Little Miss Entropy
Somewhere between their second and third birthdays toddlers are said to go through an
“orderly” stage. Everything has to be precisely in its place and they get very upset at any
disorder. My granddaughter, Eliza, who will be three next month, may have gone through
such a stage but, if she did, it was so short that nobody noticed.
Right now, she is in a prolonged phase of disorder. I call her Little Miss Entropy. Entropy
is a concept used by cosmologists to describe the gradual running down of the universe.
Every time a candle burns, a stream rushes down a mountainside, a meteor streaks
across the sky, entropy increases. Things that were bound up in a relatively orderly
structure become scattered and randomly distributed. Maximum entropy is reached when
all the matter and energy has been degraded into a state of inert uniformity.
Whenever little Eliza passes by, entropy takes a giant step forward. A box of crayons
quickly becomes scattered not only over the whole table-top, but on the floor surrounding
the table and soon in every room of the house. The cushions of an easy-chair disappear
from their supporting structure and magically re-materialize in an upstairs bedroom. The
ingredients of a dried-fruit platter disperse all over the house: an apricot here, a shriveled
pear there a white piece of dried pineapple on the armrest of the family room sofa. In
seconds, a neat spool of red ribbon becomes a meandering helix that snakes all the way
through the kitchen, dining room and living room.
Eliza is a dedicated entropist. Smiling cherubically and softly cooing to herself, she
attacks her work with the energy of a piece-worker who has a quota to meet. She is darn
good at it, too. It takes her no more than five seconds to dismember a spring-loaded
clothes-pin and to scatter its parts so they would never again meet up with each other.
With infinite patience, she scissors a piece of Christmas wrapping paper into confetti no
bigger than a finger nail and sprinkles it all around the room. And then there are the
infamous red rubber bands. They belong to an educational toy consisting of a peg-frame
across which the bands are to be stretched to make various designs. Within days, we
find red rubber bands everywhere: on the stairs, in our bed, on the bathroom counter,
even in the refrigerator. The peg-frame is still awaiting its first design.
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