Articles

Entropy in an Expanding Universe

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Science  13 Aug 1982:
Vol. 217, Issue 4560, pp. 593-599
DOI: 10.1126/science.217.4560.593

Abstract

The question of how the observed evolution of organized structures from initial chaos in the expanding universe can be reconciled with the laws of statistical mechanics is studied, with emphasis on effects of the expansion and gravity. Some major sources of entropy increase are listed. An expanding "causal" region is defined in which the entropy, though increasing, tends to fall further and further behind its maximum possible value, thus allowing for the development of order. The related questions of whether entropy will continue increasing without limit in the future, and whether such increase in the form of Hawking radiation or radiation from positronium might enable life to maintain itself permanently, are considered. Attempts to find a scheme for preserving life based on solid structures fail because events such as quantum tunneling recurrently disorganize matter on a very long but fixed time scale, whereas all energy sources slow down progressively in an expanding universe. However, there remains hope that other modes of life capable of maintaining themselves permanently can be found.