One, Two, Three ... Infinity: Facts & Speculations of Science

By George Gamow | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
The Law of Disorder

1. THERMAL DISORDER

IF YOU pour a glass of water and look at it, you will see a clear uniform fluid with no trace of any internal structure or motion in it whatsoever (provided, of course, you do not shake the glass). We know, however, that the uniformity of water is only apparent and that if the water is magnified a few million times, there will be revealed a strongly expressed granular structure formed by a large number of separate molecules closely packed together.

Under the same magnification it is also apparent that the water is far from still, and that its molecules are in a state of violent agitation moving around and pushing one another as though they were people in a highly excited crowd. This irregular motion of water molecules, or the molecules of any other material substance, is known as heat (or thermal) motion, for the simple reason that it is responsible for the phenomenon of heat. For, although molecular motion as well as molecules themselves are not directly discernible to the human eye, it is molecular motion that produces a certain irritation in the nervous fibers of the human organism and produces the sensation that we call heat. For those organisms that are much smaller than human beings, such as, for example, small bacteria suspended in a water drop, the effect of thermal motion is much more pronounced, and these poor creatures are incessantly kicked, pushed, and tossed around by the restless molecules that attack them from all sides and give them no rest (Figure 77). This amusing phenomenon, known as Brownian motion, named after the English botanist Robert Brown, who first noticed it more than a century ago in a study of tiny plant spores, is of quite general nature and can be observed in the study of any kind of sufficiently small particles suspended in any kind of liquid, or of microscopic particles of smoke and dust floating in the air.

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One, Two, Three ... Infinity: Facts & Speculations of Science
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Other Books by George Gamow ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Part I - Playing with Numbers 1
  • Chapter I - Big Numbers 3
  • Chapter II - Natural and Artificial Numbers 24
  • Part II - Space, Time: & Einstein 39
  • Chapter III - Unusual Properties of Space 41
  • Chapter IV - The World of Four Dimensions 64
  • Chapter V - Relativity of Space and Time 84
  • Part III - Microcosmos 113
  • Chapter VI - Descending Staircase 115
  • Chapter VII - Modern Alchemy 149
  • Chapter VIII - The Law of Disorder 192
  • Chapter IX - The Riddle of Life 231
  • Part IV - Macrocosmos 267
  • Chapter X - Expanding Horizons 269
  • Chapter XI - The Days of Creation 298
  • Index 336
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