Thursday, June 9, 2011

Entropy, more on 3.5 years old, and more on snow peas

I just had this interesting conversation about entropy with my husband that I may or may not be repeating accurately.

He said he was frustrated that people (ie high school chemistry teachers) always discuss entropy in terms of order/disorder.  Umm that's how I learned it...  He mentioned that perhaps they should be using information theory and information states for the problem they were dealing with.  Oh.. yeah, I think I learned something about that in physics in the courses I took here at the college.  So, what followed was a long conversation that kind of blew my mind.  I mean, I always knew it was "more complicated" than order/disorder, and I even have learned how to calculate it.

My husband drags out this example where it seemed like something was more disordered but yet more ordered at the same time depending on how you defined order with both definitions making complete sense, but completely contradictory...

So how am  I supposed to explain this entropy thing if anybody asks me without using the disorder/order thing?  Information states didn't even seem to cover the example he'd just given me.   So he explained it in a way that made sense.  He said, use the concept of constraints.  The more constraints there are, the less entropy.   For molecules (he's a chemist), he explained, the biggest constraint is temperature.  The higher the temperature, the less constraints (molecules move around more with the random thermal vibrations).  At low temperatures, removing a constraint (a little heat) can have a big effect.  At higher temperatures, adding a little more heat won't have as big an effect.

He mentioned his textbook (Zumdahl) had a great metaphor that will make sense to most people who are not chemists.  He said imagine you are  a poor college student and you only have a hundred dollars.  Somebody gives you a thousand dollars.  It makes a big difference.  Suddenly you have less constraints.   On the other hand suppose you are a billionaire, and somebody gives you a thousand dollars.  It probably won't change your life much or remove any constraints.

I love enlightening conversations with my man :)

My little one has also done some interesting things today.
We've had some highs and lows in the potty training.  The high was he used his potty in a restaurant bathroom and kept his underwear dry.  The low was... well, worse than not keeping underwear dry, but I caught him right away and we were at home so at least it wasn't too horrible to clean up.

Some other good things today though.  Without any prompting, I notice my little star had brought an empty basket in to the laundry room and was opening the drier.  I figured he was rotating the drum- he likes to that with the washer.  Then I noticed he was taking something out.  Wow, he was taking out the clean clothes and putting them in the basket for me!  How exciting actual useful help without any prompting.  Its not even a job I've ever asked him to do before.  See, they really do learn by example and imitation.

Another nice thing I noticed was that when I was singing him to sleep (OK, it didn't put him to sleep), he joined in with me on part of one of the songs.  He knows the songs, and will finish it for you if you stop, but he will NEVER sing with us.  I was so excited that he joined with me for a little bit.

So, I was proud of myself for knowing that little star will fall asleep on a car ride.  I deliberately scheduled some errands, and he compliantly fell asleep.  Unfortunately, it was a hot day, so when I was finished and parked at home in the shade under the tree with the windows open, I knew it was going to get hot in there.  He had a short nap.  I guess the car only solves the problem in cooler weather.

Another... I was proud of myself for letting my snow peas get a little more ripe before I picked them so they would be sweeter.  Well, they were sweeter but somehow... well sweeter I guess isn't always better.  They seemed to have lost other flavors and my husband said he didn't like it as much.  I think I have to agree.  I guess I learned even more.

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