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Zyx's avatar

How does heat escape entropy? If it's just bouncing balls after all...

Asked by Zyx (4011 points ) April 13th, 2010

I’ve been reading up on some of this on wikipedia but it’s hard to be sure what stuff means. Even if electrons function as buffers between atoms I don’t see how the kinetic energy doesn’t simply run out.

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7 Answers

Zaku's avatar

Because “running out” is a phenomenon of systems moreso than it is of particles. Kinetic energy doesn’t run out – if it gets reduced, it’s by friction or collision with other particles that interact and result in an orientation that has less kinetic energy. If particles expired (which, forgive me if I’m wrong, but seems to be the impression in the question’s premise), we wouldn’t be able to see light from such enormous distances, for example, and planets and stars would crumble in ways other than the ways that they do. Entropy is more about everything in motion and organization settling down to rest and chaos just because that’s what stuff tends to do randomly, eventually.

grumpyfish's avatar

The total amount of matter-energy in the universe is fixed at some value. You can convert matter to energy, you can convert energy to matter, but you can’t get rid of it.

The “heat death of the universe” is the point at which everything has settled to a ground state, and there is no more kinetic energy, however it’s a good 10^100 years away.

There’s a lot of sources of heat—fusion is one of the more common ones around. Deep gravity wells create enough heat that fusion can begin, causing the heat to radiate out, energizing particles here and there.

That making any sense?

Zyx's avatar

I already knew entropy was a process of conversion rather than destruction. But if heat was just kinetic energy all the particles in a substance would bounce off of each other until their relative velocity had been reduced to zero.

Rarebear's avatar

@Zyx It’s never reduced to zero, that’s the thing.

Zyx's avatar

Is this why people think there are so many dimensions? You can’t just store kinetic energy… headsplode

ETpro's avatar

Great question. There is a lot of confusion on that topic. Heat isn’t lost, it is dissipated. That describes what goes on within a thermodynamic system.

Entropy must be understood in context. It applies to thermodynamics, not quantum mechanics. We mostly have a false impression of particle mechanics. We see the symbol for an atom showing a nucleus with little balls called electrons orbiting around it much as the moon orbits the earth. if we could see at that microscopic level, that isn’t at all what an atom would look like. A hydrogen atom would be a single large proton with a wavelike cloud around it, and that wavelike cloud would be its electron. The electron has no kinetic energy and is not bound by the Laws of thermodynamics while within its quantum mechanical realm.

Rarebear's avatar

@Zyx Well the idea of 10 (11 dimensions including time) really doesn’t have to do with entropy, but with the mathematics of String Theory.

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