Adventures of the Mind
Transcript from Brian Cox, ‘Sandcastle’ (Click above to watch)
‘Back in the 19th century engineers were concerned with the efficiency of steam engines. How hot should the fire be? What substance should you boil in the steam engine? Should it be water or should it be something else? These were profound questions and out of those questions came the science of thermodynamics. It’s when concepts like heat, temperature and energy enter the scientific vocabulary for the first time.
Now along with that deeper understanding emerged what is probably the most important law of physics for understanding the evolution of the universe and the passage of time. It’s called the second law of thermodynamics.
The reason why the second law of thermodynamics was so profound was because at its heart it contains a radically new concept, something physicists call entropy.
Entropy explains why, left to the mercy of the elements, mortar crumbles, glass shatters and buildings collapse. And a good way to understand how is to think of objects not as single things but as being made up of many constituent parts, like the individual grains that make up this pile of sand.
Now entropy is the measure of how many ways I can re-arrange those grains and still keep the sand pile the same and there are trillions and trillions and trillions of ways of doing that. Pretty much anything I do to this sand pile and as I mess the sand around, it doesn’t change the shape or the structure at all. In the language of entropy this sand pile has high entropy because there are many, many ways that I can re-arrange its constituents and not change it.
NOW LET ME CREATE SOME ORDER IN THE UNIVERSE!
Now there are approximately as many grains of sand in this sandcastle as there are in the sand pile. But now virtually anything I do to it will mess it up, will remove the beautiful order of this structure. Because of that, the sandcastle has a low entropy. It’s a much more ordered state. So, many ways of re-arranging the sand grains without changing the structure, high entropy; very few ways of re-arranging the sand grains without changing the structure, without disordering it, low entropy.
Now imagine I was to leave this castle in the desert all day then it’s obvious what is going to happen. Desert winds are going to blow the sand around and this sandcastle is going to disintegrate, it is going to become less ordered. It’s going to fall to bits.
But think what’s happening on the fundamental level. The wind is taking the sand off the castle and blowing it over there somewhere and making a sand pile. There is nothing fundamental in the laws of physics that says that the wind could not pick up some sand from over here, deposit it here and deposit it precisely the shape of a sandcastle. In principle the wind could spontaneously build a sandcastle out of a pile of sand. There is no reason why that couldn’t happen it’s just that it is extremely, extremely unlikely because there are very few ways of organizing this sand so that it looks like a castle. It’s overwhelmingly more likely that when the wind blows the sand around it will take the low entropy structure of the castle and turn it into a high entropy structure of a sand pile.
So entropy always increases. Why is that? Because it’s overwhelmingly more likely that it will.
It seems incredible that a law that says that sandcastles don’t spontaneously form on the wind could solve one of the deepest mysteries in physics. But by saying that entropy always increases, the second law of thermodynamics is able to explain why time only runs in one direction.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
The second law of thermodynamics...states that there is no natural means to increase the net usable energy in a closed (isolated) system. In other words, the net flow of energy in any closed system ultimately tends to entropy (disorder, chaos).
Entropy is energy in its lowest state and, subsequently, unusable form. It is sometimes described as the disorder or chaos of a system. A closed system refers to the absence of external influences to increase usable energy or to reverse entropy. For example, if a clock is placed inside of a sealed container to prevent someone from winding it up again, the clock can be described as being in a closed system. When the spring inside the clock winds down, there is no more usable energy available to the clock to make it continue ticking. As long as the clock remains in a closed system, it will not tick again. However, if the clock system is opened, and someone winds the clock up, then the clock can begin to tick again.
Because the universe as a whole is a closed system, the net energy flow is ultimately tending to the final form of maximum entropy. It is winding down just like a clock. The final state of entropy is heat, therefore the universe is said to be experiencing "heat death." The sun and the stars are burning out, and organized matter is decaying. Since the universe is winding down and the second law of thermodynamics states that the net usable energy in a closed system cannot be increased by the physical properties of the universe, one is led to the logical conclusion that the initial organized or low entropy state of energy originated supernaturally.
In other words, because the universe is winding down, it must have originally been wound up--supernaturally. It is unnatural and physically impossible for the net useable energy in a closed system to increase. Based on the second law of thermodynamics, the creation model is the best explanation. This model explains the evidence, is supported by the evidence, and does not contradict a known scientific law. The argument can be summed as follows.
1. There is no natural means to increase the net usable energy in a closed system such as the universe.
2. The universe is decreasing in usable energy meaning that its initial energy existed in a greater usable and organized state.
3. If the initial usable energy in the universe was not increased by natural means, then it must have originated supernaturally.
4. The creation model conforms to the data.
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Can we Scientifically Prove that Intelligent Intervention brought Order to the Universe?
NO! But it is highly unlikely that it came about by natural means!
''...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator'' Alma 30:44