This fifth curve corresponds to a state of maximum entropy in the distribution of energy. Entropy is not merely a synonym for disorder. Rather, entropy is a measure of the number of different ways a system can exist. If, for example, $100 was to be divided among ten people, total equality would dictate that each person received $10. In Figure 2, this is represented by the solid diagonal line. Maximum inequality would be equivalent to giving all $100 to one person. This would be represented by a curve that hugged the horizontal axis and then proceeded straight up the rightmost vertical axis.
Statistically, both of these scenarios are rather unlikely since they correspond to unique situations. The bulk of possible divisions of $100 would look more like this example: person 1 gets $27, person 2 gets $15, and so forth down to person 10, who receives only $3. The black curve in Figure 2 represents this middle case, where, in the competition for scarce energy resources, neither total equality nor total inequality reigns.
Of course, the labels along the curves are a stark reminder that some nations get much more than the average and some nations much less. In Figure 2 the slope of the curve at any one point corresponds to the per-capita energy consumption. So the upper right of each curve is inhabited by the high-consuming nations: USA, Russia, France, UK. And the lower-left, lower-slope positions on the curve include Brazil and India. The movement of China upwards on the curve is the most dramatic change over the past 40 years.
The inequality between the haves and have-nots is often characterized by a factor ca
|Contact: Phillip F. Schewe|
Joint Quantum Institute