Why Do Things Wear Out and Who Put Them There In The First Place?
Searching questions indeed! You may be wondering what on Earth is Eddie 'rabbiting on' about this time?
Well, this summer, as some of you know, I renovated our garden swing, pergola, bird table and nesting boxes. Also I incorporated a garden seat I made from parts salvaged from an old bench. Many parts of this had gone rotten and were subsequently thrown out and taken to the tip.
It all looks spic and span and much improved over my previous efforts 15 years ago - I suppose I've learned a lot since the first project and have built it very differently this time. I shall be posting all about how I thought through the design, how I built it all etc, but meanwhile here is the completed creation which I enjoyed doing immensely.
The bench is not quite finished in this photo but rest assured I do manage to sit down occasionally and enjoy a cup of coffee, always mindful of those wretched pigeons likely to dive bomb us poor humans should we choose to sit beneath where they choose to perch sometimes. They are such a nuisance and I just cannot get rid of them. Anyone got any ideas?
So here is the old swing roof on which a beautiful clematis Elizabeth Montana used to rest. I will be planting a new clematis to climb over the new timbers.
During this restoration work I got thinking some deeper thoughts than usual, inspired by the horrible state of the original pergola top timbers and how badly they had rotted since I installed them 15 years previously. Further, during my endeavours I noticed two support posts to the swing/pergola had rotted through and needed replacing. Inspired by all this I began to wonder:
Why do things rot? Why do things wear out? Why do we need to paint metalwork and woodwork? Why does Mrs Bluelights (and me) have to clean the house so often? Why do we age and why do we die? . . . . oh and whilst we are at it,
How did we and our universe get here in the first place?
"Golly!", did I hear you think? LOL, "what's Eddie on this time?"
Of course I do not have the answers but all these questions kept coming to mind while I was working and I concluded that they all hinge on two basic and universal fundamental laws of physics, namely the first and second laws of thermodynamics. These I remember from my school days, so many years ago:
1. The First Law of Thermodynamics - that matter can neither be created nor destroyed.
2. The Second Law of Thermodynamics - that all things run down or degenerate. In other words chaos comes out of order and not the other way round.
I shall return to the first law in due course but I reasoned we spend most of our lives striving to undo the second law of thermodynamics - I certainly did so during my self-employed days when Painting and Decorating. We try to combat the second law by applying two ingredients, intelligence and work, sometimes a lot of work. Several examples spring to mind where things run down very quickly from a state of relative order to absolute chaos and they do not run back to order all by themselves, unfortunately. Earthquakes, the recent tsunami in Japan, frequent hurricanes in the southern States of America and elsewhere, violent flooding which can occur anywhere immediately come to mind . . . . . plus countless other examples of what we call natural disasters. These all result in major chaos in the form of loss of life and damage. We can do nothing to restore loss of life but we can address damage if we apply a great deal of intelligence and work to put it right, sometimes taking years to complete the restorations. Much milder examples of gradual running down into disorder are the kind of things I had to put right in the garden project which I tackled this summer. Examples being that wood rots, metal rusts, paint flakes, paths require sweeping of fallen leaves . . . . . get my drift? . . . . and of course Mrs Bluelights announces almost daily the house needs cleaning yet again! "But we only did it yesterday!", I protest. "But it is dusty again!", is the usual reply. I must say I am tempted to use the following epitaph on her headstone, should the situation arise, "No more dust where I am going - I hope!". Sorry love, I do but jest.
The very air we breathe bears testimony to an agent of degeneration. It contains oxygen (thank God) and some water vapour and putting the two together we get a reaction with iron, oxygen and water to form ferric oxide, or the dreaded rust, which is a major enemy to many things we make and try to protect. We have to try to stop corrosion on bridges they might collapse in time, cars would fall apart . . . .and so on. We all strive so hard to protect our possessions and homes and to ensure do this we have to apply some intelligence and work into the equation by sanding it all down, preparing surfaces and applying protective paint or preservative.
We have to make our beds each morning and put our clothes away and wash dirty laundry - as we keep telling the kids, "beds do not make themselves and tidy your room". The same principle applies to our teeth. The dentist has to make sure we clean them properly and regularly and if things degrade then fillings are required or worse, extractions. We age for reasons not fully understood and alas we die after our allotted time here, eventually decomposing to ash. Life is imperfect in this universe and things certainly do not last for ever. Leaves wither and fall from trees in Autumn, but this time there is an inbuilt and planned programme of restoration because when Spring come round new buds appear and new growth occurs - the work this time results from the energy of the Sun. The intelligence responsible this time is the subject of constant debate and argument, in fact sometimes ridicule. Whoever objects to this on mere scientific grounds intelligence must be there somewhere in the equation of "Nature" because if it wasn't things would continue to run down and the plants would not grow again - but they do every year.
Just as we apply intelligence and work to combat the second law of thermodynamics here on Earth then the same must apply throughout the entire Universe. Surely for the sake of consistency it should require a very orderly situation everywhere at the beginning of time and from then everything has gradually run down and is continuing to do so, with chaos getting ever stronger because there is nothing going on to apply intelligence and work to reverse it. So stars the size of our sun end up as white dwarfs, more massive ones become neutron stars and very massive stars are destined to be black holes from which not even light can escape because of their incredible gravity. Yet scientists. well some of them, tell us the opposite . . . . that order gradually comes from a chaotic situation. Well forgive my feeble mind but if our earthly situation really does exist in accordance with the second law which all scientists recognise and accept then why should it not exist in the greater Universe? This contradiction to me is an impossibility and breaks one of their own cherished laws of physics that things actually do run down, universally. Now they cannot have it both ways - either one thing is true or the other.
Now let's move on to the first law, namely that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. This does not mean that we cannot destroy an object by breaking it up, or that wood cannot rot, or that iron cannot rust. These things do not simply disappear - I for one wish they would then all our trash and garbage would be gone and we would not have such enormous problems with land fill etc. They do not disappear but their constituent atoms are changed into something else but they are still there and will remain in the universe so the atoms themselves have not been destroyed. Turning to the most contentious subject of the creation of matter, if the scientists say that matter cannot be created then where the 'ell does it all come from? They would say, from elements from the stars. OK I would accept that but where do the stars come from? They would say from a cosmic egg at the big bang when time began and space came into being. OK that may be true. Moses knew nothing about science when he wrote Genesis so he had to convey his message somehow and perhaps it does not matter exactly how creation might have been explained, but I ask again, "Where did the Cosmic Egg come from?" And we can go on and on with the scientists not being able to give an answer but continuing to wriggle and squirm their way out of the question and trying anything to actually not admit there might be some grand intelligence behind all this creation plus a huge amount of work. And perhaps it must have taken something or someone outside the Universe to make it all happen, call it or Him whatever you like. Or have I got something wrong?
Anyway, these are just a few thoughts I had doing this job. I am a bit of a day dreamer sometimes LOL.
Mrs Bluelights would say, "Never mind, Eddie, come and eat your Wheatabix!" LOL