Primer on Entropy - Part II A LO19986

AM de Lange (
Tue, 24 Nov 1998 11:30:27 +0200

Replying to LO19979 --

Dear Organlearners,


The Law
Since time immemorial humans on all continents believed in all sorts
of deities -- more than 25 000 of them like the sun, the moon,
planets, stars, plants, animals -- yes, every conceivable phenomenon.
To these gods were ascribed the power of law -- to relate cause and
effect and thus to determine the future. All of them existed in the
"world outside a person" where up to the present most of them can
still be perceived as phenomena. But among these tens of thousands of
gods the unique One can also exist in the "world inside a person" --
the God with complex personalities. As far back as five millennia ago,
working in hearts of flesh, He revealed Himself as Love to people like
Abraham and Melchisedek.

Approximately 4500 years ago, because of His compassion for humankind,
He gave Moses the Ten Commandments to teach the Israelites about Love.
Moses wrote this Law of God on two slabs of rock and concealed them in
the ark to remind people to seek Love which works in the "world inside
a person". Once a year only the high priest could enter the holy of
holies to have a look at this replica on rocks in the "world outside a
person" -- to make sure that whatever laws the Israelites make among
themselves, none were unconstitutional to Love.

Even though people had to concede that heavenly bodies were not
deities, they could perceive a regular pattern in the motion of these
bodies. Since Scripture often used regular patterns in nature to make
a spiritual point and did not forbid the study of such patterns, some
people began to study the regular becoming of the heavenly bodies.
These people became known as astronomers (Greek: "astron"=star,
"nomas"=spread or distribute) who practised astrometry (Greek:
"metron"=measure). These names were used to distinguish them from
astrologers (Greek: "lego"=speak) who coined fixed patterns among the
stars to all sorts of human activities, thus fixing humans into beings
without any free becoming among themselves.

Millennia later, while already on his deathbed after a life long study
of the motion of the planets, the astronomer Nicolas Copernicus
announced (1543) by publication of his book that the sun rather than
the earth is the centre of the solar system. Since only a few copies
of his book were sold and he was already deceased, the clergy deemed
it not necessary to brand him as a heretic. They persisted in teaching
the opposite, that the earth was the centre of the universe, relying
on a claim made by Aristotles. However, one Johannes Kepler got hold
of a copy Copernicus' book and began to make careful measurements
himself. He was astounded because in the seemingly disordered
distribution of the stars a compelling order in motion could be
discerned. Some of them, the planets, moved in elliptical paths with
the sun as one of the focal points. Since he could not falsify
Copernicus' thesis, he brought it to the attention of other serious
astronomers (but not the lay public or clergy).

One of them was Galileo Galilei, a young man who created all sorts of
instruments to measure nature. Galilei was already beginning to
systemise his thoughts on his finding that nature cannot ever be
tricked because she follows her own laws -- and that humans are
capable through measurements to learn about these laws which God
created into nature because humans have been created in the image of
God the Creator. The heliocentric thesis fitted perfectly into his
philosophy and he began to make it known to even the public and
clergy. This did not suite the business of the clergy who claimed that
all knowledge were their property to do with as they deem fit. Thus
they began to brand Galilei as a heretic, making it very difficult for
anybody to become associated with him.

Galilei impressed a young man named Isaac Newton. He also began to
investigate many things and published his results according to
fashion. But he kept quiet for more than 20 years about his research
on Copernicus' thesis. Then, 147 years after Copernicus' book, he
published (1687) his own book called Principia in three volumes. In it
he formulated the Laws of Dynamics and the Law of Gravitation. These
laws gave with mathematical precision substance to the claims of
Copernicus. Furthermore, these laws could be checked by empirical
measurements. But he had to use some very strange mathematics to
formulate the laws, called fluxion mathematics. How could the clergy
argue against something based on measurements and enshrined in the
symbolism of fluxion mathematics? Newton became most famous, so much
so that some people referred to him as the New Moses because he gave
humankind supposedly the "Law of Machines". People's world view and
thus the world changed radically. The industrial age, apparently
driven by machines rather than God, began.

