Distillation of a Lecture Given by Dr. William Gunther, Esteemed Professor of Applied Physics
Stephany Daniel

Distillation of a Lecture Given by Dr. William Gunther, Esteemed Professor of Applied Physics, Wherein He Discusses the Four Laws of Thermodynamics and Their Applications to Everyday Life

Law the Zeroth: If two systems are both in equilibrium with a third system, then they are in equilibrium with each other.

Applications: When you’ve been teaching long enough to be tenured and you’re still single, your younger, married sister will try to set you up with a friend from her pottery class. You will see this act as one of thinly-veiled pity and promptly decline. She will get your mother involved. You will be forced to acquiesce. No one will be more surprised than you are when the date, in fact, goes well.

Law the First: The total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.

Applications: Mutual interest will transform, spontaneously it seems, into passionate romance, launching you from the anxious first date at the hibachi grill when you had a little too much sake, to your Sunday afternoon wedding a year and half later. By the time you realize the love that brought you together has morphed into something darker, more akin to a mutual resentment, it’ll be too late to do anything about it. That’s because this change will take place over years. It will be slight. Sneaky. Almost imperceptible.

Law the Second: Entropy, defined simply, is disorder. The entropy of an isolated system never decreases because isolated systems spontaneously evolve toward equilibrium, that is, a state of maximum entropy.

Applications: Unfortunately, you will be so absorbed in your work that you will fail to see that same chaos move into your marriage. You’ll suspect something is amiss three months shy of your seventh wedding anniversary. Your wife will spend that anniversary with the man she left you for, a barista, because, in her words, “He pays attention. He makes time for me.” You’ll spout childish remarks about how your work is so important it will one day be seen in space. You’ll wrap up your argument by indicating it will be a cold day in hell before the first latte lands on Mars. Your wife will shake her head and give you that look that says you’ve missed the point entirely.

Law the Third: The entropy of a system approaches zero as its temperature approaches absolute zero.

Applications: When your wife is gone, your energy, and your interest in work, will slump. You will take a sabbatical. Think too much. Blame yourself. Drink too much. Eventually, you will bounce back, envisioning your current situation as a mathematical function wherein the disorder of your life decreases as the love for your estranged wife fades. When you finally return to work, you will tell yourself that you’re over her. That you fell completely, irrevocably out of love. Then you’ll remember the First Law of Thermodynamics. That’s when you refuse to sign the divorce papers. Wait for things to change.