“Extropy” is a scientific term that I am coining to describe order. It is the opposite of “entropy,” a concept that is widely used within the scientific community to describe disorder. Most people have a difficult time conceptualizing entropy in a scientific sense, despite the fact that humans develop an intuitive understanding of it at a young age.

Entropy is governed by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which stipulates that the total entropy of a closed system can only increase over time. In layman’s terms, the world has a tendency to delve into chaos. It takes effort to reverse this process and create order.

pocketwatch

If this still sounds confusing, imagine the following scenario: you take a watch and smash it into a thousand pieces. It is not that hard to imagine. After all, it does not take much talent to smash a watch. But imagine doing the reverse: you take the smashed watch parts and put them back together perfectly. That would be difficult to do. That is because the world tends towards chaos unless effort is put in to create order.

This is the phenomenon that is described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The smashed watch represents the increase in entropy that the world naturally tends toward. Entropy is difficult to measure, and there is rarely scientific utility in measuring all of the entropy of a system anyway. However, there are times when it is relatively easy, and useful, to measure changes in entropy.

The smashed watch is a bad example of this, but one could conceivably measure the change in entropy that occurs when the watch is smashed. A more realistic example is that it is possible to measure the change in entropy that occurs during a chemical reaction. This technique is easy enough to do that it is frequently used in organic chemistry to predict the outcomes of chemical reactions.

This is all getting a bit technical at this point, but it is important to note that entropy is a property that can be expressed by units of measurement. Most commonly it is expressed as joules/kelvin. Likewise, extropy would be measured in joules/kelvin and the relationship between entropy and extropy would be such that a change in entropy is equal to a negative change in extropy (note that in science the character “Δ” represents a change):

ΔEntropy=-ΔExtropy

Conclusion

You may be wondering why entropy is commonly used within the scientific community while the concept of extropy is not even recognized as a real word. It probably stems from the fact that entropy could theoretically decrease to 0 joules/kelvin, whereas extropy has no theoretical minimum. Besides that it may be mathematically more convenient to use entropy over extropy. The final reason may be because tradition dictates that scientists describe order and disorder in terms of entropy, not extropy.

So why do I care to bother with extropy? The reason is because there are times when I find it more convenient to describe order and disorder in terms of extropy, not entropy. It is like I said when I first started this blog, protoscientists oftentimes have to invent a new vocabulary when creating a field of science. Sometimes the existing vocabulary is not good enough.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s