Gotlieb Leibniz became Newton's rival because he also has discovered
independently this strange mathematics which he himself called
infinitesimals. Thus he was first in a position to do infinitesimal
calculations with the forces which Newton had described so
mysteriously. He perceived the "vis" (force) which Newton had
described as a "vis morte" when action is equal to reaction (Newton's
third law). But when there was no equilibrium, the "vis morte" would
displace itself, thus doing work and hence gave rise to "vis viva".
The work could result in two kinds of "vis viva", potential or
kinetic. Soon others also began to do these calculations, but they
called their results "potential force" (today known as kinetic energy)
and "kinetic force" (today known as kinetic energy) .

For an entire century men like d'Alembert, Euler, Hamilton, Laplace,
Lagrange and Poincare expanded and reformulated the work of Newton for
translational and rotational motions, thus bringing dazzling insights
into the Laws of Dynamics and Gravitation. Yet they never used the
name energy. The thing which we today know as energy, they referred to
as higher force, life force, affinitive force, etc. Nevertheless, when
Napoleon Bonaparte (emperor 1804-15) asked Laplace about God's place
in his world system, he replied with "Je n'ai pas besoin de cette
hypothese". But for all this pomp, the Laws said nothing about fire,
air, water and soil -- the four "elements" which kept the minds of
ancient civilisations like the Greeks and Chinese so occupied.

Since time immemorial, humans on all continents were fascinated by
fire. Obviously, some depicted fire into a god. But many began to
think that fire produced, sustained, healed and purified life. Living
bodies contained fire, tempered by the mud and water of the body. This
tempered fire also gave life to the soul in the body, enlightened the
intelligence and warmed the heart. Fire had the power to transform
solid ice into water and water into steam. Likewise fire was
responsible for all the transformations within human bodies and souls.

Millennia later, Galilei became also interested in fire and not merely
astronomy. He created the first apparatus to measure the "intensity of
fire". It was soon called a thermometer. That which it measured, the
"intensity of fire", became known as the quantity temperature. The
first thermometers were large and crude constructions. Yet Newton
manage to use them effectively enough to establish his law of cooling.
This law showed that the rate of cooling depends on the "difference in
temperatures". Fired by the successes of Galilei and Newton, Daniel
Fahrenheit (1686-1736) improved considerably on the construction of
the thermometers by using mercury. He created a small, delicate
apparatus capable of measuring a wide range of temperatures.

Again people's world view and thus the world began to change, but much
less noticeably because of the shadow which the "Law of Machines" had
been casting. The temperature ("intensity of fire") in a human could
be measured. It was the same for all people, except when they became
ill with fever. Soon temperatures of all sorts of things were
measured. Everything had a temperature, but not everything had life.
Some things had such low or high temperatures that life could not
exist at these temperatures. Hence most people began to lose their
focus on fire as the elixir of life.

But not the chemists. Fire was central to their alchemic art. In 1650
Ernst Stahl proposed his phlogiston theory. At first it attracted
little attention. But as the measurement of temperature improved,
chemists began to wonder more and more what changed the temperature
during a chemical reaction. With no help from Newton's Laws, they
began to use the phlogiston theory to try and make sense of their
alchemy. Two hypotheses were involved in the theory. Firstly,
substances transformed themselves by burning in order to decrease
their phlogiston. The phlogiston was responsible for raising the
temperature. Secondly, the amount of phlogiston could be measured by
weighing since it was carried away by air. Consider as examples:
wood => ash(earth) + fire + phlogiston(carried of by air)
wood + ore => ash +metal + phlogiston(carried of by air)
(more weight) => (less weight) + (rest of weight).

But some cases gave rise to a problem. Consider, for example, the
recombination of a metal with air:
metal => calx + phlogiston(carried of by air)
(less weight) => (more weight) + (deficit in weight)
How could it be explained? Luckily they never introduced something
like "negative phlogiston" to explain away their problems. Thus they
kept on measuring so that the puzzle became more and more conflicting.
Eventually, with enough data available to convince him, Lavoisier
entered the scene to overthrow deliberately the phlogiston theory,
thus revolutionising alchemy into chemistry.

