## Tuesday, September 14, 2010

### The Parable of the Gas

Consider a spherical, sealed glass container of gas. Further suppose that the gas inside is all the same -like helium in a balloon. Room temperature and stable. Everything equal inside...but it's not. The individual gas atoms in the container have unequal energies because there's a range--a statistical distribution--of energies present: Some atoms move more slowly than others, some more quickly, some much more quickly.

How can we make things fair? How can we make it such that each individual (atom) has the same energy as its next nearest neighbor? We cannot. The only way to approach that state is to remove energy from the entire system. Cool the economy. Everything slows. Eventually, approaching zero Kelvin, all motion stops. Of course catastrophic things like condensation (downsizing from gas to liquid) and solidification (loss of liquidity) occur along the way. But the goal is achieved: every atom is finally the same (or nearly the same) energywise.

1. Thinking in reverse, the only way to increase the average energy content of the entire ensemble is to raise the temperature. While individual atoms have different energies, they are constantly exchanging energy and levels of energy. A low energy gas atom can (and does) become a high energy gas atom via collisions and energy exchanges with its neighbors and environment.

2. You could compress all those atoms into a singularity, zero mass, infinite density. But then, they wouldn't be atoms anymore. So I guess I fail :(

I did consider raising the temperature, but you'd end up with just higher energy, unequal atoms right? So the best answer is the absolute zero one I think, as you'd said.

3. You could compress all those atoms into a singularity, zero mass, infinite density. But then, they wouldn't be atoms anymore. So I guess I fail

You never fail with me Candle. :)

Your comment reminded me of something Isacc Newton once said. Asked how big the universe was if we could take away all the space between things he replied: "It could fit in a nutshell." He was riffing on Shakespeare's Hamlet. So I guess you remind me of Newton and Shakespeare-definitely not a failure.

4. Hehe, thanks (I think...)

I love how you throw big names like "Newton" and "Hamlet" out there, as if I could ever dismiss the inventor of my favorite fig-flavored snack, or my favorite breakfast meat.

5. I've always been more baconian in my preference of breakfast meats but we share a taste in Nabisco products.