When I was 9, I earned the nickname “Teresa Tornado” from my summer camp counselor because my bunk bed used to look like a tornado rushed past. I was possibly the messiest camper in the cabin, or even in the whole of camp.
Since then, many things have improved about me- I no longer have long tangled hair where flies can find a home, I can swim more than 100 metres without getting exhausted and my English has improved quite significantly.
But there is a part of me that is the same as that little girl in oversized camp t-shirts:
I am still a mess.
My room gets attacked by tornadoes of lesser intensity nowadays, but it is undebatable that when you step into my room after I’ve had a tough week you will have to make an effort to recognise the material my desk is made of or the pattern of my bed covers.
It’s not out of carelessness that this comes about. And to answer all of the people who have criticised me for being a mess: Yes, it does stress me out, and no, I can’t concentrate with all that mess around me. But I find that as I get more and more preoccupied with other things, my room’s state goes from decent to post apocalyptic ruins, no matter how hard I try to keep it tidy.
Now, you can imagine the delight I felt when I read the following sentence in my chemistry notes:
Disorder is the natural state of the universe
The next time my family have me grief for being such a disaster I would be able to counteract with an argument that is supported by science:
“Well actually, disorder is the natural state of the universe and you wouldn’t want me to go and get in the way of the universe, would you, dad?”
It turned out that all the equations I was about to learn weren’t exactly going to justify the pile of clothes that were currently obscuring the floor of my bedroom. Instead, they introduced me to a interesting concept that has sparked other thoughts within me.
What does it mean when chemists say that the universe prefers a state of disorder?
As all messy people will know, it requires energy to be organised, and things that require less energy to happen are more likely to happen.
Chemists are interested in knowing which reactions will happen with more ease, which ones will need effort to get going and which reactions simply will not happen.
In a universe that tends towards disorder and that favours things that don’t require much energy, one can predict that reactions that end in more disorder than there was to begin with will be more successful, and reactions that take less energy to get started will happen more often.
Learning about Entropy in chemistry, I ended up jumbled up in a bunch of different equations and calculations which I might explain some other time, but I want to keep this short for now, because this post isn’t about entropy, it’s about the links that we make day-to-day as we discover the world.
Aside from learning how to answer the questions that will come up on my answer paper, that Chemistry lesson I learnt that when I can link my memories and previous experiences with new topics that might seem uninteresting at first, I can see my whole learning experience in a new light.
And as much as I continue to try and keep my room organised, when it gets difficult, I like to remember that the universe is messy, so who cares if I am too?