healthcare model

Notes
for "What's in a word?"

             

Entropy

Thermodynamics is the branch of science concerned with the nature of heat and its conversion to mechanical, electrical and chemical forms of energy. Although a thorough commentary on thermodynamics is beyond the scope of this essay, an understanding of the second law of thermodynamics is crucial to our discussion of hope and desire as well as that of pain and suffering. The first law of thermodynamics is that:

Energy can be transformed from one form to another,
but it can neither be created nor destroyed.

The second law of thermodynamics may be stated in several different ways. My favorite has to do with the direction of energy flow:

Energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused and spread out.

Since useful work can be done can be done only during the flow of energy, the second law means that in any spontaneous energy transformation, the amount of energy that is available for doing work stays the same or decreases. The measure of a system's energy that is unavailable for work is called entropy, so:

The entropy of a closed system never decreases and increases whenever possible.

The second law of thermodynamics has several important consequences for our analysis of healthcare. The first is the direction of time. Time's arrow always points in the direction of increasing, never decreasing, entropy. Spontaneous physical processes are thus irreversible. Drop an egg and it will likely break; drop a broken egg, and it never spontaneously becomes whole. It is this irreversibility that leads to suffering and pain. On the other hand, the direction of energy flow leads to the very possibility of life. Without the second law, metabolism would be impossible. Thus the second law of thermodynamics is responsible for both life and death, both hope and suffering. Life would not be possible without the accompanying possibility of suffering and pain.

See also:

 

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