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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

dust and the second law of thermodynamics

I was doing a quick round of dusting this afternoon and got to thinking.

Dusting always gets me to thinking - there's something so mindless about wiping a cloth over every flat surface and any other surface suitably shaped for dust catching. It's think while you work or risk a form of housewife madness!

Today I got to thinking about the link between highschool science and dust. For example, archaelogical digs have discovered civilisations buried under the earth. If these historic townships have been buried by years of dust and detritus, could my house be similarly buried if I ceased to dust - filled from floor to ceiling with all the scraps and filings left behind by my existence?

A great volcano buried Pompeii in volcanic rock and dust. Does the dust that settles in every possible nook and cranny of my home bear any resemblance to that dust? Pompeii was buried in a day - how long would it take to bury my home in atmospheric particles blown in from the far reaches of the earth?

And just where does this dust come from? Potentially my cleaning moves it from one room to the next, one surface to another - but where did it come from in the first place? And why does no amount of cleaning ever remove it all?

As I pondered these deep, searching questions, I remembered my chemistry teacher quoting some great scientist or other saying that, left to its own devices, the world descends into chaos.

I have since refreshed my memory, and discovered that this is somewhat similar to the second law of thermodynamics, or entropy. Everything always gets worse not better. Eggs break but they never put themselves back together again (think Humpty Dumpty). Cars crash, but they never pull themselves apart and regain their shape. Houses burn, but they never rise from the ashes....

Dust settles, but never lifts off a surface and floats back to where it came from.

If women had been allowed an education at an earlier point in history, science may well be far more advanced than it is today - we would have pondered numerous every day occurances and explained the theory behind them in no time. I mean, just look at me! One afternoon of pondering dust is all it has taken to realise that I am caught in the trap of the second law of thermodynamics! I will forever be dusting, because dust settles, but never lifts.

Sadly, if I cannot escape this thermodynamic trap, there is great potential that I may be buried just like Pompeii. It seems that I am destined to a life of reversing the second law of thermodynamics with my cleaning glove.

When you put it that way, dusting is really a noble task. Get to it then! And see what you can think up next time!

1 Comments:

At 4:10 pm, November 07, 2006, Blogger Robyn said...

That sparked some pretty deep thinking on your part :) Unfortunately for me there is a reason why dusting is one of the jobs I call "mindless" because it doesn't trigger any thought processes at all! Now gardening is a whole other matter though.... :)

 

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