Understanding Entropy

Entropy increases, despite everything. I can attest to that and I don’t need basic physics or the laws of quantum mechanics to illustrate the problem. Consider:

  • On two occasions in the last 6 weeks, the our newer car would not start in the morning. A quick jump solved the problem both times. But when I took the car for its regular service, the service team could find nothing wrong with the battery or anything else in the car.
  • Our older car occasionally won’t start and needs to be jumped. In this case its because the warning alarm that tell you the lights were left on no longer works and sometimes, the lights get left on.
  • Our microwave oven recently began “starting” when you open the door. Apparently this can be caused by a bad switch in the door. It is unclear from my research if this is a dangerous thing or not but we’ve been staying away from the microwave. We are trying to figure out whether it is cheaper to replace or have it repaired.
  • Our furnace is fairly old and while it functions fine, I am constantly worried that I’ll wake up on a particularly cold morning to find it has given up the ghost.

In the grand scheme of things, these are small, first-world problems. And yet I wake up each morning wondering if the cars will start. I go out and start the car just to make sure I’m not surprised if doesn’t start. If it cold and the heat is not on at the moment, I wonder if it is working. I test the microwave once a day to see if maybe it has decided to start behaving normally again.

There are other forms of decay thanks to entropy. Because of COVID, I missed my regular dental cleaning and now, I’ve been putting off rescheduling because I missed one and I don’t want to get a lecture from the dentist on the importance of dental hygiene.

We are “pre-registered” for our COVID vaccinations. I try not to think about it, and yet it seems every day, someone I know has gotten their first or second vaccination. It’s another thing that crossed my mind each morning.

My old MacBook Air is limping along. I had to glue an arrow key back onto the keyboard. If I unplug it from power the battery lasts from 10-30 minutes before the laptop shuts down without warning.

I recently bought 4 new pair of jeans–something I do once every 18 months or so. Within a few days, one of the pairs ripped along a seam on the back pocket. The jeans were on sale for 50% off, so I guess you get what you pay for, but still.

The fitted sheets on our bed seem to pull off the corners in the middle of the night. This last is not necessarily entropy, but it is still annoying.

Understanding entropy means understanding that entropy always wins in the end. In that case, the best thing about understanding entropy is Barry N. Malzberg’s story of the same title that appeared in in the July 1994 issue of Science Fiction Age. It is an incredible story.


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