Lavoisier realised that alchemists did not take the weights (FACTS) of
ALL the chemical substances involved in the reaction into
consideration. In 1789 he published a book in which he showed that
wood + oxygen(in air) => ash + carbondioxide + heat
metal + oxygen(in air) => metaloxide + heat
where the weight (mass) of all the reagents equalled the weight (mass)
of all the products. Since the weights balanced, phlogiston could have
no weight and thus could not be measured by weighing. But by debunking
phlogiston, he brought two things into play-- the law of conservation
(or balancing) of mass and that irksome thing called heat. What was
the relationship between heat and temperature? Newton's Laws provided
no answer.


Since time immemorial, humans on all continents were fascinated by
air. Although fire, tempered by the water and mud of the body, was
necessary for physical and spiritual life, it had to feed on
something. Somehow air managed to keep fire alive. Millennia later,
enabled by Fahrenheit's thermometer, Jacques Charles began to
investigate anew the relationship between fire and air.  He discovered
(1787) that the graph of the volume of air is with mathematical
precision linear to its temperature. But nothing of this was predicted
by Newton's Laws! What was going on?

Gay-Lussac and many others repeated Charles' experiment. Many began to notice that if all these straight lines were extended to colder temperatures (which at that time could not be attained or even measured), the lines would join at a unique temperature -- minus 273C. (The C stands for degrees centigrade or Celsius). People began to speculate that this temperature might be absolute zero. (Any temperature of which the zero of its scale begins at this temperature, is known as an "absolute temperature".)

They began to subject substances deliberately to changes in temperature, trying to reach higher temperatures as well as lower temperatures than ever before. Soon they began to differentiate between temperature (the "intensity of fire") and heat (the "amount of fire"). Their measurements showed them that raising the temperature of a substance with a fixed amount required a fixed amount of heat. Thus each substance seemed to have a property called its heat capacity which they could calculate. It was indeed strange when their calculations showed them that the heat capacity of air, steam or any other gas was much smaller than the heat capacity of water, other liquids or any solid (at that time known to them). In other words, a certain amount of heat would raise the temperature much higher in the case of a gas than in the case of a liquid or solid. Why were gasses so sensitive to fire?

Water ----- Since times immemorial, humans on all continents learnt that they had to work for any change and its products (like tools, clothes or houses) which would self not happen. But the work made them sweaty, thirsty and tired. They could handle the sweat and thirst with water, but not the tiredness. Since they wanted so much of these things which do not happen self, they began to enslave other humans to work for them, thus avoiding themselves the tiredness. But making people slaves caused much problems, especially for lazy people.

In 1626 Sir Frances Bacon, even before Newton, saw a deep relationship between work and tiredness for physical and mental workers alike. These people who did not want to put work behind them, are merely energies (Greek: "en"=in, "ergos"=work). Should they work, they would become tired because their energy is used for work.

Then, still before Newton, Worcester built (1663) a crude steam engine to help the draining of water from mines. It used wood and air to produce the fire which heated water into steam. It could do more work than four men or a mule, but it required much wood and water to run. Thus it needed people working like slaves to keep feeding it with wood and water. In 1769 James Watt introduced a remarkable invention -- the condenser to recollect the steam as water. Thus the steam engine used much less water that before, but it still needed plenty of wood.

Although the steam-engine could work day and night, it appears to become lazy (inefficient) when the intensity of the fire was low. The steam in the engine seems to have a property much like a living being because the efficiency of the machine depends on the intensity of the fire in the steam. But Newton's Laws predict nothing of this sort! How could a mere machine defy the "Laws of Machines"? Using a thermometer to measure temperatures, Sidi Carnot discovered (1824) that the steam engine becomes more efficient when the difference in temperature between the steam going in and the steam going out becomes greater.

Soil ---- Since times immemorial, humans on all continents were fascinated by soils. They could perceive only one kind of water and one kind of air, but many kinds of soils. It was as if the diversity in soils gave rise to the diversity of living creatures. It was also from soil which they got flint stones to make their first tools. Later they discovered how to made pottery by baking clay in fire. This was followed up by making bronze from strange green rocks (solid soil). The second metal to follow was often iron, but in some cases copper or lead. Thereafter followed another ceramic, namely glass. Consequently, by the time of the Grecian and Roman empires, a number of metals and ceramics were already known, or technologies as we would call them today.

