Keeping an Organized Dorm Room Requires Energy, Just Like in a Cell

Written by Jennifer A. Metzler, Ball State University

When discussing thermodynamics and why cells do not break the laws because they are so organized, even though entropy is always increasing, I ask them to think of the place where they live, whether a dorm room, apartment, or house. Then I ask them to think of the difference between keeping it clean and organized or letting it become messy and disorganized. I ask them how much energy it takes for them to keep things clean and organized versus messy and disorganized. They all answer more energy to maintain order. So, then I discuss how cells are no different, if they want to maintain order they must constantly take in energy, and when they stop doing so they die and lose their order. Also, mentioning that they maintain the ever increasing entropy by giving off heat.

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