What would a world without entropy be like?

#1
Entropy is the force or principle of physics where orderly things naturally decay into disorder over time.  Not disorder as randomness either, this is the boring homogenous kind like sand or static.  Entropy is behind many of the unpleasant parts of life, from leaky roofs and expired medicines and foods to cancer.  On the other gand, entropy is essential to processes like dead stuff being converted into fertile soil and evolution.

Game worlds often opt not to model the decay of buildings, food, and character stats because these kind of things aren't fun unless implemented specifically as humorous disasters.  More commonly players are looking to achieve or build something, and it doesn't enable their wish fulfillment if the things they achieve and build fall apart afterwards.  So anyway from a game we can see some ideas of what a world without entropy would be like.  No decay of stuff in an inventory, no skill decay.  It's basically impossible to get weaker unless you have some sort of status ailment.  Middle aged people are likely to be stronger than young adults.  Digestion as we know it wouldn't work without entropy, nor would the way we heal, so living things might have completely different internal organs, or might behave more like nanobot swarms or slime.  Things in general would be way more redustant to scratching, chipping, cracking, etc.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts.   Whether you envision it as a game world or a fantasy world made by a hod of order, what might a world without entropy be like?

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#5
I'd like to think that if there are two options for a world without entropy: 
1- Everything would remain as in a constant or a null state. Meaning, that universe would be a stagnant one incapable of change, due to physics being broken there. 
2- If we take the concept of Entropy to a more literal value, it may also involve the exponential and infinite rise of accumulated energy, hence it would at least break the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Meaning, if there is a world of magic that has no concept of entropy limiting it, a "mage" could infinitely grow in magical capacity as they accumulate "magical energy" infinitely and without stop. 

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#7
If we assume that the universe is a simulation, there's no reason we can't have other simulations with different rules and different starting states.  Perhaps we could, for example, have an anti-enteropic force and start from total chaos (in some kinds of motion, so the particles bump randomly into each other.  Then gradually more orderly things like crystals and bubbles would emerge.  Enough of a landscape that the simulations owner (aka a god) could place some primitive life forms there.  Because there's no entropy, the whole thing is a perpetual motion machine, so once you got something living there it would tend to stay living unless another living thing killed it.  It would be easier to build up a complex ecosystem than in our universe because without evolution, a type of animals would never get better at reproducing or hunting/foraging, so their population should stabilize.  You could also use designer animals to substitute for some things entropy would normally do, such as helping recycle biological waste into natural resources.

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#12
I don't think game worlds are void of entropy. But it's very true that a game-like system meddles with entropy. SOmetimes it's removed entirely, like how a Minecraft building isn't going away unless it's actively destroyed by other players or AI monster. 

But in other ways, entropy is immediate. Kill a monster, and it'll entropy into exp and loot, leaving space for the game to spawn a new one. Drop an item to clear space form your inventory, and it'll disappear, if not immediately, then either when you leave the area and it's restored to a default, or it's got a countdown timer. 

... my worldbuilding senses are tingling. There's a plot point in here somewhere. 

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#13
You've phrased the question wrong, because entropy isn't a "thing" it's a measure. What you asked is akin to "what would the universe be like without temperature?" 

The examples you gave are all about irreversibility. Your roof breaks and leaks because a good shingle can become a bad shingle, but a bad shingle can't self-repair into a good shingle. That change is irreversible, and will eventually happen by random chance on a long enough time scale. A world with no irreversible changes would be so completely foreign that human life would be impossible and you can't tell a story (that anyone wants to read) if humans can't exist in it.

Now, a universal constant you could tinker with and speculate about is energy conversion efficiency and how much energy is lost to entropy, but that would be quite similar to the advancements in engines we have seen over the last 50 years, just extended to an even higher efficiency

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#14
I'm trying to decide if it would matter if the original question meant a universe without baseline/natural predisposed to entropy rather than zero entropy at all. 🤔

I remember being taught a bunch of maths relating to thermodynamics at uni, but I'm not sure it stuck. 😅 What I remember is that entropy is both the natural tendency for choas over order, and a measurable property of a system. So the latter would be removing all entropy from a universe and you'd only have order and I can't see how you'd have any reactions or anything happen in that case. Removing the tendancy towards chaos doesn't necessarily stop things creating choas because of outside conditions. It would maybe be the reverse of our universe, where everything wants to achieve order but the conditions don't always allow it. Someone mentioned the Big Bang being reliant upon entropy, maybe this is the universe in its shrink phase?

