Word of the Month: Negentropy

David Zapatka

While reading Starseed Transmissions by Ken Carey, I ran across the word negentropy. I’ve always been fascinated by the word entropy and its meaning, so I was immediately intrigued by this related word, driving me to research it for this month’s issue.

Entropy: noun /ˈentrəpē/ 1. thermodynamics: a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system’s disorder, that is a property of the system’s state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system. 2a. the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity. “Entropy is the general trend of the universe toward death and disorder.”—James R. Newman; 2b. a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder. “The deterioration of copy editing and proof-reading, incidentally, is a token of the cultural entropy that has overtaken us in the postwar years.”—John Simon; 3. chaos, disorganization, randomness

Negentropy: noun /nejˈəntrəpē/ 1. negative entropy or syntropy or extropy or entaxy, of a living system is the entropy that it exports to keep its own entropy low. 2. reverse entropy. It means things becoming more in order. By order is meant organization, structure, and function: the opposite of randomness or chaos.

Origin and Etymology: coined by the French physicist Léon Brillouin (1889–1969). Negative entropy was introduced by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) in his book What is Life? (1944, based on lectures delivered in Feb. 1943)

First Used: May have originated in the 1940s with the Italian mathematician Luigi Fantappiè, who tried to construct a unified theory of biology and physics.

Negentropy is reverse entropy. It means things becoming more in order. By order is meant organisation, structure and function: the opposite of randomness or chaos. One example of negentropy is a star system such as the Solar System. Another example is life.—Starseed Transmissions by Ken Carey, 1982.

Negentrophying our physiology will matter. We are a consuming species. Eating is what we do, often to our detriment. The negentropic opportunity created when demand exceeds the supply of our needs is in our production. Improving our nutrition intake makes sense for the longer term.—The Evolution of Negentropy by Phyllis Rawley, March 26, 2020.

It is well known that the “ultimate source of all our energy and negentropy is the Sun.”—Negentropy in Many-Body Quantum Systems by Piero Quarati, Marcello Lissia, and Antonio M. Sarfone, April 7, 2016.

Families are theorized to be drifting towards entropy unless effort is made to maintain the structure, boundaries, and order of a more negentropic family system.—Negentropy in Family Systems Theory by Heather A. Love, Eric T. Goodcase, and Jared A. Durtschi, 2019.

Please submit your negentropic experiences, any thoughts on this month’s column, any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments to [email protected].