QR5.6 Creating Order

According to physics, the universe constantly increases disorder not order. The second law of thermodynamics is that every closed physical system tends to increase entropy, the technical term for disorder. If the physical world is all there is, our universe is a closed system that must always increase in disorder because energy is conserved. It follows that its end state will be one of maximal disorder, of maybe one atom per cubic light year in a big freeze that will last forever!

The problem is that this theory doesn’t predict the universe we see today:

Scientists have often been baffled by the existence of spontaneous order in the universe. The laws of thermodynamics seem to dictate the opposite, that nature should inexorably degenerate toward a state of greater disorder, greater entropy. Yet all around us we see magnificent structures—galaxies, cells, ecosystems, human beings—that have all somehow managed to assemble themselves.” (Strogatz, 2003)

If the universe is always increasing disorder, how did fourteen billion years of degeneration give the order we see around us today? That is like waking up in a warm bed with an electric bed lamp and being told that civilization has been in constant decline since we lived in caves.

The usual answer is that the order around us is local, as the second law lets a local order exist if it pays an energy price. A fridge can keep a beer cold on a hot day by electrical energy but if the power shuts off, the beer warms up as the fridge unfreezes. A local order can only be sustained by an energy input because heat energy spreads and energy is always conserved, but is this true?

QR5.6.1. Is Energy Conserved?

QR5.6.2. The Universal Conservation

QR5.6.3. Disorder is Probable

QR5.6.4. Order is Possible

QR5.6.5. Evolution Creates Order

QR5.6.6. How Will The Universe End?