Primer on Entropy - Part I LO19979

AM de Lange (
Tue, 24 Nov 1998 11:12:40 +0200

Dear Organlearners,


I have used the words "entropy production" often in many of my
contributions on a diversity of topics. The reason is that this concept
has helped me tremendously to organise my own systems thinking which
covers the whole of reality (nature, culture and God).

However, I reckon that the concept "entropy PRODUCTION" is unfamiliar to
most of you, except for me mentioning it. Although "entropy production"
and "entropy" are closely related, they are not the same concept. The
difference between the two is about the same as the difference between a
snapshot ("entropy") and a movie ("entropy production"). A snapshot
("entropy") is a picture fixed at a particular "instant of time". A movie
("entropy production") is a picture which change over an "interval of

The concept "entropy" is taught on a tertiary level to a small minority
(physicists, chemists and engineers) who want to specialise in the hard
core natural sciences. Even there it is given a very minor role to the
concept "energy". Why? People are taught to interpret "entropy" as a
"measure of chaos". But since order is important to most people, they
often develop an aversion to entropy. This a pity because "entropy" is not
only a "measure of chaos". If we want to interpret "entropy" as a measure,
it is a "measure of organisation" The organisation involves both chaos
and order. Unfortunately, the interpretation "entropy measures chaos" has
become so fixed in the minds of people that it is almost impossible for
them to consider even the possibility that "entropy measures
organisation". It is my purpose with this primer to make it more plausible
for you to consider at least the possibility, if not the fact, that the
"entropy" of any organisation expresses both its chaos and order.

It is also my purpose with this contribution to enable you to participate
in any dialogue on "entropy PRODUCTION"-- to participate not as a
scientist, but as someone for whom this concept has become at least as
important as for the scientist. Why? Firstly, it is important to have a
purpose in life. Every purpose is actually an anticipation of what
"entropy production" will lead to. Secondly, all of us have to work with
changes. No change is possible without "entropy production". Thirdly, all
of us need to live a productive life. The foundation of all productivity
is "entropy production". Fourthly, whether we want it or not, all of us
are involved in hurting. If we do not know how "entropy production" works,
we will not be able to minimise our role in hurting. Fifthly, all of us
have a deep desire to become more creative. Well, human creativity is the
result of "entropy production". I can add many more claims, but is better
to stop doing so. Let us rather begin preparing ourselves to substantiate
these claims. The purpose of this primer is not to substantiate the
claims, but to provide a background which can serve to approve or refute
these claims.

More than 99% of students in the hard core sciences (physics, chemistry,
etc.) all over the world who are taught about "entropy", are taught
little, if anything, about "entropy production". Thus, after you have
worked through this primer, you will know more of "entropy production"
than they, although you will not know as much as they do of "entropy".
However, fear not -- many of them avoid using the concept "entropy"
because their own learning of it resulted in confusion (chaos) rather than
understanding (order). They cannot understand "entropy" without knowing
"entropy production". Why? The concept "entropy" is like a noun while
"entropy production" is like a verb. We cannot understand nouns if we know
nothing of verbs! We cannot talk in complete sentences using only nouns.

By now most of you will think that the scientists' ignorance of "entropy
production" is too incredible to commit yourself to understand it. Surely,
there cannot be so many fools among them. Fellow learners, it has nothing
to do with fools. It has all to do with the workings of "entropy
production" (not "entropy") itself. Through the work of Ilya Prigogine we
learn that "entropy production" determines the evolution of physical
nature -- irreversible self-organisation as he calls it. For this work he
has been awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry (1977). In other words, he
provided us with an alternative to the Darwinian theory of evolution. But
this evolution concerns only the material world of the brain. What about
irreversible self-organisation in the abstract world of mind? If it does
happen, is it not possible that even the evolution of the concept
"entropy" has to follow the same course?

It is my unprofitable task to make you aware that "entropy production"
even causes the evolution of the abstract world of mind. Thus it
determines the historical course of human culture in general and knowledge
of "entropy" in particular. Unfortunately, I cannot explain immediately to
you in a couple of paragraphs why it is the case. The reason is that you
first have to understand the workings of "entropy production" in the
physical world. It means that you will have to study this entire primer.
(We first have to build the walls of the house before we can rig the
roof.) However, after you have done that, study the primer again, but now
concentrate on what happened in the minds of people -- the thoughts which
evolved in the minds of the people involved. Then you will begin to
understand the workings of "entropy production" in the spiritual world.
This primer has been constructed carefully to mirror the spiritual world
in the physical world.

I will take you now along the creative course of time. I will give a brief
sketch (Part II) of history since times immemorial up to the year 1865
when Rudolf Clausius wrote:

Die Energie der Welt ist konstant.
Die Entropie der Welt strebt einem Maximum zu.

When we study history at large, we become aware of many themes operating
in history. Historians often take one or more of these themes to develop a
theory of history. Each of these theories usually get blown to pieces
because it neglected an important theme. In what now follows, I am not
going to formulate a theory of history. I will merely going to describe
some history with the help of the following theme. Most information on an
important topic may dissipate (diverge, spread, diffuse) away until the
very topic rests in oblivion. But some information on these topics will
concentrate (converge, contract, condense) on an unknown topic until it
becomes perceived. The same process may happen to these new topics.
Eventually we get a evolutionary tree for topics just as we get an
evolutionary tree for the species of nature, some still alive and the
others extinct!

I am going to present these concentrating information like bolts of
lightning shooting from times immemorial to the year 1865. You can
actually draw these bolts by scale. They are radiating inwards or
CONCENTRATING on the centre rather than radiating outwards or DISSIPATING
away from the centre. (Later on you will see that this is what "entropy
production" does.) I will then complete Part II by showing how, after
1865, the information began to dissipate into chaos rather than keep on
concentrating until a new order has emerged. In Part III I will again
begin at 1865, but now follow the constructive course of "entropy

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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