This is Why Physicists Are So Chill

If you are like me, and have a BS in Zoology you don’t use but cherish because for two years you got to cram your head with facts that come up in truly inappropriate moments at cocktail parties, you’ll know about monkeys.

Specifically, about monkey studies. Psychologists and animal behavioralists LOVE to do studies on monkeys, specifically chimps but also other species, because it’s a close enough derivative to humans that we feel we can draw conclusions but not so close that it will put people in uproar. (The fact that it isn’t technically humans gives some people the license to treat these studies like their horoscope: fully acknowledging those that conform to their ideas of appropriate and discarding the rest like a Tootsie Roll out of one’s Halloween stash).

I accidentally enrolled in an animal behavior class once and had such a good time I enrolled in a few more, this is why despite a declared major in Zoology with what was supposed to be an emphasis in Marine Biology I actually took things like Cellular Mollecular Botany and Evolutionary Genetics: the last two years of college are a smorgasbord and I was an ideal candidate for Overeaters Anonymous. I digress…

One study I’m reminded of constantly was done with (surprise!) monkeys: the effect of a routine, a schedule, on their daily lives. That is to say, your Control group (the group you aren’t fucking with, as it were) gets awoke at a certain time. They get to play at a certain time. They get fed at a certain time. They go to sleep at a certain time. Day in and day out, this schedule does not vary. The Test group (that would be the group you’re fucking with) has a supremely erratic schedule: they never awake at the same time, the time and distance from one activity to another (and, indeed, the order) changes around a lot, etc. Both groups get adequate sleep time and proper diet…. the only thing different is the time at which these things are allowed to happen.

The Test Group will go insane (in a self-or-others injuring way). Every. Time.

One of my mottos is to Encourage Entropy. This is with tongue placed firmly in cheek to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that Entropy Always Increases. (The first is the Law of the Conservation of Energy: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed). But basically the second law states that disorder/chaos, or Entropy, in a system will always increase. Chaoticians love this because that is the sort of butterfly flapping its wings in China that brings the stock market down theory they love to tout (see Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park). I like it on the ‘If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them’ method: left to my own devices I will create an environment so rigid for myself that any disruption therein will send me into a fit of OCD cleaning or some other expression of discomfiture. If I remind myself that there’s a LAW that says it’s supposed to happen, well, then, I’m just obeying the law. And as the Male Person says, I’m a total goody two shoes and will obey the law. In this case, I’ll encourage it along. While cleaning.

Lately the entropy in my life has been increasing at a rate I’m a little less comfortable with. The schedule was set, was changed, was messed with, was righted, was slightly shifted, was slightly shifted back, and is now in some form of stasis for a couple of months until the next round of shift negotiations occurs. The good news is any potential upcoming shifts are likely to be suitably telegraphed, the bad news is I have no idea what they are as of yet (there are, of course, reasonable assumptions and contingency plans).

The Entropy Erratic is furthered by an upcoming change in profession, for which I am very excited, proud, and honored, and totally will talk about it once it’s final. Trust me when I say it’s a move up, and over, and I’m full of technical squee, but we’re not there yet. I think, however, we can all agree that shifting jobs within a company means for a very weird transition period, one I am in currently, where I am leaving job A (and having to download all of my stuff to someone(s) else(s)), and arriving at job B (where I am no longer hot shit, I am not even a lukewarm fart, and I need to learn everything anew). Entropy, in effect, is getting a dopamine rush.

While I do have a reasonable confidence level (about 95%, plus minus 3%) that this will all calm down around mid-December, I am in turn reminded of the Third Law of Thermodynamics: basically, you can’t freeze anything to a total stop. You can slow it down a lot (a total lot!) but the Entropy will always be there, even if you get all Kelvin on its ass. There’s a certain peace in that.

For those of you wondering: there are actually FOUR laws of Thermodynamics. The Zeroth one — yes, it goes 0,1,2,3; like I said, physicists — basically states if you have 2 systems in thermal equilibrium with a third, they are in equilibrium with one another. The practical application of this in terms of my life is that if things are cool at work and things are cool at home then things are cool with me; I continue reminding myself that this law comes *before* the one about entropy increasing.


One comment

  1. Life… More like Chaos Theory. I love the technical squee aspect and can relate. Our corporate bigwigs just announced that our facility will be on the receiving end of 1.1 Billion dollars in the next year for upgrades, a new product and several other major items. Now that, to me, is chock full of technical squee.

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