General · Language

Starting with ‘e’ it’s a mystery

When I started reading some of the latest books by well-known physicists, I realized that there were some foundational concepts and terminology that I needed to revisit and review. Thanks, Wikipedia (to which I have indeed donated money).

So, I’m not talking about Einstein’s famous E = mc^2. No, something more basic: energy and entropy.

We talk about energy all the time. At least we have a better sense of that term than entropy, which is key to an understanding of modern cosmology. Huge concepts with a long history. Lots of reading, even without all the mathematics.

Just because physicists talk about these things easily and engineers build marvelous things based on understanding them — that doesn’t imply there’s no mystery.


One can see that entropy was discovered through mathematics rather than through laboratory results. It is a mathematical construct and has no easy physical analogy. This makes the concept somewhat obscure or abstract, akin to how the concept of energy arose. … nobody knows what entropy really is. … Clausius wrote that he “intentionally formed the word Entropy as similar as possible to the word Energy”, basing the term on the Greek ἡ τροπή tropē, “transformation”.

There are other things with names that start with the letter ‘e’ and boggle my imagination: electronelectric constantelementary charge.

2 thoughts on “Starting with ‘e’ it’s a mystery

  1. Today, an unexpected source for a cool quote about energy.

    • Wired > “How Much Power Does Batman Need for His Ascender Gun?” by Rhett Allain (Jul 22, 2022)

    Once we have a system [system of interest], we can use one of the most important concepts in physics: the work-energy principle. This says that the work done on a system is equal to the change in the system’s energy. But what the heck is energy?

    That’s actually a hard question, but here is my best answer: Energy is not a real thing, but rather a way to keep track of different interactions.

    Entangled verse

  2. • Wired > “Have Some Scientists Gotten Too Excited About the Multiverse?” by Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy (9-9-2022) – Episode 525 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, an interview with Sabine Hossenfelder

    Sabine Hossenfelder on entropy:

    Entropy is a very anthropomorphic quantity. The way it’s typically phrased is that entropy tells you something about the decrease of “order” or the increase of “disorder,” but this is really from our perspective – what we think is disorderly. I think that if you were not to use this human-centric notion of order and disorder, you would get a completely different notion of entropy, which brings up the question, “Why is any one of them more tenable than any other?” … There’s just too much that we don’t really understand about space and time – and entropy in particular, gravity, and so on – to definitely make the statement. I don’t think the second law of thermodynamics is as fundamental as a lot of physicists think it is.

    Pieces of order
    Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

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