This post comes from the paradox, created by my last post “Why do things tend to go wrong?”, in which I had discussed that disorder is bound to increase according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that the disorder (Entropy) always increases, and psychologically speaking, ‘time heals/ mends feelings’, which Entropy doesn’t allow.
Let’s first define time. Time is one of the 7 fundamental quantities and the 4th Dimension in Space-Time continuum, which is used to measure the duration, and the interval between events.
We perceive time as ‘flowing’ from the past to present and to the future. But how do we know event’s occurred in the past, and not in the future? Well, first we have memories which indicate that an event has occurred. We only remember events from the past, not from the future. This is the Psychological direction of time. Growing old is one example. We know we were young in the past, and not in the future.
Looking at this video, you can infer that this video is being played in reverse, as writing on the paper cannot get back to the pen. Similarly, a broken egg cannot become an unbroken one. This perception of time is known as the Thermodynamic direction of time, in which the Entropy (disorder) of a system always increases.
The third perception is the Cosmological direction of time, marked by the expansion of the universe from the Big Bang.
All the three perceptions of time have the same direction.
If Entropy only allows disorder to increase with time, how can time heal something even psychologically? This is just impossible, yet we perceive otherwise. Time is not supposed to heal anything. Science just doesn’t allow for it. This kept boggling me, but when I looked deeper, I found the answer may lie in Memories and Nostalgia.
Memory is the process by which the brain (or a machine) encodes, stores and retrieves information. When we first see, hear, feel something, our brain registers it according to the importance and stores it, which can be later retrieved, if needed. But with passing time, Memories degrade. This phenomenon is called as Transience. Most of the memories are lost within few minutes to few hours, and then it takes days to years for the rest to decay. When we store a memory, the neuron’s and chemicals in some parts of the brain responsible for storing memories get activated. Storing information is a highly ordered process, and hence requires energy to do so, leading to reduction in Entropy. Now according to Second law of Thermodynamics, disorder (Entropy) will tend to increase, therefore hence with time, the memories will fade away; simply because it is hard to maintain a state of high order (low entropy). Eventually, if the memory is not revised, we lose the information. A prime example can be faces of people; overtime, we forget faces when we don’t see them.
Hence when we forget the memories, there’s room for undoing the past.
Another aspect whereby ‘Time heals’ might be Nostalgia. Nostalgia and feeling emotions, as it turns out is all about yourself. You make new friends, leave old friends, have new experiences, you move places, and Nostalgia is the link between them, and what happened in the past.
Neurotrophin is responsible for being attached to people, getting addicted to them and enjoying their company. The brain produces proteins affecting the nerve growth factor levels. Higher neurotrophin cause targeted feelings towards specific people, like activities you did together, things you commonly like, etc. As with memories, the brain is preparing these hormones in a very coherent, highly ordered set of instructions and principles, that is, very low entropy. Overtime, as research has shown, these levels start to drop, which matches the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, that is, the disorder (Entropy) will increase.
The brain, now being addicted to these hormones, starts craving for them when Neurotrophin levels drop, and that’s when you start missing people, and/ or their company. When you are away from your beloved for sometime, low Neurotrophin levels would trigger a craving from your brain for these chemicals, and basically instructing you to meet up and be with people you want to be with.
In both Memories and Nostalgia, the 2nd law of thermodynamics is not violated, as with time, the disorder increases, which in turn either creates room for more memories, or helps us overcome old memories, or in the case of Nostalgia, helps the brain receive hormones to alleviate the cravings for Neurotrophin (and Norepinephrin and Oxytocin possibly).
In my opinion, that’s how Time heals. Memories, and Nostalgia. No laws violated.
(Medical Sciences is not my field, hence I have limited knowledge of it, but this is what my brief research is indicating, to read more, click here)