How to Be Cool at Parties

…for certain definitions of “cool” anyway.

In any conversation where someone claims something to be “unlikely”, ask them to clarify if they mean “lottery unlikely” or “thermodynamics unlikely”. If they ask for clarification of the request for clarification, tell them this:

We all know that it is pretty unlikely to win the lottery, yet a winner turns up every week. The reason is, of course, that a lot of people are playing each week. 40 million people trying a 1-in-10-million chance is going to result in a win much of the time.

But how about the same bloke winning the lottery twice in a row? Very rare. Then, how about someone playing the lottery, for every second, and winning, since the beginning of the universe?

That would be astonishingly unlikely indeed!

What does this have to do with thermodynamics? Thermodynamics can also be understood by way of statistical physics. For example, the air molecules in the room I am sitting in right now are really dumb. The go in straight lines until they bump into something, then repeat. They have no plan to evenly fill the room with air, yet this is precisely what’s happening.

Why do they never happen to all bounce to the left side of the room, leaving the other half in temporary vacuum? It is because each distribution of air molecules is equally likely, but those distributions that represent a more or less even filling of the room are so phenomenally much more numerous, that they are practically the only things to happen.

The numbers are so large because the number of air molecules in any container (that is of useful everyday size) is massive.

So, instead of having hundred-sided dice and trying to throw 6 ones in a row (lottery like), you are trying to throw 10000000000000000000000O00000000000000000000000000000(000)0000000@#$%^@$#% ones in a row.

Or, come to think of it, call it “statistical physics unlikely” straight away. In actual thermodynamics, the explanation is gradient bla restoring force megabyte probably entropy. And you do not want to be caught explaining entropy to someone at a party.