Dr. White:

I ran into your Web page of suggested readings to accompany your Thermodynamics for the Social Sciences

and was intrigued by the question "Can you find the flaws in this paper" in reference to my

http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/Issues/1999/Oct/abs1385.html, "Shuffled Cards, Messy Desks, and

Disorderly Dorm Rooms - Examples of Entropy Increase? Nonsense!".

Obviously, I would be delighted for you to send me your reasons/comments about the article as well as the

students' responses. Six of the ten general chemistry text authors that I knew used this kind of example

have written that they are changing that section in their next edition. I certainly hope that I won't have

to email them to hold the presses.


Frank L. Lambert

Professor Emeritus (Chemistry)

Occidental College

Los Angeles, CA 90041

>Sorry, nobody found any flaws.  You are in the clear.


>Doug White



Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 06:45:01 -0700

From: Frank L. Lambert 

To: Douglas R. White 

Subject: Re: Exciting question on your Anthro 179A Web page!

 >At 12:19 AM 7/26/01 -0700, you wrote:

Thanks greatly, especially because of that email time -- those are grad school hours, young man! (I'm 83,

so I can pull rank.)

[DRW comment: I was in Paris!]

You must have had reservations, so may I add a paragraph of explanation to an expert in information


I am certainly not "agin" infentropy. Who could be :-)  I WAS trying to upbraid my chem colleagues who

know little about it and blindly believe that it adds or subtracts from their calcs of standard old


Shannon's and Jayne's genius was quietly mentioned in that "Shuffled Cards..." article, as was the

pre-eminence of their equations. I felt I couldn't emphasize, quite as much in this article with its

central theme as I believe is true/obvious, that infentropy equations are fundamental, of which

thermentropy is a variant. The important thing for "my" chemist-brethren is to keep their eyes on the

function that MAKES thementropy deviate, energy flow. Precise, invariable energy flow from "concentrated"

to spread out or dispersed.

You may be interested in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Chemical Education that has just been

accepted (after bruising and invigorating reviews) for publication around Dec/Jan: "Disorder -- A Cracked

Crutch for Supporting Entropy Discussions".  I trust, as did the majority of reviewers, that it will get

rid of gen chem text authors' conning of generations of students that "disorder" increase is a useful

gimmick for describing entropy change. (The key for them today is to stress energy dispersal in more

molecular energy states -- e.g., greater number of microstates when a gas is heated, greater density when

gas is allowed to expand into a vacuum.)

More than you care to hear but, of course, what I am delighted about at the moment. I'll mail a reprint in

Jan or so.

My best wishes in your complex considerations of society. (Chem truly is simple compared to your field.)

Frank Lambert