The next millennium and a half people experimented with these technologies, not to discover the truth as scientists would say, but to have a stronger impact on life. Sometimes it was constructively like better tools for building stronger houses and vehicles. But sometimes it was destructively for better tools of war and enslavement. Many times the wheel had to be reinvented. But by the beginning of the sixteenth century the technology enabled people to undertake voyages to distant places, bringing back riches in precious stones, metals and spices as well as a diversity in plants and animals hitherto unknown. Irreversible globalisation had begun. By the end of the eighteenth century it was natural to a significant portion of society to think in terms of a "rich picture" so that the effect on science became noticeable when Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor. This set the stage for an unprecedented experimental ferment among scientists

In 1785 Coulomb formulated his law for the electrostatic force between two electrical charges and soon afterwards the magnetostatic force between two magnetic poles. He discovered these two laws by using data obtained from measurements. These two forces had exactly the mathematical form as Newton's celebrated Law of Gravitation. Suddenly this law was not unique any more. Then in 1792 Galvani, using a frog's body, set up the first electrical current. So life had electricity! In 1800 Volta constructed the first battery to deliver electricity from a chemical reaction. But in 1807 Humphrey Davis did the opposite with the help of his young laboratory assistant Michael Faraday, namely using electricity to produce by chemical reaction the highly reactive metals sodium and potassium. By 1805 it was well known that an electrical current generates heat when it passes through a resistor. But in 1822 Seebeck showed the opposite, namely that heat could generate an electrical current. In 1820 Oersted discovered that electrical currents could produce magnetic fields. But in 1831 Faraday again did the opposite by showing how electrical currents could be generated by magnetic fields! The scientific horizon was expanding at an unprecedented step, even when compared with later times.

All over Europe scientists (physicists and chemists and whoever else were interested) were measuring with feverish haste to check former calculations again and again. Scientists were experiencing in practice one of its rare holistic periods. It is almost as if scientists were experiencing a Learning Organisation among themselves from 1835-55. These various forms of "vis viva" or "kraft" (they still did not use the term "energy") could be transformed from one to another. But one "vis viva" proved to be a difficult one -- heat. In 1842 Robert Mayer, a young physician (not a chemists or physicist) claimed that there was an equivalency between mechanical "vis viva" and heat. In 1947 James Joule demonstrated empirically that such a equivalency exists, giving a quite exact conversion factor for those times.

But Joule did an even more bold thing, namely to fix the attention of his fellow scientists on the conversion of one "vis viva" to another. The same Mayer speculated in 1842 that there seems to be a conservation of these "vis viva" when taken together. In 1847 Ludwig Helmholz proposed this actual conservation of "kraft", acknowledging Mayer. In 1850 Joule gave the clearest description for these "conservation of live forces" -- their whole cannot be created or destroyed, but in the whole they could be converted from one to another. In 1951 Mayer warned that they are talking of two kinds of "forces" -- the "vis morte" (dead force) of Newton and the "vis viva" (life force of Leibniz). He argued convincingly, using for the first time differences in units of measurement, that they cannot have the same name. In 1852 William Thomson (later lord Kelvin) took the bold step to refer to Newtons "vis" as FORCE and Leibniz's "vis viva" as ENERGY (probably noting that Bacon created the word and Thomas Young used it once to refer to Leibniz's "vis viva)". He reformulated Joule's breathtaking law for the first time using the word "energy". The total energy of a system is conserved while it allows for the conversion of one form of energy to another.

We do not have libraries here in South Africa with as rich documentation as some in Europe or the USA. But what we have here, is more than enough to show the excitement of all scientists who participated in the birth of this Law of Energy Conservation. All the scientists which has been mentioned, and many more, considered this law to be of a much higher status than any one of all the other laws in physics or chemistry. This higher status was not because it is a conservation law since by then a number of other conservation laws (mass, momentum, electrical charge) were already known. Some wrote that it was because this law became the very means to connect all physical, all chemical and many biological phenomena into one web. It was their first and only law at that time to keep the information explosion (resulting from physico-chemical and physiological research) into one whole. Many also tried to articulate that there was something deeply different about this law and ALL the other laws, including the four Laws of Newton. It had something to do with experimentation, but exactly what?

The soil finally gave birth to one of the twins. But as with the birth of all twins, the second one did not arrive at the same time. And as in most cases (before modern technology) the second one arrived by surprise to cause consternation.

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

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>