In one sense, Life is that which should not be. Normally, Energy rolls downhill… from higher concentrations to lower ones. But Life takes Energy and rolls it uphill. Life is like a waterfall flowing backwards. And this takes work, alot of it. This is why Life is always so busy… and not infrequently, a little put-out.
Said another way, We The Living intercept the normal energy flow of the Universe and trap it, for a very short while, inside Energy loops (perhaps more like twisted cascades) within ourselves.
Life is Energy tied in knots. And, as one of my favorite philosophers said, Death is the violent untying of that knot.
If the Energy from the Sun (on which all Life depends) is like a giant ocean setting on top of us, we each could be said to siphon off a tiny rivulet from that ocean and split it into the rollicking waterslides of our metabolisms before returning the borrowed stream back to the Universe. Life as waterpark. The slip-slidin fun-ride to death. Perhaps not the catchiest theme for a theme-park.
In their book, Into The Cool, authors Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan, examine the relationship between Energy-flow and Life.
In this post, I almost completely ignore their book and go off on my own tangent. Such is the exquisite prerogative of the unbeholden blogger…
[I do plan to try to do better with my next post and discuss more of the actual book :/ But for now…]
Perhaps the greatest law in the Universe, what I call God’s Prime Directive, is our Second Law Of Thermodynamics; put my way, it reads: “All Energy-differences shall be equalized.”
Energy can take a variety of forms: magnetism, electricity, atomic forces, chemical bonds, etc… But at the end of the Cosmic Day, all Energy will become equalized over the entire Universe, resulting in a boring, flaccid state known by some as “the Heat Death Of The Universe.” All higher pressures will have flowed into all lower pressures, all bubbles burst– the Universe, one big deflated balloon. Temperature will be universally uniform, all heat having flowed into all cold; warm beer meets tepid coffee. And all electro-magnetic and chemical potentials will have dissipated. No charge, no sparkle, no snap. Just sleeping turtles all the way down.
Notice however that the Prime Directive does not say that Energy will cease to exist– only that there will be no more Energy-differences (or “gradients,” the more grown-up term used by Schneider and Sagan). According to our First Law Of Thermodynamics: Energy changes forms, but is eternally indestructible.
This means that, even at the End Of Time, the Universe will still possess all the Energy it has ever had. Only, it will be Energy in a completely disordered state: Utter Chaos. A more scientific name for Utter Chaos is “Maximum Entropy” (Entropy being a measurement of disorder). Even at Maximum Entropy, Schneider and Sagan say that the quantity of Energy will remain the same—it is only the quality of Energy, its state of orderliness, that changes.
And I think I can truthfully say that a Universe without order is a Universe without meaning.
Oh, but what could I, ignorant human-centered judger that I am, possibly mean by “a Universe without meaning?” I mean a Universe without purpose. And what do I mean by “a Universe without purpose?”…
Well, first I’m implying that the Universe has a purpose now; that purpose is simple– and simultaneously the most complex operation ever: to achieve the End Of Time, a.k.a. the Heat Death Of The Universe. Always – in every instant, in every corner of the Cosmos– the Universe is relentlessly attempting to destroy all Energy gradients– to equalize all Energy-differences– to achieve… Peace.
I have wondered if, at the End Of Time, there will be any motion. I mean, couldn’t you have maximum disorder (Maximum Entropy) in a Universe filled with utterly random motion? But then I think… How could this be? For one thing, motion requires movement over a distance, and (as far as we can fathom on this little blue ball) movement over distance requires Time—something presumably in short supply at The End Of Time. –By the way, I say “End Of Time” giving Time one of several equally worthless definitions we have for it: in this case, Time being considered as our sense of the winding down of the Universe, of the thermodynamic flow of Energy from order to disorder. As they say in Into The Cool, thermodynamics is what gives us the Arrow Of Time.
Another reason there might not be movement at the End Of Time is that, if all gradients in Pressure, Temperature, and Energy are equalized, what would cause any movement? One possibility is that as the Universe winds down, the last few moving things will continue to move due to the Law Of Inertia, which states that an object in motion will continue in motion unless acted upon by something else. Of course, since Matter is organized Energy (I just made that up, but it sounds reasonable), then in a state of ultimate disorder, I suppose there would be no Matter to move… and no movement would matter (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).
Regardless, we can take cold comfort in the fact that at the death of the Universe, at the Dark at the end of the tunnel, all the Energy in the Cosmos will still be there– only it will have no gradients… no reason to do anything.
Perhaps it will be like one gigantic thermo-nuclear bomb, waiting… waiting… for two, three eternities… to begin a trillion-year slow-explosion spree… aching for that one random pulse that will give release to its pent-up Energy, that will cause a difference in Energy-dispersal and turn its endless, near-bursting pregnancy into the birth of a Universe… Things again set in motion. Chaos spiraling into Order. The return of Purpose, of Meaning. Yen chasing Yang, the spark of creativity gleefully surfing waves of Energy fluctuations in its race to outrun the stern, cold Universe chasing it with a broomstick trying to swat it flat and put out the troublesome fire of genesis before something crazy happens… like Life.