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Re: 2nd Law of Thermodynamics



In a message dated 95-11-13 23:06:49 EST, you write:

<< Everything obeys 2LT as far as we know.

You're right for the most part. What I should have said was that quantum
processes are largely _independent_ of the 2nd law. Spontaneous fission of
helium nuclei, etc., is prevented by the law of conservation of mass-energy,
not by the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The 2nd law is a consequence of the
statistics of large numbers, which implies macroscopic objects. Spontaneous
in vacuo pair-creation even violates the conservation of mass-energy (let
alone 2LT), but for such a brief interval (though not "immediate") that its
effect is swamped by uncertainty. Given a system consisting of a single
particle or a small collection of particles, there is a decent chance 2LT may
be violated for a short interval within the system, just as there remains a
minute but non-zero chance that a pot of water will start to boil of its own
thermal energy on the stove.

Given all of eternity, the pot of water on the stove will spontaneously boil
not just once but an infinite number of times; likewise, given all of
eternity, a universe could spontaneously come into existence all by itself as
a violation of 2LT, not just once but an infinite number of times. >>

The idea that 2LT is the consequence of the statistics of the large scale
movement of small particles was Boltzmann's theory.  It has several
significant problems (including the fact that virtually all the known
thermodynamic processes are temporally reversible so that neither particular
direction of movement is favored statistically) so that the net entropic
changes are only approximated by the statistical equations.  There is
"something else" which seems to drive 2LT and it appears to be related to
temporal assymetry.  Several processes (eg. the decay of the k-pion) are not
temporally symmetrical and there may be some quantizing of molecular states
which drives entropy forward.  For example, in some systems where chaos math
functions are active, quantum phenomena appear to "damp out" chaos and
"create" linear paths toward predictable final states.  2LT is not a
statistical fluke.  It represents something deeper which is not fully
understood yet.

The law of conservation of mass/energy is really not relevent to the question
of the spontaneous transitions in nuclear chemistry.  In both fusion and
fission reactions all of the energy and mass are always conserved though in
different forms.  These reactions are driven specifically by thermodynamic
considerations (with some help from kinetics) all of which leads to
entropically favorable states (ie. helium is favored over hydrogen, polonium
is favored over radium, and iron is favored overall).  Pair production as a
case in point does not result in the net gain of mass.  It the consequence of
high energy output near a significant mass resulting in the generation of a
positron/electron pair.  The spontaneous generation of virtual particles from
the quantum state vector is not really the same thing though it is related.
 The sum total of the potential energy in the vector does not change overall
so that when one pair "pops" into existence here, somewhere else a pair is
annihilated.  There is no net gain of either mass or energy in the universe
even though the pair "pops" into and out of existence without either the mass
or the energy actually "existing" prior to pair generation.  Sorry.  No
violations of 2LT here either.

As to the pot of water spontaneously boiling if you wait long enough . . .I'm
never coming for tea at your house!  It ain't gonna happen. If anything, if
you wait long enough, you'll get a popsicle as the universe undergoes heat
death!  (Oops. . . I take that back.  If you wait long enough the water will
boil when the sun becomes a red giant in about 5 billion years and swallows
the inner solar system.)  Nope.  Water is as likely to spontaneously boil as
new species are likely to spontaneously come into existence "fully formed
with no intermediates."  Same principle: just as wacky.

Face it George, we're never going to fully agree on 2LT.  I am a frustrated
physical chemist (P Chem was my favorite course in college.  Go figure!) and
you are hopelessly romantic about the possibilities of spontaneous violations
of natural laws.  Let's just agree that 2LT is complicated and mysterious and
that evolution doesn't violate it.

All the best!

Art