Learning Physics through Vedas and Puranas – 1

Background

Energy and Entropy are two key thermodynamic concepts. Let me explain them and the second law of thermodynamics with reference to Shiva/Ganapati/Skanda and their ‘jnAna-pazham’ story here.

I already wrote about it, but covered a broad spectrum of it. Here the focus is narrow and the attempt is any ‘interested’ layman should be able to understand it.

Energy

All things in our Universe lie in Energy. Universe is made of energy that came out in Big-Bang says science. Energy is the Cause of all things in the Universe.

In Sanskrit, Shi-va means ‘in which all things lie’(1). Shiva is a ‘Divinity’ or ‘God’ in Hinduism. Shiva is the Energy. Shiva is interpreted as energetic, auspicious, beneficial etc as Shiva is the cause of all Universe.

This Shiva, the energy, Causes two effects, in the Classical world that we see, in the world of matter.

The Effects of Energy are ‘Work Energy’ and ‘Heat Energy’. Hence Shiva is said to have two Sons. Work and Heat, famously called Ganapati and Skanda.

Work

Work is physical movement. It is movement in a region of space from one fixed point to another fixed point. In that sense it is an ‘ordered’ movement.

This physical movement is caused by either by physical contact or a long range force-field.

For eg., when a gas or air is compressed in a piston, it is a physical movement caused by physical contact.  This kind of work (physical movement) caused by physical contact is called mechanical work.

For eg., when electrons flow through a conductor, it is a physical movement caused by the electromagnetic force-field. This kind of work (physical movement) caused by force-fields is called non-mechanical work.

God of ‘Work’ in Hinduism is said to be Ganapati, a son of Shiva. Ganapati is worshipped before any work is started because Ganapati is God of Work.

Work is ‘Ordered’ movement of molecules/atoms, from a definite starting point to ending point. In Sanskrit ‘Gana’ means ‘Ordered set’ or ‘troops’ (which are ordered formations) (1). Hence Work is called Ganapati, the Lord of ordered sets/troops.

Heat

Heat is vibrations or oscillations of matter.

Atoms and molecules or say protons and electrons that make them,  exhibit a movement of hopping up and down continuously, which is a vibratory or oscillatory motion. This motion is what we perceive as ‘Heat’.

In Sanskrit, Skanda means “anything which jumps or hops up and down” (1). This Skanda is said to be another son of Shiva, the energy.

Skanda is also said to be son of Agni or fire, because Heat is produced from Agni, the fire.

Thus Shiva, the energy has two sons. Ganapati, the Work and Skanda, the Heat.

Work vs Heat

Ganapati, the work, is ‘macroscopic’ movement, physical movement of molecules across a region of space.  Skanda, the ‘Heat’ is ‘microscopic’ movement, vibratory/oscillatory/up-down movement of atoms and molecules in the same place.   Since Ganapati the work is Macroscopic and Skanda the Heat is microscopic, Ganapathi is said to be the elder brother.

Ganpathi, the work, is ordered movement, from one place to another place. Skanda, the Heat is Random Movement. Hopping up and down is a totally random movement with no order or organized movement.

All matter forms are made of atoms and molecules which are bound by electromagnetic force. The work done on atoms and molecules of  matter form moves these atoms and molecules physically, causing changes to the electromagnetic bonds between the atoms of a matter form.  That is work done changes the ‘potential energy’ of the bonds. The Heat of matter exists as its kinetic energy. The average kinetic energy of matter is called ‘temperature’.  The overall energy of a matter form is sum of the potential energy (caused by work done on matter present in the electomagnetic bonds of atoms) and kinetic energy (caused by Heat imparted to the atoms).

Both Work and Heat cause Entropy in all matter forms.

Defining Entropy

Entropy is better explained from information theory. Entropy is the ‘information content’.

Let’s take a coin. This coin is a fair coin with head and tail on either side. The coin is idle, lying on the table, with ‘head’ upside.  In that case, only ‘head’ is seen always.

The coin is in the state of ‘head’ always. We can say that the coin has ‘zero information’ in it. Because there is only head and no other reference to compare. It is much like a ‘bit’, a binary digit, being always 1 or always zero.

A ‘bit’ which is always zero or 1 has no information. But if it is changing continuously then it has some information.

When the no. of states possible is only one, Entropy or information content is zero. Mathematically Entropy is defined as proportional to the natural logarithm of no. of states possible. Natural logarithm of 1 is zero.

So the coin has 1 state and zero entropy or information content.

Energy causes Entropy

We can give energy to this coin in two ways.

One is simply flipping it in the same place. It is like the microscopic oscillatory movement, the heat. The coin exhibits a rotational movement but does not move in region of space. Another is tossing it up, which is like macroscopic movement, the Work,  moving across a region of space. Yet another possibility is to do both at the same time (flip and toss).

Once the coin acquires some movement in either way, the head and tail of coin becomes visible. If head is bit 1 and tail is bit 0, then the information content of the coin is a series of 1’s and 0s.

This information content is what is called Entropy in thermodynamics. Because of the ‘Heat’ and ‘Work’ we gave to the coin, it acquired some Information content, some entropy.