I really hope this makes sense pre caffeine, I could be talking nonsense. 😅

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#15

Cinn Wrote: I'm trying to decide if it would matter if the original question meant a universe without baseline/natural predisposed to entropy rather than zero entropy at all. 🤔

I remember being taught a bunch of maths relating to thermodynamics at uni, but I'm not sure it stuck. 😅 What I remember is that entropy is both the natural tendency for choas over order, and a measurable property of a system. So the latter would be removing all entropy from a universe and you'd only have order and I can't see how you'd have any reactions or anything happen in that case. Removing the tendancy towards chaos doesn't necessarily stop things creating choas because of outside conditions. It would maybe be the reverse of our universe, where everything wants to achieve order but the conditions don't always allow it. Someone mentioned the Big Bang being reliant upon entropy, maybe this is the universe in its shrink phase?

I really hope this makes sense pre caffeine, I could be talking nonsense. 😅
I'd have to say that the original post meant neither, since I really wanted a universe or simulation thereof where intelligent beings could live.  "Live" meaning an experience comparable to being in an immersive VR game, or the mental experience of being in The Matrix.  Not biological life as it exists on Earth.

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#16
sunandshadow Wrote: I'd have to say that the original post meant neither, since I really wanted a universe or simulation thereof where intelligent beings could live.  "Live" meaning an experience comparable to being in an immersive VR game, or the mental experience of being in The Matrix.  Not biological life as it exists on Earth.
Well, assuming the VR universe requires simulated physics of some description...

I guess the simplest way would be to do without thermodynamics. But then there's be no temperature change as enthalpy and entropy are linked, so maybe you change thermodynamics to basically erase the concept of entropy but I'm not sure how you'd do that... 🤔

Entropy as a measurable concept is the change of order in a system. So you could probably build a world where the natural predisposition to choas doesn't exist, but I'm not sure how you go about removing entropy itself. Unless each object is a closed system within an atmosphere-less (yep, doing well with those technical terms 😅) environment where no closed system can be damaged for a change in its order. 🤔 As a VR world you wouldn't need air to breathe... So you could have projectiles but they'd just bounce off other objects without damaging either. And I don't see how you could have reactions because even though the end result might be the same entropic value, there's be an entropy change to get there.

Re: What would a world without entropy be like?

#17


sunandshadow Wrote: Entropy is the force or principle of physics where orderly things naturally decay into disorder over time.



Not... really.

Entropy is a measure of that decay. The principle is the second law of therodynamics, which basically states 'in an isolated system, entropy can never decrease'.

This is kinda like saying 'temperature is the principle by which ice cubes melt'. No; temperature is the measure by which you can tell when ice cubes will melt. The principle is Fouriers Law, which pretty much says 'heat moves towards cold things'. 

I'd say there are two ways this might be re-interpreted - the first would be: [What would a world be like if, all other things being equal, the second law of therodynamics said: 'in an isolated system, entropy can never change'?]

This one's easier; basically, it would be frozen.

The third law of thermodynamics says something like: 'the entropy of a system approaches a constant as the temperature approaches absolute zero'. Therefore, if entropy can't change (constant), it's basically the same as freezing the system (absolute zero). Essentially, time stops. This is kinda like the 'food not rotting' in your example, but applied less selectively. Having it only apply in certain examples would basically introduce time-stop magic to the world which, while interesting, has been done in a lot of stories.

The second way to interpret it - which might be more along the lines of what you're thinking, what with people not getting weaker as they aged - would be if the second law said: ['in a closed system, entropy can decrease'].

This... could be any level of different, depending on how exactly that 'can decrease' works out.

Part of this depends on frame of reference - how large of a 'closed system' you're examining. Note, the 2nd law doesn't say entropy can't decrease anywhere - it's that it can't decrease in the entirety of a closed system.

Taking the sun and the earth as an example system, we can use sunlight to increase order on Earth - in fact, trees do it every day - but the entropy increase in the sun is always greater than the entropy decrease on the Earth, so with the whole system in consideration, entropy increases. 

