New Criticals

The concept of entropy has been mired in confusion for much of its popular history, and misunderstandings of the second law still provide fuel for zealous creationists. In my ongoing attempt to make entropy a simple and intuitive notion, I have come to prefer two descriptions. First, entropy quantifies how much energy (in the form of radiation or matter) is dispersed during a process. This is because, in accordance with the first law, energy cannot be created or destroyed, only spread out and mixed up. Frank Lambert has long been a proponent of this “call it dispersal, not disorder” approach.