Coping mechanisms for thermodynamics?

In summary: continuing to explore the world and looking for meaning even if we don't find it in the material world).
  • #1
WaffleFe
1
0
Wasn’t sure whether I should post this here since it’s a more qualitative question, or under the Thermodynamics thread because that’s a more specific topic.

For all practical purposes, the laws of thermodynamics are inviolable, and statistical mechanics puts them on an even firmer theoretical footing. Being forced to acknowledge that the forward-arrow of time is synonymous with the increase in entropy of a closed system is really depressing, since it immediately implies that on a long-enough timescale, everything’s going to fall apart: I could try to dedicate my life to using my science knowledge to improve the world and improve other people’s lives, but knowing that in the long run it won’t actually matter robs me of all motivation to make the attempt (or, for that matter, to do much of anything).

I’ve tried explaining this to my non-physicist friends, but they all seem to think I’m just demonstrating an unhealthy opinion or perspective of reality; I keep trying to explain to them that it’s no more my opinion that S = k log W any more than it’s my opinion that E = mc^2, but they don’t seem to get it: I’m not claiming that reality is pointless, reality is claiming that reality is pointless (it’s just doing so using a language that non-mathy people can’t speak). So far I haven’t gotten through to them, though; they all think the problem is with me and not with nature.

I guess some people would turn to religion or a belief in the afterlife as an answer to the apparent futility of this life, but that’s not really an option for me: I’m an empiricist and can’t really bring myself to believe in a worldview not supported by any evidence. Has anybody here managed to come up with a successful psychological coping mechanism to not get depressed or apathetic in the face of the Big Ugly Second Law? I’ve tried asking around but haven’t found any particularly satisfying answers; curious if y’all have had any better luck or if this is the sort of thing that requires therapy 😂
 
Science news on Phys.org
  • #2
If you're looking for an alternative to the mostly accepted relationship between the arrow of time and entropy, you might want to check out one of Julian Barbour's books, such as The Janus Point: A New Theory of Time.

His and his team's proposal is that too much emphasis has been placed on entropy when discussing time (in part because entropy is ill-defined for an expanding universe), and a better metric for explaining the nature of time is complexity.

I've read a little more than half of The Janus Point, and never got around to finishing it. I'll leave my critiques to myself (if for no other reason that I haven't finished the book yet). You can google critiques from other physicists; I won't include them here for the sake of brevity.
 
  • Like
Likes Klystron
  • #3
WaffleFe said:
I guess some people would turn to religion or a belief in the afterlife as an answer to the apparent futility of this life, but that’s not really an option for me: I’m an empiricist and can’t really bring myself to believe in a worldview not supported by any evidence. Has anybody here managed to come up with a successful psychological coping mechanism to not get depressed or apathetic.
I can relate, Physics and Astronomy gives us enough evidence that our lives have no real purpose, we are just here for a cosmic blink of an eye and then we will be gone. There is no inherent purpose/plan for us, the universe really couldn't care less. initially this scared me and made me pretty depressed. Similar to you, I tried discussing these ideas with my parents/friends but sadly most of them could not relate, my mother(she has never studied science) told me that the only point of life is to be happy and to try and make the lives of the people around you happier & better. I don't know if I fully agree with her, but wouldn't you rather be happy(or at least try to be happy) rather than a sad/depressed person with no motivation to do anything?

Feynman more than anyone knew about the pointlessness of everything,
"Nobody ever figures out what life is all about. and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you can go into it deeply enough" -Feynman
I think at the moment I am trying to live by this quote of his, maybe you could also give it a shot?
 
Last edited:
  • #4
As one empiricist to another, I have two ( and a half) comments:
Hamiltonian299792458 said:
"Nobody ever figures out what life is all about. and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you can go into it deeply enough" -Feynman

and

http://www.google.com/search?&q=serenity+prayer

(the "half" is, per your suggestion, therapy)
 
  • #5
How is it, I wonder, that we all seem to enter adulthood with such a patently silly misconception that anything we do >should< matter forever to be worth doing? And then we get all morose when self-reflection comes.
Embrace it. It was never true of the world to begin with, why do you miss the wrong idea? It's like missing the warm feeling the Bohr model gave you. Now you know better, and you can create your own meaning in the brief time the universe will dream of itself through you.
Maybe read some existentialists. They've been there. Nietche, Kierkegaard. Or - maybe better - Camus.
Obligatory visual aid:
CamusTeachesElementaryScohol.png
 
  • Like
Likes Hamiltonian
  • #6
Let's put it on the timeline. For all we know:

1. Sun will explode in billions of years.
2. Species we know survive for at most tens of millions of years (some a bit longer, although it is questionable whether they are the same species all the time).
3. Civilizations don't survive for more than several thousands of years before they collapse.

Yet it is much more distant thermal death of the Universe that bothers you?
 
  • Like
Likes nasu, russ_watters, Hamiltonian and 1 other person
  • #7
WaffleFe said:
Wasn’t sure whether I should post this here since it’s a more qualitative question, or under the Thermodynamics thread because that’s a more specific topic.
I've moved the thread to Thermodynamics since this is a scientific discussion.
 
  • Skeptical
  • Like
Likes ergospherical, russ_watters and Hamiltonian
  • #8
WaffleFe said:
...but knowing that in the long run it won’t actually matter robs me of all motivation to make the attempt (or, for that matter, to do much of anything).

I’ve tried explaining this to my non-physicist friends, but they all seem to think I’m just demonstrating an unhealthy opinion or perspective of reality; I keep trying to explain to them that it’s no more my opinion
Heat death is a theoretical prediction (not opinion). Heat death means life is futile is an opinion/belief, and an unhealthy one. If this opinion/belief is impacting how you live your life, you need to see a psychologist to work that out. If it's a serious impact, that potentially puts it into the realm of a medical emergency. Do not take it lightly.

I strongly disagree with my colleague: This is not science. I'm locking the thread. But we can discuss in the mod forum...
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes Bystander and jbriggs444
  • #9
After a Mentor discussion, the thread will stay closed. Thank you everyone.
 
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz

Related to Coping mechanisms for thermodynamics?

What is thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with the study of energy and its transformations, particularly in relation to heat and work.

What are coping mechanisms for thermodynamics?

Coping mechanisms for thermodynamics refer to strategies or techniques that can be used to manage or deal with the challenges and complexities of studying and understanding thermodynamics.

Why are coping mechanisms important in thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics can be a difficult and abstract subject for many people, and coping mechanisms can help individuals better understand and navigate through the concepts and principles involved.

What are some common coping mechanisms for thermodynamics?

Some common coping mechanisms for thermodynamics include breaking down complex concepts into smaller and more manageable parts, using visual aids such as diagrams and graphs, and practicing problem-solving techniques.

How can I develop effective coping mechanisms for thermodynamics?

Developing effective coping mechanisms for thermodynamics may involve finding what works best for you, such as creating study guides or joining study groups, and regularly practicing and reviewing the material. It may also be helpful to seek assistance from teachers or tutors if needed.

Similar threads

  • Thermodynamics
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
750
  • Thermodynamics
Replies
10
Views
2K
  • Thermodynamics
Replies
4
Views
656
  • Thermodynamics
Replies
2
Views
891
Replies
5
Views
2K
Replies
45
Views
3K
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • Thermodynamics
Replies
17
Views
1K
Replies
19
Views
1K
Back
Top