Thermodynamics and Productivity: 3 ways the laws can be used in personal life

The 4 laws of thermodynamics describe how physical quantities like temperature, energy, pressure, and entropy (degree of randomness of a system) behave under various circumstances and forbid certain phenomena like perpetual motion. We can utilize these very laws to draw an analogy to real life cases and situations and how to deal with them for a general well-being.

(Please Note: This is a fun post. Please feel free to comment/ dispute the contents. References for Thermodynamics text: Wikipedia and Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry )

Thermodynamics teaches us why isolation can be an enemy of productivity:

The Red Panda, A picture I took at the Himalayan Zoological Park in Sikkim
The Red Panda, a picture I took at the Himalayan Zoological Park in Sikkim

Energy is always conserved. It just changes form. Heat energy is transferred in or out of the system and work is done on or by the system. If a system exchanges only energy with its surroundings its  closed system and if it exchanges matter too its an open system. A living system is an open system as it exchanges both matter and energy with it’s surroundings. In thermodynamics terminology, the system and it’s surroundings is called the universe.

A perpetual motion machine (of the first kind) produces work without the input of energy violating the first law of thermodynamics which states that heat (energy)  and work are a form of energy transfer.


It is impossible to produce without mental stimulation/ interaction with our surrounds (we being a system). Forced isolation or imposing restrictions is also a classic way of preventing creativity and productivity. It also tells us that comparing one person’s situation and abilities with another is a fatal error since those are situational and circumstantial in a lot of cases.

Thermodynamics teaches us why we cannot continuously produce or perpetually create:

Himalayan white wolf
The Himalayan White Wolf

The second law states that when a system (isolated) that is not already in equilibrium spontaneously evolves towards a uniform temperature, ie, causing randomization of the energy within the system.

A perpetual motion machine of the second kind is a machine that spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work violating the second law.


We ( an isolated system) sometimes tend to be moving towards a state of equilibrium with our own system which negates any necessity to be innovative or creative or even to do work. We usually tend to create out of necessity or disharmony. Once the task is fulfilled or we fail miserably; we either don’t see a need to do it again, ie, create another masterpiece maybe, or we eventually give up, randomizing the energy within us.

A system in equilibrium has the greatest entropy (randomization of energy throughout that renders it incapacitory of doing spontaneous work). Therefore a perpetual motion of the second kind is impossible.

The system’s ability to do work reduces since it’s energy gets randomized throughout (without focus) and this can be further seen in the inequitable tapering down of resources in the society (the universe) that ultimately has no propensity to do any work. We can take an example of a kettle of boiling water turned off and allowed to cool. It’s energy that was once concentrated at 100 degree Celsius with the ability to do work (potential energy) now dissipates into the surroundings, changing the temperature infinitesimally, but doing no work but retaining it within the universe.

Furthermore, sometimes we cannot help worrying about mundane things that can impair decision-making and output. You cannot brain storm and come up with ideas if you have to constantly worry about paying bills and divert yourself to focus on petty things and eventually have to end up spending an enormous amount of your time and energy micromanaging. Potential energy dissipates into the surroundings without having much of a useful impact on life or work.

Thermodynamics teaches us how being organized boosts productivity and how your surroundings affect you:

154The tendency of the nature is towards an ever increasing randomization in the universe. Or in other words, the entropy of the universe is increasing. There must be a reason why nature aims for randomization of energy with the universe or chooses uniformity over non uniformity (eg, energy differences or temperature differences inside a system).


Since trying to attain equilibrium with our surroundings takes up a lot of time, energy and other resources, depending upon life’s situation and period; instead of trying to MICROMANAGE, we can delegate and randomize the energy or distribute it uniformly to requisite systems (just like the organization/ compartmentalization of the living system). This way we do not randomize our own energy.

The third law states that the entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches zero. That is, it moves towards uniformity and equilibrium.

You need an atmosphere conducive to your work and progress. If there is no temperature difference, there is no work done. At a steady temperature randomized throughout the system, you begin to vegetate.

A perpetual motion of the 3rd kind is a machine that eliminates friction and other forces that make it dissipate its energy and maintains it’s motion forever. This is also impossible since if you want to live in a society, you cannot isolate yourself from your surroundings. You get affected (positively or negatively) eventually.

Thermodynamic properties are functions of state. At a particular state the properties have a certain value, it changes with the change in state. Therefore, they can be equally of relevance in the human societal structure and not just in biochemistry, cell biology, chemical and aerospace engineering and other branches of study.

©The Idea Bucket, 2013-2014. Written by Ananya.

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