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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify probabilities in entropy.
  • Analyze statistical probabilities in entropic systems.

The information presented in this section supports the following AP® learning objectives and science practices:

  • 7.B.1.1 The student is able to construct an explanation, based on atomic-scale interactions and probability, of how a system approaches thermal equilibrium when energy is transferred to it or from it in a thermal process. (S.P. 6.2)
Photograph of many coins laid down on a surface, some with heads shown up and some with tails shown up.
When you toss a coin a large number of times, heads and tails tend to come up in roughly equal numbers. Why doesn't heads come up 100, 90, or even 80% of the time? (credit: Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org)

The various ways of formulating the second law of thermodynamics tell what happens rather than why it happens. Why should heat transfer occur only from hot to cold? Why should energy become ever less available to do work? Why should the universe become increasingly disorderly? The answer is that it is a matter of overwhelming probability. Disorder is simply vastly more likely than order.

When you watch an emerging rain storm begin to wet the ground, you will notice that the drops fall in a disorganized manner both in time and in space. Some fall close together, some far apart, but they never fall in straight, orderly rows. It is not impossible for rain to fall in an orderly pattern, just highly unlikely, because there are many more disorderly ways than orderly ones. To illustrate this fact, we will examine some random processes, starting with coin tosses.

Coin tosses

What are the possible outcomes of tossing 5 coins? Each coin can land either heads or tails. On the large scale, we are concerned only with the total heads and tails and not with the order in which heads and tails appear. The following possibilities exist:

5 heads, 0 tails 4 heads, 1 tail 3 heads, 2 tails 2 heads, 3 tails 1 head, 4 tails 0 head, 5 tails alignl { stack { size 12{"5 heads, 0 tails"} {} #size 12{"4 heads, 1 tail"} {} # size 12{"3 heads, 2 tails"} {} #size 12{"2 heads, 3 tails"} {} # size 12{"1 head, 4 tails"} {} #size 12{"0 head, 5 tails"} {} } } {}

These are what we call macrostates. A macrostate    is an overall property of a system. It does not specify the details of the system, such as the order in which heads and tails occur or which coins are heads or tails.

Using this nomenclature, a system of 5 coins has the 6 possible macrostates just listed. Some macrostates are more likely to occur than others. For instance, there is only one way to get 5 heads, but there are several ways to get 3 heads and 2 tails, making the latter macrostate more probable. [link] lists of all the ways in which 5 coins can be tossed, taking into account the order in which heads and tails occur. Each sequence is called a microstate    —a detailed description of every element of a system.

5-coin toss
Individual microstates Number of microstates
5 heads, 0 tails HHHHH 1
4 heads, 1 tail HHHHT, HHHTH, HHTHH, HTHHH, THHHH 5
1 head, 4 tails TTTTH, TTTHT, TTHTT, THTTT, HTTTT 5
0 heads, 5 tails TTTTT 1
Total: 32

Questions & Answers

Propose a force standard different from the example of a stretched spring discussed in the text. Your standard must be capable of producing the same force repeatedly.
Giovani Reply
What is meant by dielectric charge?
It's Reply
what happens to the size of charge if the dielectric is changed?
Brhanu Reply
omega= omega not +alpha t derivation
Provakar Reply
u have to derivate it respected to time ...and as w is the angular velocity uu will relace it with "thita × time""
do to be peaceful with any body
Brhanu Reply
the angle subtended at the center of sphere of radius r in steradian is equal to 4 pi how?
Saeed Reply
if for diatonic gas Cv =5R/2 then gamma is equal to 7/5 how?
define variable velocity
Ali Reply
displacement in easy way.
Mubashir Reply
binding energy per nucleon
Poonam Reply
why God created humanity
Manuel Reply
Because HE needs someone to dominate the earth (Gen. 1:26)
why god made humenity
Is the object in a conductor or an insulator? Justify your answer. whats the answer to this question? pls need help figure is given above
Jun Reply
ok we can say body is electrically neutral ...conductor this quality is given to most metalls who have free electron in orbital d ...but human doesn't have ...so we re made from insulator or dielectric material ... furthermore, the menirals in our body like k, Fe , cu , zn
when we face electric shock these elements work as a conductor that's why we got this shock
how do i calculate the pressure on the base of a deposit if the deposit is moving with a linear aceleration
ximena Reply
why electromagnetic induction is not used in room heater ?
Gopi Reply
What is position?
Amoah Reply
What is law of gravition
sushil Reply
Practice Key Terms 3

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