Tonight's Sky
Sun
Sun
Moon
Moon
Mercury
Mercury
Venus
Venus
Mars
Mars
Jupiter
Jupiter
Saturn
Saturn

Tonight's Sky — Change location

OR

Searching...

Tonight's Sky — Select location

Tonight's Sky — Enter coordinates

° '
° '

Entropy's rainbow

The statistically likely path to complexity.
The early universe was remarkably uniform. Today’s universe is anything but. What gives? The details of how we got from there to here form one of the grand themes of science. But viewed from 30,000 feet, the transformation can be summed up in one word — entropy.

“Hold on a minute,” you say. “Entropy doesn’t build stuff. Entropy tears stuff down!” That is certainly the common impression people have about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It’s also dead wrong.

Rewind the clock to the middle of the 19th century. In one of the all-time greatest advances in the history of science, Ludwig Boltzmann has just used the statistics of how molecules move to explain why heat always flows from hot things to cold things. It is a beautiful, elegant piece of work. It is also counterintuitive to a generation of scientists who are only beginning to get used to the atomic theory of matter.

Astronomy magazine subscribers can read the full article for free. Just make sure you're registered with the website.

Already a subscriber? Register now!

Registration is FREE and takes only a few seconds to complete. If you are already registered on Astronomy.com, please log in below.
ADVERTISEMENT

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Receive news, sky-event information, observing tips, and more from Astronomy's weekly email newsletter.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
asy_gravitational_eguide

Click here to receive a FREE e-Guide exclusively from Astronomy magazine.

Find us on Facebook