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Volume 12: Pages 92-105, 1999
Entropy and Cosmology
Murray H. Zucker
54 Cosdrew Lane, East Hampton, New York 11937 U.S.A.
This paper is a critical analysis and reassessment of entropic functioning as it applies to the question of whether the ultimate fate of the universe will be determined in the future to be “open” (expanding forever to expire in a big chill), “closed” (collapsing to a big crunch), or “flat” (balanced forever between the two). The second law of thermodynamics declares that entropy can only increase—and that this principle extends, inevitably, to the universe as a whole. This paper takes the position that this extension is an unwarranted projection based neither on experience nor fact—an extrapolation that ignores the powerful effect of gravitational force acting within a closed system. Since it was originally presented by Clausius, the thermodynamic concept of entropy has been redefined in terms of “order” and “disorder”—order being equated with a low degree of entropy and disorder with a high degree. This revised terminology, more subjective than precise, has generated considerable confusion in cosmology in several critical instances. For example—the chaotic fireball of the big bang, interpreted by Stephen Hawking as a state of disorder (high entropy), is infinitely hot and, thermally, represents zero entropy (order). Hawking, apparently focusing on the disorderly “chaotic” aspect, equated it with a high degree of entropy—overlooking the fact that the universe is a thermodynamic system and that the key factor in evaluating the big‐bang phenomenon is the infinitely high temperature of the early universe, which can only be equated with zero entropy. This analysis resolves this confusion and reestablishes entropy as a cosmological function integrally linked to temperature. The paper goes on to show that, while all subsystems contained within the universe require external sources of energization to have their temperatures raised, this requirement does not apply to the universe as a whole. The universe is the only system that, by itself, can raise its own temperature and thus, by itself, reverse entropy. The vast encompassing gravitational forces that the universe has at its disposal, forces that dominate the phase of contraction, provide the compacting, compressive mechanism that regenerates heat in an expanded, cooled universe and decreases entropy. And this phenomenon takes place without diminishing or depleting the finite amount of mass/energy with which the universe began. The fact that the universe can reverse the entropic process leads to possibilities previously ignored when assessing which of the three models (open, closed, or flat) most probably represents the future of the universe. After analyzing the models, the conclusion reached here is that the open model is only an expanded version of the closed model and therefore is not open, and the closed model will never collapse to a big crunch and, therefore, is not closed. Which leaves a modified flat model, oscillating forever between limited phases of expansion and contraction (a universe in “dynamic equilibrium”) as the only feasible choice.
Keywords: entropy, order/disorder, closed universe, no‐boundary universe, thermodynamic arrow of time, mass/energy
Received: June 18, 1998; Published online: December 15, 2008