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Desert Diary


In physics, there is a concept known as entropy. This often is characterized as a natural law that says there is an overall increase in disorder through time; that usable energy transforms through time into energy that can no longer do useful work. In some systems, energy can come in from the outside and be available to maintain order. The earth is such a system, with energy constantly being supplied from the sun; without that input constantly being used to maintain life, earth's inhabitants would quickly succumb to the disorder that is death.

Events similar to entropy happen socially, also. Those material things that we consider valuable inevitably are destroyed through time. For example, every year, great masterpieces of art from the past diminish in number. A fire here, a flood there, vandalism, accident—all take their toll. The great role of museums is to hold off the ravages of entropy for as long as possible. Only by the constant application of energy do museums hold off the inevitable, preserving that which is worth preserving for yet another generation.
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.