Using this as an example, a fantasy universe could have a magical 'white hole' - the conceptual opposite of a black hole, it simply dumps out energy - which, given enough time, could be used to undo any chemical reaction, lower the temperature of anything, reverse the expansion of the universe, whatever. It might basically look like the sun, but it would never burn out - not such a different world, in the small aspects.

Or it could have a no-cost energy generation method guided by imagination - 'magic'. Honestly, I've already read a dozen stories that break the second law of thermodynamics on this site; basically any story with an 'inventory' system or 'bag of holding' that allows items to be stored, weightless, for no cost, already does this. A 'bag of holding' could be used to create a system that only increases in energy, such as a water wheel. (Fill bag with water - use water to power wheel - use wheel to fill and lift bag - repeat = infinite free energy). This could also theoretically be used to reverse the expansion of the universe, although scaling might be a bit trickier.

But neither of those are interesting answers to your question - the first one has no noticeable changes for most people, and the second one is such a common answer it's become boring.

So let's try the old sci-fi exercise - change one small thing, then extrapolate how that change would affect the world.

I pick.. fire. More specifically, I pick oxidizing carbon. What would a world look like where 'coldfire' existed? Where, when the temperature was below freezing, CO2 can undergo a reaction that absorbs heat and returns it to being O2 and C? That is, a closed system could exist that spontaneously oscillates between two states, entropy increasing, then decreasing, as it burned/unburned itself.

Well, to start, being outside in winter would be significantly more dangerous. Your breath could spontaneously burst into coldfire; it would be like breathing gasoline fumes constantly, with the threat of flash-freezing your lungs. Fire-stopping scarves would probably be a thing.

Eternal engines would be build-able. Have a 'hotburning' engine on one end, then pipe the CO2 to an 'coldburning' engine on the other end. It would run forever, once set up. This would have major impacts on modern civilization.

Cold-matches could be a thing. If you want a cold drink in the summer, strike a cold-match and light up your freezer. Well, that might be impractical unless reverse-oxidation worked for other chemicals besides carbon dioxide. Sure, dry ice would 'burn' (nrub?), but... dry ice is already cold enough without adding coldfire to the mix. Actually, dry ice would probably be impossible to make without physical pressure.


Plants might act differently. Current plants use sunlight to turn CO2 into O2 and hydrocarbons. In a world where that process can be naturally reversed, however, plants could exist that use the energy absorption of the 'unburn' to grow. They wouldn't need light - in fact, they'd grow better in the dark, because light warms things up, and they'd need to be near freezing to operate optimally. Catalysts might still work on the process, so they might not need to be quite that cold, but they'd still benefit from it, and they'd naturally produce a chill.

So I'd imagine cave ecosystems based around 'coldfire'. They'd be chilly, but they'd also need air circulation - to get more CO2 - so they wouldn't exist too far underground. You could find them by feeling for cold spots on the ground, or cold breezes coming out of the earth. They might be more like mushrooms than plants, although having leaf-like structures would still be useful for gas exchange.

There might be symbioses; say, a cold-plant that grows inside/exchanges sap with a warm-plant, where they use each other's chemical processes to grow. Kinda like lichen.

In winter, cold-plants might spread out of their systems and grow across the ground, spreading as fast as they can to find new shaded places to survive until next winter. They might have alcoholic sap, so that being frozen wouldn't hurt them below a certain temperature. Maybe places with too long of a winter would be dominated by cold-plants that could 'oversummer' outside their cave systems. Instead of tapping maples for syrup, you could tap cold-maples for natural booze, the cold-sap rising as winter came on. Cold-forests would naturally produce chill themselves, too, though, so above certain latitudes they'd probably be dominant year-round.

Basements would need to be checked regularly to keep cold-plants out. An infestation might be difficult to get rid of without steaming the whole place.

That being said, coldplants could be domesticated to produce cold. Early cold-cellars could evolve into iceboxes powered by coldplants. Being able to easily preserve food would probably change how the tropical cultures evolved. Smoking/canning would be much less prevalent.

Hell, why stop at plants - animals that breathe in CO2 and breathe out O2 and C might be possible. They'd need to keep their body temperature below a certain level, or the reaction would stop working, but it might be possible. Sightless cold-lizards or ice-mice that would live well underground, and could deal with the chill better than invaders from the surface.

Anyways, I could keep world-building, but I've picked the low-hanging fruit. But yeah, choosing one specific area to reverse entropy is more interesting than a sweeping reversal, IMO.