Entropyman.org Explains Why Pots 'Unbreak' on the Nanoscale (Video)

Feb 16, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Edward Feng, a researcher at Sandia Livermore National Laboratory, has created a new Web site called Entropyman.org to explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics

(PhysOrg.com) -- A man lifts his hand in the air, and broken pieces of ceramic lying on the sidewalk spring up into his hand, coming together to form a flower pot. He lifts his hands again, and more broken pieces spring together to make a square ceramic tile.

It may just be a neat camera trick, but the Web site explains that - in terms of Newton's laws - nothing was supernatural or wrong about that picture. Rather, the reason why we don't see broken objects "unbreaking" in everyday life is due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

If you've ever wondered just what the Second Law means - beyond the fuzzy idea about disorder always increasing - you may want to check out the rest of Entropyman.org. The site is the brainchild of Edward Feng, a former Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley who now works at Sandia Livermore National Laboratory, specializing in statistical mechanics. Feng designed Entropyman.org as an outreach project to explain to a general audience how entropy works.

"I created this outreach project to explain the principles behind the biggest advance in my field over the last decade," Feng told PhysOrg.com. "This theory explains how life is different on the nanoscale and a pot can unbreak. This can happen because of the smallness of the pot. These principles are the foundation for my research with Gavin Crooks on time's arrow and other topics in statistical mechanics."

As Feng explained, the background to this project began at the Miller Symposium, a yearly get together for the Miller Institute.

"There was a session on how newspapers were losing funding for science stories, and the culprit was the internet," he said. "Well, I thought this was a little harsh. Besides, wasn't the internet a new medium to convey science, with pictures and movies? That's when I decided to embark on this project. With financial support from the Miller Institute, I hired a film maker, and the rest is history."

Entropyman.org discusses how single molecules, such as an RNA molecule, can stretch and shrink. Because RNA molecules are so small, they result in a much smaller entropy increase than larger objects. The larger the entropy increase, the less likely the object will take a time-reversed path with a decrease in entropy. Because a ceramic pot or tile has a large entropy gain when breaking, the ratio of increasing entropy to decreasing entropy is very high, so an entropy decrease is much less likely to be observed. In other words, it's extremely unlikely that a broken pot will put itself back together, while a molecule could.

Explaining these concepts in terms of bank accounts, wedding rings, and the Eiffel Tower, Entropyman.org hopes to enable general readers to understand why pots spontaneously self-assemble on the nanoscale and, while it's possible that your room will become clean while you lounge on the couch, it is incredibly unlikely.

To see the site, visit http://entropyman.org.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Seeking 'absolute zero', copper cube gets chillingly close (Update)

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Alexa
Feb 17, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
VOR
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 17, 2009
i've seen it said before that a coffee cup 'unbreaking' is very unlikely, but not impossible. I'm no expert but I firmly believe that's an example of where theory and reality diverge (like in backwards time travel). I'm all for open-mindedness, but a mind that says such a thing is possible is "not usin' their words right".
Maybe they think its funny or to draw attention to the subject, or maybe they are just out-of-touch nerds. I'm tired of it. A chance of something like that happening is theoretical, not real. It's a poor example and misleading. They should use something that actually has a chance of happening, like if you dropped a deck of cards from a tall building they would land stacked in the same way. There is NO chance a ceramic object is going to rebond itself. NONE. So why do they use that example? They are talking about science, entropy, and bonds...so they shouldn't suggest certain bonds could occur that they know full well couldn't.
Alexa
1 / 5 (3) Feb 17, 2009
By my opinion, this "unbreaking" occurs for one half of observable matter all the time from the "very beginning". The situation, when giant stars evaporates it's matter into radiation (together with lightweight particles) is just a less pronounced effect in comparison with evaporation of black holes, which occurs in nearly reversibly way like quantum wave.

http://superstrun...wave.gif

When matter is falling into black hole, it evaporates too into accretion radiation nearly reversibly. At quantum level the evaporation occurs as often, as condensation.

http://superstrun...fall.gif

The fact, for quantum chaos time arrow disappear is well known and quite understandable fact. Grainy chaos from night TV signal can be observed in both forward, both reversed direction and you'll notice no change = the time arrow for such "movie" doesn't exist at all.

There is NO chance a ceramic object is going to rebound itself. NONE.
Never say never...;-)
You can repair cracked glass object simply by heating it. This is an example, when quantum chaos becomes so pronounced due the elevated temperature, the time arrow can be reversed, at least locally at tiny distance of cracks. From strictly thermodynamical point of view such thing could never occur spontaneously - but it still occurs.
Alexa
1 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2009
By common understanding healing of cracks occurs as an consequence of surface tension of molten glass. But gravity force is sort of surface tension phenomena as well: it manifests like weak force connecting the subtle density gradients of more dense vacuum, which are formed around each massive objects. By AWT these density gradients tends to merge like tiny mercury dropplets due their surface tension - please note, at close proximity the very same force becomes strongly repulsive like weak nuclear force. By such way, gravity works against thermodynamics at large distance or energy density scale and it supports a condensation, while it supports entropy at short distance or energy density scale. The middle of both scales is so called human scale. At the case of black holes, which are all formed by densely packed particles, both these gravity effects are in mutually equilibrium, so that black hole condenses and evaporates rather regularly like undulating wave packet, or single giant elementary particle. AWT interprets all forces as a surface tension phenomena of matter and/or energy density shielding effects.
smiffy
5 / 5 (1) Feb 18, 2009
There is NO chance a ceramic object is going to rebond itself. NONE.
This is true if you're an engineer. If you're a physicist it's not.
Mercury_01
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2009
more importantly, by AWT, WHY THE HELL IS THERE A SCIENTOLOGY AD ON MY PHYSORG PAGE?
Alexa
1 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2009
IMHO it's a sort of quantum noise or - more generally - supersymmetry phenomena.

When you observe the dispersive reality composed of random fluctuations, it will appear like composed of foam. Every ray of energy spreads through foam in many direction and portion of it comes in orthogonal directions like weak gravitational waves.

http://aetherwave...ity.html

This penetrating portion of energy from exsintric perspective is singular/inverse to insintric perspective, it appears contradicting it. While scientology has a money and science needs a money too, here's a nonzero probability, the presentation of scientific ideas will reflect "nonscientific" ideas, which manifests like qauntum chaos from perspective of scientists as well.

It just demonstrates, how the transversal and longitudinal energy wave spreading is connected mutually. You cannot have a causual wave spreading (like those at the water surface) without some subtle portion of dispersive quantum noise comming from hidden dimensions of underwater, because this surface is always formed by (density gradient of) underwater.

Causual and noncausual information spreading always goes together like evoutionary mutations of reality. It's not always wrong, because many apparently chaotic ideas can emerge into new causual theories sometimes later. By this way, even scientology has it's own rational basis, which can be revealed, when corellated with many other seemingly chaotic ideas.