Delta S

Entropy is the idea that energy is transferred in the direction of order to disorder. This makes energy transfer irreversible in a natural closed system with no external influences. This idea helps us make sense of many different scientific phenomenon like predicting chemical reactions to understanding the life cycle of stars. The whole concept that things must move from order to chaos is counterintuitive logically. Why is order less sustainable than chaos? It’s a hard topic to grasp without mind numbing repetitive mathematical calculations proving the point. The ideas of Entropy show their face in biological life. The fact that we age and die shows how biologically our bodies are prone to settling into a state of disorder. How entire species are eventually eliminated by the process of evolution shows how unstable order is. As counterintuitive as entropy is logically, the idea is fundamental in the natural world and is recognized by everyone even if subconsciously. Take one of Robert Frost’s most famous poems,

Nothing gold can stay

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

Frost is famous for short poems that can have many different interpretations. I think the many different interpretations of “Nothing gold can stay” can all be attributed to the many different areas of life where people understand fundamentally the natural progression of disorder. Entropy is what gives this famous poem its impact.
A common misinterpretation of evolution is a lack of conscious grasp of entropy. I often get asked questions like if evolution is real why we aren’t huge, strong, super intelligent, have wings/ the plethora of the cool features that animals have that we don’t. Shouldn’t evolution just be constantly creating more superior species? Logically this makes sense on the surface, but this is not how nature works. Nature is just creating disorder, and life is just bouncing around like a ball in a pinball machine trying to avoid extinction. Evolution is a driver of chaos, randomness, and irreversible changes. I understand earth itself isn’t a closed system. I know entropy isn’t a perfect ringer for life. Natural systems do not strive for perfection and order, and deep down I think everyone understands this concept. Interesting enough entropy and evolution are two scientific concepts that have crept out and spilled all over many different scientific and philosophical fields. These concepts help us make sense of progression and disorganization everywhere in life. I would even argue that they are as interesting and ambitious in their connecting nature as string theory. Concepts like these are always on my mind when trying to understand microbial interactions. While it is very important to focus on genetic data and numbers, true understanding is going to come from a more intuitive place. As a scientist it is important to walk a tight rope balancing between imagination and data. As put by Vladimir Nabokov, “There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.” If the goal is to solve big problems, I believe this balancing act is the key to answering them.

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