Wednesday, July 28, 2010

endothermic and exothermic relationships

(explosive reaction of aluminum and bromide, an example of an exothermic reaction)

ever since i took general chemistry my first year of college and got an extremely thorough lesson on entropy, it has established a very stubborn foothold in my brain. i tend to draw parallels between the basic tenants of entropy and all sorts of very complex, decidedly unchemical events. on my mind right now is the idea of relationships being either endothermic or exothermic.

endothermic reactions are chemical reactions in which entropy is reduced; that is, the chaos in the universe has been slightly diminished. chemical a meets chemical b, and they make compound c. the price to pay when entropy is decreased is that stability is also decreased. that is, compound c is less stable than either parent chemical because, simplistically speaking, is that the entropy is being bottled up as energy within the compound. endothermic reactions require energy in order to proceed.

exothermic reactions, on the other hand, result in an increase in the total amount of entropy in the system (that is, the universe). once again, chemical a meets chemical b, but this time, compound c is actually more stable than either parent compound, because energy has been released. exothermic reactions are spontaneous, and occasionally violent and destructive if not properly controlled.

so do your relationships follow a typically endothermic or exothermic pattern? does the chaos in your life typically decrease or increase? are you more or less stable at the end of the day? how much energy does it take to make your relationship work?

although this is certainly an imperfect analogy, it's interesting to apply these very basic scientific principles to the situations we often find ourselves wrapped up in daily life.

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