Entropy in Matter

All matter forms in this world are made of atoms and molecules. These atoms and molecules are like a heap of such coins which exhibit both microscopic and macroscopic movement, but yet bonded together due to electromagnetic forces.

The microscopic and macroscopic movements exhibited by atoms and molecules of matter causes them to exist in series of multiple energy states, similar to heads and tails of the coins.

Thus the energy of matter can also be described in terms of distribution of these multiple energy states of atoms and molecules.

In short, the internal energy of all matter forms is the sum of potential energy caused by work done on them, the Ganapati and kinetic energy caused by heat, the Skanda.

This internal energy is represented by Entropy, distribution of energy states, which is the information content of the matter forms.

These two representations, the Energy and Entropy of a matter are equivalent.

Like an analog signal can be quantized and processed digitally, the internal energy of a matter form can also be represented as distribution of energy states and processed as information using statistics.

Like the amount of information generated from analog signal depends on the level of quantization, the entropy of a matter form with fixed energy can vary based on how particles in it are distributed and bound.

jnAna – Utilisation of energy or information

Now the question is, Can we make use of all this internal energy of matter, completely, say to 100%.?

Another way to frame the same question is, Can we make use of all the information content created by the energy, say to 100%?

That brings to concept called ‘jnAna’. jnAna is traditionally translated as Wisdom.

Veda is knowledge or information.  jnAna is utilization of that information or knowledge.

When one possesses knowledge of something, that person is a ‘Vedi’. When that person is able to utilize that knowledge completely, then that person become a ‘jnAni’.

This 100% utilization of Information or Entropy or Knowledge is what is called ‘jnAna’. Since entropy is a representation of energy, as an extension, jnAna is Utilization of energy 100%.

So the question of whether internal energy of a matter form can be 100% utilized and the question of entropy/information content of matter form can be 100% utilized are same questions.

This is the question of second law of thermodynamics.

Second law of Thermodynamics

Of the internal energy, Ganapati the energy caused by work and Skanda the energy caused heat,  which one can be 100% utilized..? Can both be 100% utilized..?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics puts a limit to the extent to which Heat of matter can be made use of.  It says the ‘Heat’ energy of matter forms cannot be 100% utilized. But there is no such limit on the energy caused by ‘Work’ on the matter forms.

In other words Ganapati (Energy due to work) is associated with jnAna (100% utilization). Skanda (Energy due to Heat) is not associated with jnAna.

Why did Ganapti get jnAna..?

The story of Ganapati and Skanda vying for the jnAna fruit illustrates it in this way.  Both Ganapati and Skanda were Challenged on who will get the jnAna fruit.  The Challenge was one who goes around the world gets the jnAna.

So Ganapati decided that his parents are the world and went around Shiva-Shakti, says the story. Ganapati is Work. What work does is to strengthen the ‘bonds’. In this case it is the bonds with Shiva-Shakti. In reality it is the bonds between atoms in any matter form.

Moreover, the movement of Ganapati was ordered movement with a fixed start and end points. It is limited but well ordered movement.

By strengthening the bonds, Ganapati, the Work gets jnAna, which is 100% utilization of energy.

From energy perspective, energy due to work done (ordered movement) on an object, is stored as its potential energy in the electromagnetic bonds between atoms. By breaking the bonds the complete potential energy in the bonds can be released.

From information or entropy perspective, to make information or entropy useful, it has to be structured and organized or ordered. Is it not..? Ganapati, the ordered movement (Gana -pati) has ordered information. Hence it makes 100% of utilization.

Why not Skanda get jnAna..?

When asked to go around the world, Skanda is said to have mounted his peacock and left.  Peacocks actually do a series of hopping up and downs, as they can’t be airborne for long.

Essentially this is how ‘heat’ is converted to useful work. Heat is the energy present in the random hopping up and down of atoms. This energy in random hopping up and down progresses across matter through physical collisions with other atoms, like peacock hops up and down as it flies across.

From energy perspective,  when random hopping up and down motion is converted to useful work by physical collision with atoms, it spreads across the place or is all over the place (go around the world). Hence a part of the energy is always lost.

From information or entropy perspective, totally dis-ordered information cannot be made use of 100%. This is because the dis-ordered information has to be ordered to be used.

Summary

Summarizing

  • Shiva is Energy
  • Ganapati is Work that adds to potential energy of objects
  • Skanda is Heat that adds to kinetic energy of objects
  • Entropy is their information content caused by Work, the Ganapati and Skanda, the Heat.
  • jnAna is 100% utilization of this information content.
  • The entropy or information content caused by Ganapati, the Work Energy can be utilized 100%. Hence it has the jnAna.
  • The entropy or information content caused by Skanda, the Heat Energy, which is random movement has to be converted into ordered movement and in that process, some information content is wasted or left-out. Hence Heat cannot be utilized fully. Some entropy is left out.

Reference

  1. Cologne Sanskrit-English Dictionary / Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary

-TBT

PS:

Like all matter forms have energy caused by work done on them and heat imparted on them, all biological beings have ‘brain’ and ‘heart’.   Ganapati is the brain and Skanda is the Heart.  Any external work done on us goes into our brain, becomes its information which can be fully utilized.  Any external ‘heat’ imparted on us ‘goes’ into our ‘heart’, becomes its information (passion) and it cannot be fully utilized. But more on these later..

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