A Devil’s Wish Granted

Reality is continuous.

Stories are discrete.

Every story has a beginning

When I was small, I loved to play a game called Ludo. The game’s objective was to move a set of coins through a path of boxes to a goal, by rolling numbers on a dice. I often rolled the dice, expecting to get a six.

Many times I did. But mostly, holding my breath, taking God’s name, or using other super-powered methods failed, and I had to make up with moves of 2 and 3. The dice was rigged. It seemed it did not want to get a 6.

I grew up. Tried my hands at cricket instead. Often, we won the toss! I remember keeping a tossed coin as my lucky sikka after it got us three consecutive wins. I also remember losing it away when it did not prove lucky the next day.

As for cricket, it was much harder than Ludo. I quickly figured out that it was harder to hit a 6 with a bat than to get it on a dice.

Until recently, I played chess decently well. Years of practice taught me to select the one or two moves on a chess board which were good from possibilities that wre virtually endless and infinite. Many times, I had to choose between two moves, and almost always, I’d choose the wrong one based on pure guesswork.

Luck doesn’t help much at chess. Indeed, it seemed as if God was not in my favor. But how could it be? Maybe it wasn’t in his power at all. Maybe someone else ruled, someone else who was granted, a powerful wish.

This story is from a diary entry in 2006.

Years later it drew my interest.

What was devil’s game?

Yesterday, I tripped and almost fell. The support I got from a nearby table helped. The jerk of this movement toppled a standing glass, which swiftly rolled to the edge of the table, and then crossed a critical frontier. Gravity did its work, and with the shockwaves of high pitch moving through the air to my ear the glass shattered on the floor.

I patiently stared at the pieces: broken and random. Not willing to create any more disorder, I cleared the floor soon. Though something survived that could not get cleaned up.

People grow old and die. Iron rusts. Glasses break. And I used to think God willed order. Something looked amiss. Let’s search for answers?

Do me a favor. Place a cup inside a bucket and throw a few marbles inside the bucket randomly. My experience testifies to the fact that you won’t get many of them inside the cup.

You may get lucky, but mostly you won’t.

Take a gas in a container and introduce another gas into it. What happens? These gas molecules move about randomly, colliding with each other like weird marbles in motion. Give them a little time and they will spread throughout the container, completely mixied up, an unordered group turning into a mob. We call this diffusion.

Toss a coin. You can expect either a head or a tail. Roll a dice. Your dreams of getting a six in one attempt are mathematically questionable. I don’t want to talk about random moves in a game of chess or hitting randomly in a game of cricket. It would take many lifetimes to get those right by luck. Why is luck not rigged in our favor?

Comparatively, the possibilities of movements of molecules, which make up all of matter, are very vast. “Ordered things are much less in number than disordered ones,” just as there is only one way to make a cake, but limitless ways not to.

Every story must introduce the protagonist.

But the choice of when to introduce them.

Is left to the solo will of the storyteller.

Heat is nothing but faster random motion of these cake molecules.

Molecules are always in motion and constantly pass their motion to other molecules. If the converse or reverse happened, it would be like shattered pottery reassembling itself to flowers in a vase. However vases never assemble themselves. It takes work to make them. The expression below represents a famous law.

ΔU = Q – W

Where ΔU is the change in internal energy, Q is the heat added to the system, and W is the work done by the system. This first law states that the change in internal energy of a system is equal to the heat added to the system minus the work done by the system. In simpler terms, if you add heat to a system or do work on it, the internal energy of the system will change.

It was later found that when you do work on something, some of the energy is always converted to thermal energy or heat, which increases the entropy of the system. This means that a second law can be seen as a consequence of the first law, as it describes what happens to the energy that is not converted into useful work.

Now, regardless of who or what this entropy is, the implications of this are significant. It means that energy conversion cannot take place without releasing some of it as heat. Such conversions occur all around us as a result of the movement of molecules. This law is built into the very fabric of nature.

Entropy is simply a measure of disorder, where disorder refers to waste heat energy that cannot be converted into work. To better understand this concept, consider water: when you convert ice to water, some of it is lost as vapor. If you try to capture this vapor and convert it back to water, you’ll find that it can never be fully converted back.

As thoughtful creatures, we attempt to trap this vapor and change it back to water, but this only leads to more disorder. We bring order through our work, but in doing so we generate more disorder elsewhere. A cup will always break and things will eventually decay. What is even more remarkable is that there is no fundamental law governing molecules which pushes them towards a disordered state.

In the realms of physics, Entropy is the only quantity, other than time itself which Always increases with time. It has been argued that time flows the way it does due to the laws of entropy. Some conspiracy theorists suggest that time is nothing but a measure of change in entropy itself.

We can have order on a small scale like one of those broken pottery pieces which might resemble the continent of Australia purely by chance. But taking a large scale into consideration, one can easily find some disorder that far exceeds this order.

And you thought only humans were responsible for the increasing crime rates in Patna or the pollution levels?

Every story must have an ending.

This one ends in a diary entry from 2006.

It’s about when I learnt about entropy for the first time.

The Earth will eventually get destroyed. Everything that starts in order will end in disorder. The victor being heat itself, constantly spreading its temperature everywhere. The future appears to be much colder.

Each time I walk, I try to take the shortest possible path in order to conserve energy, turning the least amount of it to heat. But maybe the heat lost in the very act of thinking about conserving the heat released, releases more of the same, and our efforts are redeemed useless.

Maybe there once was a time when disorder did not exist! But for now it’s “Kalyug!” it seems. Disorder keeps increasing somehow. It is as if the devil owns a powerful grant. A wish granted which establishes that every heaven, will eventually turn into hell.

P.S. Sorry for increasing entropy by writing all this, God.

Quite a grim ending to this dear diary.

When I read this again many years later.

I realised it was wrong and needed an update.

So I welcome you to Entropy Chronicles! A 9 part essay on Entropy and Everything. Delivered to you in 11 parts this February.

( In the order of cardinality but not in the order of entropy ;)

"Entropy is the only quantity, other than Time itself which Always increases with Time. It has been argued that time flows the way it does due to the laws of entropy. Some conspiracy theorists suggest that time is nothing but a measure of change in entropy itself."

Around the same time when I was writing this diary entry in 2006, but in different space, some super cool physicists where understanding quantum entropy in new and exciting ways! 

One of them found a glitch in the matrix.

But that's a story for another day!


4 responses to “A Devil’s Wish Granted”

  1. I am so loving these posts. It’s beautiful writing. Perhaps there should be a measure not just of the quantity of entropy, but it’s quality too. Thank you for such a high-quality increase in entropy!

    PS: love the f in your font.


    1. Thank you 🙂

      the f looks like an integral / measure doesn’t it => some attention to detail __/\__


    2. And the quality of entropy! How do we give structure to randomness?
      Thankfull recently realised that every number is unique interestingly.


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