A Thermodynamic Reading Of The Crying Of

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A Thermodynamic Reading Of The Crying Of Lot 49 Essay, Research Paper A Thermodynamic Reading of The Crying of Lot 49 Exploring thermodynamic entropy and information theory clarifies the ambiguous relationship between Oedipa Maas, Maxwell’s Demon and the Tristero System in The Crying of Lot 49. Through a convoluted, chaotic adventure leading to disorder, Oedipa searches for the truth about Tristero, hoping it will save her from her tower of imprisonment (Pynchon, 11). Pynchon dangles this elusive message over Oedipa’s head until she discovers Tristero’s meaning. However, interference from thermodynamic entropy and the entropy of information theory prevent the message from being transmitted from the transmitter to the receiver. Thermodynamics deals with the changes that

occur in a system if energy distribution is unbalanced. “Thermodynamics can be regarded as governing the direction of all physical changes taking place in the universe. With time, the energy within a system will inevitably tend to become distributed in the most probable pattern, which consists of all the individual particles of the system engaging in random, disordered motion” (OED). Thermodynamic entropy is the measure of this disorganization in the universe. In a closed, isolated system, the total quantity of energy remains the same, but irreversible transformations within this system cause a loss in the grade of the energy. In The Crying of Lot 49, Oedipa Maas realizes ?her confinement” is similar to the closed system in which entropy thrives (Pynchon, 11). If she does

not open her system, her energy will degrade until she is an embodiment of random disorder. ?At some point she went into the bathroom, tried to find her image in the mirror and couldn?t. She had a moment of nearly pure terror.? (Pynchon, 29). An image is created in a mirror when radiation falls upon an object of varying density, causing light to scatter, which composes the reflection. If there were no differences in density, and only random motion, there would be no image to project. Pynchon foreshadows Oedipa’s fate through the degradation of thermodynamic entropy. Mechanical energy is an example of high-grade energy and heat is an example of low-grade energy. Thus, as entropy increases, negentropy degrades into heat, which is “a form of energy arising from randomly moving

molecules” (OED). When a closed system possesses an unstable distribution of densities and gas molecules cluster in different areas, there is a lower probability and higher potential to do mechanical work. The loss of heat in entropy expresses the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy functions at the stagnant maximum of thermodynamic entropy, when energy or ideas cannot be transferred because the universe is at normal human body temperature. Oedipa suffers this loss of heat to some degree, because her embodiment of thermodynamic entropy is an obstacle to her understanding of the message. “As if, on some other frequency, or out of the eye of some whirlwind rotating too slow for her heated skin even to feel the centrifugal coolness of, words were being spoken” (Pynchon, 14).

The rate of oscillation or vibration at which that these words are being spoken is unintelligible to Oedipa, coming at her like a “confused, tumultuous process “of the exchange of heat from a hot to cold system in exchange for usable energy (OED). Thus, Oedipa is incapable of receiving the information whirling around her. She is trapped within the thermodynamic entropy of her system. Information theory is the mathematical theory of communication used to determine speed and quantity of information transmission. It statistically computes redundant information necessary to counteract any distortion or loss that may occur during transmission from one information source to another. Aside from the semantics of information, Claude Shannon asserts that the message is selected from a