The laws of thermodynamics, hell-fire and death
Posted on October 15th, 2015

By Chandre Dharmawardana Canada Courtesy Island

According to Dr. Leo Fernando (Island, 7-10-2015), “assuming that there is an almighty omniscient God who is also all loving and merciful, one cannot imagine that He would create a Hell for His subjects when He could have easily refrained from creating them to spare them of eternal punishment ….”. If so, one may ask “why is there so much pain and suffering in the world where the deity created a Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, ISIS, tsunamis and mass epidemics where innocents perish”? 

We are fortunate to have Prof/ Carlo Fonseka (CF) who presents complex ideas simply and entertainingly. Prof. Fonseka, writing in the Island (6-Oct-2015) gives an excellent discussion of the first law of thermodynamics which states that ‘matter’ (or equivalently, ‘energy’) can neither be destroyed nor created. It is when CF stated that “when I die I will rot in accordance with the first law of thermodynamics” (Island, 2 October), that I felt compelled to add to his discussion, as there is no room for “rotting” in the “first law”. After all, ‘rotting’ is governed by the second law of thermodynamics. Furthermore, CF says “I request CD to point out where exactly in my account I have erred and confused things”.

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Everyone is concerned about “mass”, as comments about “putting on weight”, or “going on a diet” etc., show (although “mass” and “weight” need to be distinguished, we use them informally here). So, a human being’s “mass” is clearly NOT a conserved quantity, as the bath-room scales show. Text books on thermodynamics state that ‘given a closed system, even if chemical or other transformations occur inside that system, the total mass remains constant’. The law is tested by weighing such a ‘closed system’ repeatedly, while transformations occur.

 

If the system were not closed, any answer can result! An ancient Indian scientist named Piyasi (6th century BCE) weighed a person before death and after death, to determine the mass of the departed soul. To his consternation, the body was found to be heavier dead than when alive!

 

An organism is not a closed system. It is a part of the environment. In applying the first law to organisms, we enclose the organism, its food, air and its waste inside a sealed system. Then the first law holds, as testable using a bacterial colony on a Petri dish, enclosed in glass chamber. The mass of the chamber (plus contents) remains constant even as new bacteria are born, or when the whole colony dies as the nutrients run out.

 

CF proposes to make the whole universe (plus himself) a “closed system”, and apply the conservation law to the universe, before and after death. Even if we could weigh the whole universe before and after the death of a person, the needed accuracy (clever by half!) will never be available to test the law!

 

The universe (or the part of it that we know) is NOT a closed system. Matter and energy are being destroyed every second at every black hole, and so the laws of physics break down at such “singularities in space-time”. Interestingly, the ‘surface’ of a black hole seems to be a ‘closed system’, and excellent progress has been made in black-hole surface physics, using thermodynamics.

 

The first law was viewed with suspicion at an earlier age because people believed that “flies, maggots” and life arose spontaneously, and that holy men can miraculously ‘pluck things’ out of thin air and present them to devotees. The first law forbids such miracles, except inside blackholes, whiteholes, wormholes and such `space-time singularities’ where physics becomes invalid.

 

So theology can take refuge in such singularities since we cannot prove or disprove any claims that a Creator, a Brahma or Hell-fire is working inside these ‘cracks’ in space-time.

 

According to Dr. Leo Fernando (Island, 7-10-2015), “assuming that there is an almighty omniscient God who is also all loving and merciful, one cannot imagine that He would create a Hell for His subjects when He could have easily refrained from creating them to spare them of eternal punishment ….”. If so, one may ask “why is there so much pain and suffering in the world where the deity created a Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, ISIS, tsunamis and mass epidemics where innocents perish”?

 

Catharism was a heretical Christian teaching with an admixture of Hindu-Buddhist beliefs that flourished in southern Europe in the 12-14th centuries, and concerned itself with human suffering. The existence of human misery proved to them that the creator is a malevolent being. In Hinduism, the Creator is both Good and Bad. The inquisition eliminated thousands of Cathers and ended the ‘heresy’ brutally.

 

CF concludes that “when Physicist CD implies that I am confusing the first law with the second law, I think the Physicist is being too clever by half”.

 

I was a Chemistry professor in Sri Lanka, where I laboured much in areas like food science and environmental chemistry, while also researching in theoretical physics. The laws of chemistry are a direct consequence of the laws of physics. If Prof. Carlo Fonseka had stated, “When I die, I will rot in accordance with the laws of chemistry”, I would have agreed with him fully.

 

One Response to “The laws of thermodynamics, hell-fire and death”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Carlo Fonseka is still in Newtonian Mechanics and First Law thermodynamics. Second Law of Thermodynamics and all post Newtonian physics are beyond his reasoning and a dilemma to him. There ends his knowledge of science.

    He will continue to inspire the less ‘informed’.

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