Entropy, and a few other random thoughts

Last night I tried to listen to one of my science lectures at bedtime. The topic was “entropy.” But 5 minutes into the lecture, the batteries on my CD player died. I thought about changing them, then I decided this was really a lesson in entropy and I should just go to sleep.

Here’s what the free dictionary has to day:

en·tro·py Pronunciation (ntr-p)

n. pl. en·tro·pies

1. Symbol S For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work.

2. A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.

3. A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.

4. The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.

5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.

Now, clearly my CD player and its batteries had “evolved toward a state of inert uniformity.” They were dead, and you can’t get anymore uniform or inert than that. But I didn’t know about all of those other definitions, and the last one plays on a discussion Ben and I had tonight.

We were talking about Iraq, although I’m not sure it started that way. In fact, it didn’t. We started out talking about prejudice and tribalism. We have somewhat different views on the subject. Ben was in Vietnam as a Special Forces guy. I was not. We are both pretty conservative in our outlooks. One of us–you can figure out which one–still thinks George W. is smart.

But I had just read a terrific article in the new issue of The American Scholar: “Not Compassionate, Not Conservative.” The author refers back to an essay written in about 1945, the heart of the McCarthy era, that defines a condition of “pseudo-conservative.” The issue, both the original 1945 essayist and the current writer propose, is fear–fear that by giving up ANYTHING we are conceding whatever advantages we now enjoy and endangering them. It’s a pretty terrific proposal.

Ben and I didn’t come to agreement (that in itself is a little depressing–if the two of us can’t agree, what hope is there for people who don’t know and like each other already?). But we didn’t come to blows either. But I become steadily more intrigued by the obvious signs of the chaotic state in which all of us in the world find ourselves. Where will it all end? I wish I could live long enough to see the resolution, but I doubt that I will.

I apologize for even mentioning politics. I try not to.

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