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What Entropy Is, and Is Not

To judge from the writings of C.R Snow, entropy and the second law of thermodynamics were once indelicate subjects. Now things have changed, and on the cocktail party circuit we hear of entropy in art, entropy in economics, entropy in urban decay, and other erudite-sounding applications. A most difficult concept in physics is being applied to confused areas in the social sciences, with the impression being conveyed that this increases our comprehension. I have before me a letter from Jeremy Rifk

Harold Morowitz
To judge from the writings of C.R Snow, entropy and the second law of thermodynamics were once indelicate subjects. Now things have changed, and on the cocktail party circuit we hear of entropy in art, entropy in economics, entropy in urban decay, and other erudite-sounding applications. A most difficult concept in physics is being applied to confused areas in the social sciences, with the impression being conveyed that this increases our comprehension.

I have before me a letter from Jeremy Rifkin, author of Entropy: A New World View. His communication states that "entropy helps explain why we have runaway inflation, soaring unemployment, bloated bureaucracies, a widely escalating energy crisis, and worsening pollution." That sentence is an archetypical example of the patent intellectual nonsense being offered in applying physics to the social sciences. Entropy, a deep and hard-to-penetrate physical construct, is being indiscriminately applied to situations in which it is...

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