The Last Word

Entropy: The Grim Reaper

Photo by Patti Black on Unsplash


The arrow of time 
Points only one way
From a bud to a bloom
A fleeting passageway

Order reigned supreme 
O’er yonder big fireworks
Disorder crept in gently
a shadow that lurks

Shore up ye human
For the shadow grows long
Savor the precious moment
You get to sing along

There is no escape
From its vice-like hold 
You got no choice but to
Accept, truth be told!

Order to disarray
Is a one-way street
Enjoy the ride
For death, you shall meet

Ultimate heat death hither
Is a fate destined to all
Entropy the grim reaper
Penumbra that eats all

Horse Power

James Watt, the famed Scottish co-inventor of the first commercial steam engine, introduced the term horsepower in the late eighteenth century. As the age-old debate of whether a horse or a dog is a (wo)man’s best friend continues, there is no denying the brute strength of the magnificent beast attesting to the program of breeding of draft horses for centuries. It must have naturally compelled Mr. Watts to compare it to the then state-of-the-art technology. If there is one unifying theme that connects the power of a horse, its rider, a buggy or a steam engine, it is Energy!

It’s The Energy, Stupid

A word strategically replaced from James Carville’s slogan of 1992 presidential elections captures it all. Energy fuels everything. And everything is a process, transforming energy. Implied is the necessity of an energy source to fuel all things. Work gets done with this fuel — organic life blossoms and withers, nebulae transform into supernovae, seasons cycle, and so forth. Space is infused with light energy and dark energy. It is also sprinkled with ordinary matter that is condensed blobs of energy, and dark matter that nobody understands yet! Together, they form the energy source for all cosmic events! For mundane things such as sustaining organic life, the sun remains a source. The natural law that energy be conserved requires a sink where transformed energy gets dumped. There is but a single universal sink called entropy — an unavoidable thermodynamic byproduct. Two basic facts are relevant to our discussion about all naturally occurring processes.

  1. Embedded in entropy is the arrow of time. Smoldering remnants indicate an earlier fire. A rotting carcass suggests a live animal it once was. Natural processes irreversibly unfold in one direction as they have for eons since the Big Bang. Amid all this transformation, entropy is the lone survivor, encroaching upon the universe and laughing loudest!
  2. Humans, in a race against the clock, have learned to shore things up against entropy’s expanding penumbra, albeit briefly and in some confines. Take the confines of a refrigerator. Its contents must remain frozen to prevent decay. For the coolant to cyclically absorb heat within and dump it outside, it needs energy! The price for keeping entropy at bay inside is entropy increase elsewhere. By burning coal that powers the electric grid that runs the refrigerator, it is not unlike robbing Peter to pay Paul. When it comes to energy, there is no such thing as a free lunch!

Order Amid Disarray

When alive, a human body is also a low-entropy confine compared to its surroundings. That is because nature crafted humans to be! The same applies to all biodiversity, for that matter. Their sustenance requires energy in low-entropy form. We are no different in trying to ward off entropy until we eventually succumb.

Earth’s life forms get a chance to flip the bird at entropy by sowing seeds of procreation! It’s all made possible by the sun’s low entropy infrared photons that emerge from the leaky sieve of the sun’s core after nearly a million years of randomly flitting about, only to escape into the great void. At light-speed, some photons target the earth embarking on a short sojourn, ninety-three million miles away. A trek that takes five hundred seconds. Earthlings, always parched, drink it all up, ever grateful to the sun for supplying the fire that breathes life. The biodiversity of the earth is a fascinating expression of order in the ever-increasing chaos of the universe. Ultimately, as fate would have it, entropy has the last word.

This post is inspired by S&S prompt Series.

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