is involved…