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Entropy and the teenager's bedroom

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Many people, including yours truly, have a habit of referring to entropy as a process of "running down" – an inexorable slide towards a state of chaos or disorder. Accordingly, we're inclined to use the word entropy when referring to things like teenagers' bedrooms in order to imply that they are ever heading towards total disarray.

But we know from physics that this colloquial description of entropy is incorrect. So what is a more accurate description of this concept?

First, a disclaimer: I am not a physicist. Nonetheless, I have decided to proffer an explanation of the term "entropy" that I hope will be more accessible to the layperson than what is typically out there at present. I do so knowing that my "potted account" is, in many detailed respects, probably going to be "wrong": differences in terms will be glossed over and concepts in physics will be conflated. Nonetheless, I hope that I can give some reasonable lay account of t…