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Second law of thermodynamics

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One expression of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is that whenever a spontaneous event takes place in our universe, it is accompanied by an overall increase in entropy.[1] In simple terms, it states that the entropy of a closed system will always increase, and a local decrease in entropy in an open system always results in a larger increase in external entropy.

Entropy and Work

The second law of thermodynamics covers the ability of heat or energy within a system to do work. Entropy is the measure of energy in a system that cannot be used for work and is also referred to as the amount of disorder in a system. As entropy increases, there is less usable energy available for work. According to the second law, a closed system will always have an increase of entropy and a resulting decrease in ability to do work as time progresses. If given enough time, the entropy will reach a maximum level and no work will be possible within the system.

Statistics and Entropy

When entropy is examined statistically it can be considered as a measure of randomness. The more random a system is, the more disordered it is. The formula for statistical entropy is:

S = k ln w

S is entropy.

k is the Boltzmann Constant = 1.380 6504(24) X 10-23 J K-1

w is the number of equivalent equally probable configurations. This is a direct measurement of disorder.

Random or disordered systems have such a significantly higher number of equivalent equally probable configurations, that they can basically be considered inevitable. Entropy is not the same as disorder, but entropy is logarithmically related to disorder. Entropy can be considered a measurement of disorder in the way that the Richter Scale is a measurement of earthquakes or decibels are a measurement of sound.

Evolution and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

The theory of evolution requires some extremely large increases in order and therefore an extremely large decrease in entropy. Order from chaos requires energy to be applied to the system in an organized manner. The problem for evolution is that it lacks a mechanism for applying energy in an organized manner, and this is particularly the case with regard to the origin of life.


  1. Brady, James E.; Holum, John R (1996). Chemistry: The Study of Matter and its Changes (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. p. 557. ISBN 0-471-10042-0. 

Related References

See Also