Laymanized thermodynamics

In thermodynamics, laymanized thermodynamics refers to bare bones, simplified, dumbed-down, etc., versions of thermodynamics that the average layperson or person on the street might hold in his or her mental framework, if they have any conception at all, as to how they view the laws of thermodynamics, which govern the known universe, and how the laws apply to their own state of existence.

The following is a fairly decent example of “laymanized” version of thermodynamics, in a 2006 query post at the discussion forums by a female thinker named Oxymoron: [1]

“I not going to pretend to be a rocket scientist but I do have a pressing question that maybe some of you great minds can help me out with. The first law of thermodynamics: energy can be transformed but not created or destroyed. The second law of thermodynamics: the entropy of the universe is increasing. Okay, I can grasp this. Believing in a God or Gods or a higher power aside, when we die, what the hell happens to all of this energy. Since we are made up of atoms and molecules and such, and everything is, is it fair to say that when we die, we don't really die, but go on as energy? And if this is true, what form of energy do we take? I know there are a million different arguments that can be made on this, I'm just curious as to what people think about it?”

In other words the person seem to have a fairly decent grasp of the verbalized version of the first and second law as stated by German physicist Rudolf Clausius in conclusion of his 1865 textbook The Mechanical Theory of Heat.

Often is the case that the layperson will have had come across a passing mention of thermodynamics say in a biology books, literature work, noted quote, and took this as the general idea of what thermodynamics means.

Some so-called laymanized views of these might include: entropology, entropy (child’s playroom), entropy (shuffling cards), entropy (unscrambled eggs), heat death, among others.

Many famous laymanized lectures have resulted in some rather famous publications and followup debates. The most famous of these being Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger's February 1943 "What is Life? the Physical Aspect of the Living Cell" lectures delivered under the auspices of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, which resulted in the so-called negative entropy model of life, and the latter attack by fellow physicists that the discussion should have been on free energy. The attack resulted in a "Note to Chapter 6" appended to his followup 1944 booklet What is Life?, in which he responded to these criticisms that:

“My remarks on negative entropy have met with doubt and opposition from my physicist colleagues. If I had been catering for them alone I should have let the discussion turn on free energy instead. It is the more familiar notion in this context. But this high technical term seemed linguistically too near to energy for making the average reader alive to the contrast between the two things. He is likely to take free as more or less an epitheton ornans without much relevance, while actually the concept is a rather intricate one, whose relation to Boltzmann’s order-disorder principle is less easy to trace than for entropy and ‘entropy taken with a negative sign’, which by the way is not my invention.”

In other words, Schrodinger guessed that the "lay public" would better understand an entropy-based explanation of life than as compared to a free energy based explanation, the latter of which he viewed as being "a rather intricate" topic.

See also
Folklore thermodynamics

1. Oxymoron. (2006). “Thermodynamics and the Afterlife?”, Forums, Nov. 01.

Further reading
● Thims, Libb. (2008). “Public poll [N=81]: What is Entropy?”, IoHT publications.

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