Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

Energy Is Everything

What is the second law of thermodynamics?

There are several different statements of the second law of thermodynamics, but they are all centered on the idea of identifying what things can happen spontaneously in nature.

One formulation of the second law states that, for a closed system, the entropy of the system can only increase or remain the same. In plain language, this says that nature favors having more accessible configurations or arrangements. It’s why, for example, a drop of ink in water tends to spread out to fill its accessible volume but won’t spontaneously reform a drop of ink.

Another statement of the second law says that heat cannot spontaneously flow from a colder body to a warmer body. Work would have to be done for this to happen, which would imply the process was not spontaneous.


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