Entropy has Urgency: AKA – Oh Shit!

It happened again to me yesterday.  I lost track of time, only to get one of my three reminders that I’ve set up for meetings via Google Calendar.  The one 5 minutes before a meeting is sent to the email address of my phone so it’s received as a text message.  Still, after 3 minutes, I have forgotten, leaving myself to frantically grab my headset and try to join a meeting on time.  I lose track of time but can’t stand being late – an evil combination for my psyche.

I have to keep my headsets tucked away in a drawer next to my laptop because I have cats.  They wait for me to screw up.  It happens more than I care to admit.  I grabbed the headset only to find that it’s a tangled mess.  I have one minute now, maybe less because my Mac doesn’t show the second hand.  As I gently tug and pull to straighten the wires, the tangle gets worse.  It seems the harder I try, the worse this gets.  I end up connecting with a shortened wire with a knot halfway up the earphone.  I’m going to have to hunch over during the call and clear the tangle after this call.

My discovery

It’s here that I realize something that wasn’t in the physics books:  Entropy has an urgency factor to it.  When I was in high school and taking physics for the first time, entropy was my favorite concept about the world we live in.  It still is, actually.  I’m not the most organized person, as I may have stated in previous writings, but I’m clean.  For instance, you won’t find dirty dishes in my house, and the bathrooms are clean.  But my office hasn’t been cleaned in a long time.  So long I don’t do webcam meetings from there.  I’ve always been like this.  That first day I learned about entropy, I went home and explained to my mom how it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t keep my room clean.  I was fighting a natural law of physics.  She laughed and called me a smart ass.  But it was true.  I constantly lose my battle against entropy.  We all do, some are just better at going behind it and erasing its results better than others.

What I didn’t realize, though is that there is a subset to the second law of thermodynamics around chaos and entropy that states something like:  “The more urgent the situation, the faster the rate of entropy.”  It’s true.  Give yourself a deadline to clean something, a real deadline, like a hot date coming over in 5 minutes.  You’ll see this in action.  Put some very embarrassing items in the living room that you need to remove before said hottie comes over.  Again, you’ll see what I mean.  It’s like there’s a combination of inertia and entropy here.  Maybe that’s what it is, again with an urgency factor.  Inertia is simply the tendency for an object to stay at rest if it’s at rest.  So take something like a tangled mess with a conference call with your boss in like one minute.  There’s a tendency for said headset to stay tangled that actually seems to fight against you.  That last part is silly, and it’s just me projecting human characteristics onto inanimate objects.  Who would ever do that?

A law of nature

I know the headset isn’t actually fighting me, hence the need for a law of physics to explain the behavior.  The headset can’t be alive and definitely not sentient, so it follows that my continued frustration day after day of trying to get the same headset untangled after I gently wrap it up and tuck it away to protect it from the destructo-cat must be a natural law of things.  A law of nature.  Simply the way things are.  Everything moves from order to disorder.  I think that’s one of the most graceful lines in all of science.  It speaks to me:  “Do what you want, you can’t keep this room clean,” it says.  “Try as you might, you will not beat me.”  It’s a force stronger than gravity, I think.  Gravity in itself is actually a very, very weak force.  It’s only because the Earth is so huge, and we are so small that we feel it’s gravitational pull so strongly.  But put two small objects next to each other, and the force is difficult to even measure. Not so with my headset.  All I need to do is schedule yet another conference call, and I can promise my headset will be tangled again.

The laws of physics are comforting to me like a religion is to others.  Like religion, I have faith in the laws of physics.  I know they are true, and I know they exist.  I can demonstrate their existence without having to actually see them.  This is comforting.  Well, it’s not comforting 1 minute before my call, but other times it is.  When my life generally lines up with the laws of nature, then yes, it’s very comforting.  Maybe that’s what I’m fighting here.  I already know that writing is my true path, not this job that makes me oodles of money. That’s just an enabler, a means to an end. It could very well be that I have to fight entropy, and other laws of nature because I’m not in alignment with nature.  I’m out of balance, out of sync, my center is off, “<insert another lame platitude about destiny here>”

Physics doesn’t give a ***k

No, no, this is going all wrong.  Physics has no motive and no conscience.  It acts the same everywhere, to everyone, hence the whole idea of a “law” of physics.  We’ve proven these laws, that’s why they’re not called “theories.”  It’s the law of thermodynamics, not the theory of thermodynamics.  Proven.  Done.  Kaput.  But no matter how I mull this over, I see that we may have missed a subset of this one.  There is an urgency factor at play that makes the entropy worse, more stubborn, more resistant to change when time is short.  It must be a law because I can reproduce the experience at any time.  Speaking of time, now that I look at the clock, I have a call in exactly three minutes.  Shit.  Where’s my headset?

No urgency here.  Or is there?  Please sign up for my email list by subscribing here, or drop me a note in the comments.

Photo by Brook Anderson on Unsplash

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