Q:

How Do You Denote Entropy in an Equation?

A:

In an equation, the convention is to denote absolute entropy with the letter S. The change in entropy in an equation is denoted by delta S.

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Credit: Kevin Dooley CC-BY-2.0

Entropy is a thermodynamic measurement of the degree of disorder in a system. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases. This law is often stated less precisely by summarizing that all things tend toward disorder. However, this more general statement is an inaccurate representation of the second law that has led to some confusion.

For example, a number of creationists have attempted to argue that the theory of evolution violates this more simple rendition of the second law of thermodynamics because life on Earth has become more sophisticated over time (rather than more disordered). However, the Earth is not an isolated system but is instead heated by the sun and affected by its cosmic environment. Thus, evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics because the engine of life on Earth is driven primarily by energy from the sun; turning off the sun would result in life quickly fading away. To avoid such confusion, it is important to communicate scientific principles like the second law of thermodynamics in a precise way.

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