Foundations of Physics

, Volume 37, Issue 12, pp 1744–1766 | Cite as

Entropy, Its Language, and Interpretation

  • Harvey S. LeffEmail author


The language of entropy is examined for consistency with its mathematics and physics, and for its efficacy as a guide to what entropy means. Do common descriptors such as disorder, missing information, and multiplicity help or hinder understanding? Can the language of entropy be helpful in cases where entropy is not well defined? We argue in favor of the descriptor spreading, which entails space, time, and energy in a fundamental way. This includes spreading of energy spatially during processes and temporal spreading over accessible microstates states in thermodynamic equilibrium. Various examples illustrate the value of the spreading metaphor. To provide further support for this metaphor’s utility, it is shown how a set of reasonable spreading properties can be used to derive the entropy function. A main conclusion is that it is appropriate to view entropy’s symbol S as shorthand for spreading.


Entropy Metaphor Energy Spreading Find Phys Spatial Spreading 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsCalifornia State Polytechnic UniversityPomonaUSA

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