Equilibrium

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It’s helpful to understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics because it governs the physical reality that we live in.  Here is a very basic explanation.  Every physical process that takes place results in a reduction in the amount of available energy in the universe.  The best way to think about it is this; picture a hot cup of coffee in the middle of an empty room.  As long as the coffee is hot, it’s heat can be used to do work (there are devices that can do work using the flow of heat – stirling engine, etc.). However, over time the heat in the coffee will flow out into the room until ultimately everything in the room reaches the same temperature. Once that has happened, there is still the same amount of energy in the room, but it is no longer available to be used for doing work.  It has reached equilibrium.  You cannot move the heat back into the coffee without using extra energy from some outside source.  The loss is irreversible.  This same loss of available energy occurs in every one of the countless processes that go on in this universe every day.

With this understanding in mind, it’s strange to think about how hard we, as people, work to strive for equilibrium.   Once equilibrium is reached, nothing else happens.  There’s this compulsion to put an end to all tension and to avoid the pockets of energy where unexpected things happen.  It’s like we’re willing our own little universes to reach a total loss of available energy. We surrender life in exchange for the feeling of safety.

The truth is, interesting things only happen when energy moves.  That is the only way to do work in the physical world, and that is where the magic happens in the world of human connection.  So, instead of pushing for equilibrium, we should look for those pockets of available energy just waiting to flow out and make something happen.  Even better, we should find many of those pockets of energy (these are usually people) and see if we can get them together in one place.  Who knows what amazing things could happen once the energy starts to flow.