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What Relationships Have in Common With the Second Law of Thermodynamics

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ashoka chapter.

Edited By- Ananya Khandelwal 


    One of the most frustrating parts of life is when you want things to stay a certain way, but they just don’t. Like when you stare at the captivating foam art on your coffee in the hope that it stays forever, but you watch it slowly and painfully melt into a shapeless white blob. Or when you spend all day on the beach constructing the sandcastle of your dreams, only to find it crumbled away a few hours later. The worst is probably when you have a relationship that’s brought you comfort and happiness beyond your imagination, and eventually you find it fizzing away for reasons you can’t understand. 


    Let’s focus on the first two situations for a bit. I wish there were a more poetic explanation as to why these things happen, but there’s one simple word that governs our entire world in the hopes of bringing it down – entropy. Entropy is essentially a degree of randomness, with its USP being that it’s a gradual descent into absolute disorder. The second law of thermodynamics revolves around this concept, saying that the entropy of an isolated system that more often than not keeps increasing, but never decreases. This implies that the natural tendency of any such isolated system is to degenerate into a disorderly or chaotic state. How unfortunate.


I read an article a while back that suggested entropy as the cause of Murphy’s law. Murphy’s law states that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” The writer used an example of a puzzle box to explain this better. Imagine you dump all the puzzle pieces in the box onto your floor. Theoretically, it’s possible that all these pieces are  perfectly aligned, creating the finished puzzle. Realistically, that doesn’t happen because the odds are overwhelmingly against it. She explains that there’s only one alignment where each puzzle piece is in the correct place, but countless random alignments where the pieces are disordered. From a purely mathematical point of view, the chances of such a thing happening are next to none. “There are always far more disorderly variations than orderly ones.”


    So where do relationships come in here? Before I bring that in, there are two things I want to talk about. Firstly, Murphy’s Law doesn’t encourage people to have a cynical mindset about everything that comes their way, it’s more of a way to prepare you for the worst outcome. Secondly, think of a bonfire. There are very few things in life that I love as much as a bonfire under the stars, because it saves me from freezing into a popsicle. And yet, there are very few things in life that frustrate me as much as a bonfire on a cold night. It frustrates me because the fire persistently keeps fading out. The entropy turns the wood to ash, forcing me to get up time and time again (when I can barely move due to the cold) to toss in a few more logs to keep the fire burning.


    I think you can start to see where I’m going with this. I really like to think that like most things, entropy governs our relationships too. In the isolated system that is every relationship, the randomness and chaos doesn’t decrease for even a tiny fraction of a second. The beginning of every relationship (family, friends, significant others) is very different from the later stages. In the beginning of it all, no matter the energy of the curveballs life throws at you, you’re willing to make the effort to restore things as they were. Over time, the more efforts you have to make, the more frustrating it gets. Even the things that once made you as happy as a bonfire made me, begin to feel like too much effort. The sad truth is, however, that effort is the only thing that can pull you out of the chaos. The question then becomes whether you feel the relationship you restore is worth that effort. After all, if you do choose to look at it this way, then Murphy’s Law is applicable to your relationships as well. I’m not saying the worst will happen, but every relationship is only as strong as its weakest point. Moreover, perfect relationships are rare (if even real), and chances are that you will have unfavourable conditions and outcomes at many points in your relationship. It’s important to prepare for the worst, and it’s important to understand that without an incessant effort, you can’t keep a relationship from disintegrating.


    There is an upside to allowing entropy to take over your relationships – but it requires you to be able to widen your horizons. Take a glass filled with several crushed ice chips, and another filled with regular room temperature water. Just by the looks of it, the general consensus would be that the ice chips look more chaotic and disorderly, but that’s not true! The entropy of the room temperature water is in fact higher, even if it doesn’t seem like it. My point here is, things that may seem frenzied and haywire to you, might not be as jumbled up as you thought. Understanding things a little deeper than the surface can change (seemingly chaotic) situations entirely. Gaining perspective is probably, in my opinion, the saviour of any relationship.


    Now this is of course just the way I like to look at it, frankly because I don’t like the thought of things happening for no reason. The musing of all things losing order because of a force of nature makes me feel at ease, reminding me that a lot of things are out of my control. Sometimes things just dissent into randomness, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be because you’re doing something wrong, it’s just because that’s how science demands it. You can make your best efforts to counter these natural forces, but sometimes it’s not up to you. Maybe you’re the statistical exception, maybe your puzzle pieces will fall out perfectly. But to hold on to the hope that a dying spark will reignite a blazing fire is far too much to hope for. At that point, when you’re out of logs to give to the fire, you have no choice but to slowly watch the glowing embers burn out, and stay grateful for the short-lived warmth.


Hi, I'm Aishani! I'm the Chapter Leader for Her Campus at Ashoka University, where I'm currently a third-year Math major.