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Laws of Thermodynamics

The Laws of Thermodynamics are considered part of the bedrock of physics (and among physicists, about as immobile as bedrock).  But there are two problems.   

The first is essentially a clarification. The Laws of Physics (including specifically the Laws of Thermodynamics) are, in reality, not laws of nature, but instead man-made theories or informed guesses of how man believes nature works and how she apparently limits herself.  They are a theory, and no amount of propaganda or public relations will convert them magically into fundamental laws which cannot be breached.  It takes, as a matter of fact, only one contrary example to shake the most basic bedrock of theory.  And the current problem is that we’re all living in an earthquake zone!  

The most noteworthy example of physics undergoing a forced revision of physical laws concerns the Law of Conservation of Energy, and prior to the time of Einstein’s famous E=mc2 equation, the Law of Conservation of Mass (aka matter, material).  Both of these “laws” stated that in a closed system, the total amount of Energy (or Mass) could not change.  Period.  This was the equivalent of an economic Zero-Sum Game, in which the debits and credits must balance out to zero.  (Unless, of course, you’re Arthur Anderson doing the accounting for Enron -- in which case, too often “magic happens!” <g>)  

Each of the two conservation laws (energy and mass) were independent, prior to Einstein.  But with the recognition that mass was a form of energy, the situation changed.  Suddenly, the Law of Conservation of Mass went out-of-fashion, and was very quietly left to die alone and in callous disrepute -- like an unwanted relative down on his luck.  The resulting Law of Conservation of Energy -- as modified by Einstein and including mass as a form of energy -- was once again sacrosanct.  Unfortunately, the lesson of the “fundamental law” needing a fundamental rewrite was lost on several generations of scientists, economists, and the world at large.  

The revised Law of the Conservation of Energy, also became known in physics as the First Law of Thermodynamics.  It was as if a modification was needed in order to keep the dignity of the laws intact, and simultaneously, try to forget about the unfortunate incident with mass.  (As if Mass had not been victimized enough, there is considerable evidence now to suggest that mass doesn’t exist at all!  It might not matter to you, but matter itself may be an illusion.)  

The second problem with the Law of Conservation of Energy (aka the First Law of Thermodynamics) is that one of the Assumptions on which it is based is often neglected in the mathematical treatment of the law and the results which are derived from it.  No rational physicist would argue that fundamental to the Law of Conservation of Energy is the restraint or assumption that we are dealing with a closed system!  If the system is not closed, then the law is not strictly applicable, and thus there is no violation of the law.  

The same need for a closed system exists in the Second Law of Thermodynamics which basically states that the “order of a system must always decrease” -- or alternatively, Entropy, physics’ measure of disorder, must always increase.  The difficulty is that most systems -- even when they are believed to be a closed system -- are quite the contrary.  Physicists who assume they can achieve a closed system in their experiments are simply wrong.  The ideal, closed system is much harder to achieve than one might imagine.  In fact, Quantum Physics -- notably Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle -- states that the very act of observation of an experiment is an intrusion into the system, and effectively alters the experiment.  

Furthermore, if as the world’s philosophical and spiritual traditions claim (i.e. theorize) that we live in a connected universe, then there are no closed systems except for one of universal size.  (And that might be invalid as well, if parallel or Multiple Universes  exist!)  

The Fifth Element and Zero-Point Energy suggest that everything in the universe is in fact connected.  On the one hand, Mach’s Principle claims inertia is due to the interaction of all masses in the universe, while more recently it has been demonstrated mathematically in the arena of Zero-Point Energy, that all electric charges in the universe interact.  The Fifth Element theory goes on to show that there are no limits to the energy that might be conveyed from one entity to another.  In all respects there are no closed systems, only approximations.  

Back at the physics ranch, the Laws of Thermodynamics must then be viewed as useful tools in which we can accomplish all manner of conjecture and ultimately achieve an effective technology.  But these Laws are always approximations, and can in principle never be used to eliminate alternative possible scenarios.  The great danger is that we forget the limitations of the laws, and assume them to be without exception.  However, the laws are correct only in a closed system, but inasmuch as there are no closed systems in the universe, the laws cannot always be used to disprove other more radical theories.  

Bummer!  I know.  But think of the possibilities:  No limits!  Chaos Theory may now reign (or just mist slightly), but remember that the Chinese glyph for chaos is also the sign of opportunity.  And lucky us!  We live in the Universe of Opportunity!  And Choices.  


Connective Physics         Arthur Young         Science and Religion

Forward to:

Entropy         Mach’s Principle



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