# Entropy

In thermodynamics, entropy (usual symbol s) is a measure of the number of specific ways in which a thermodynamic system may be arranged, commonly understood as a measure of disorder. according to the second law of thermodynamics the entropy of an isolated system never decreases; such a system will spontaneously evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium, the configuration with maximum entropy. systems that are not isolated may decrease in entropy, provided they increase the entropy of their environment by at least that same amount. since entropy is a state function, the change in the entropy of a system is the same for any process that goes from a given initial state to a given final state, whether the process is reversible or irreversible. however, irreversible processes increase the combined entropy of the system and its environment. the change in entropy (δs) of a system was originally defined for a thermodynamically reversible process as , where is the absolute temperature of the system, dividing an incremental reversible transfer of heat into that system (). (if heat is transferred out the sign would be reversed giving a decrease in entropy of the system.) the above definition is sometimes called the macroscopic definition of entropy because it can be used without regard to any microscopic description of the contents of a system. the concept of entropy has been found to be generally useful and has several other formulations. entropy was discovered when it was noticed to be a quantity that behaves as a function of state, as a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics. entropy is an extensive property. it has the dimension of energy divided by temperature, which has a unit of joules per kelvin (j k−1) in the international system of units (or kg m2 s−2 k−1 in terms of base units). but the entropy of a pure substance is usually given as an intensive property — either entropy per unit mass (si unit: j k−1 kg−1) or entropy per unit amount of substance (si unit: j k−1 mol−1). the absolute entropy (s rather than δs) was defined later, using either statistical mechanics or the third law of thermodynamics. in the modern microscopic interpretation of entropy in statistical mechanics, entropy is the amount of additional information needed to specify the exact physical state of a system, given its thermodynamic specification. understanding the role of thermodynamic entropy in various processes requires an understanding of how and why that information changes as the system evolves from its initial to its final condition. it is often said that entropy is an expression of the disorder, or randomness of a system, or of our lack of information about it. the second law is now often seen as an expression of the fundamental postulate of statistical mechanics through the modern definition of entropy.