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Everything Falls Apart

Kyle Wiens on the thrill of the fix

When I was in high school, our physics teacher, Mr. Andresen, attempted to teach a bunch of us about the laws of thermodynamics—fundamental principles of physics, describing the behavior of the entire universe. I’m oversimplifying, but they are: Energy can be neither created nor destroyed; entropy, inevitably, breaks down all things; and the heat death of the universe awaits us all. Conceptually, it was a lot for a classroom of fidgety sophomores to grasp. Mr. Andresen simplified it even further for us: “You can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t even get out of the game.”

Entropy is a constant in the universe. Nothing can resist its relentless assault. By infinitesimal degrees, entropy chips, wears, and erodes our flimsy human efforts. Wheels rust and fall off. Screens flicker and die. Our bodies grow feeble and break down. Even the tallest mountains eventually crumble to dust. And thus goes the universe. Eventually, all things fall apart. Every day, every hour, every second, every thing is succumbing to entropy. And there’s nothing we can do about it. That, I think, was Mr. Andresen’s point.

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