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Entropy in action

A fortnight of disorder in weather, politics, and world health

Entropy in action

Children enjoy their first-ever snow day in Qamishli, Syria. (BaderKhan Ahmad/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

According to the adage known as Murphy’s Law, “If something can go wrong, it will.” It’s the concept of entropy applied to the universe, a reminder that things tend toward disorder. In an opening scene of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Interstellar, though, Matthew McConaughey’s science-minded character reassures his daughter Murphy that she’s not named after something bad. “Murphy’s law doesn’t mean something bad will happen,” he says. “What it means is that what can happen will happen, and that sounds just fine to us.”

This February, what could happen with international weather did happen—and sometimes that was fine. Snow came to Syria and Iraq for the first time in more than a decade, giving many of the area’s schoolchildren their first-ever snow day. One Iraqi father recalled in a Washington Post article his children’s reaction to the snow: “They said it was like magic.” In Australia, another sort of magic came from the sky: Rain ended a three-year drought and brought relief from the intense brush fires that killed 33 people.

In Australia the rain that brought relief from fires also brought flooding and dangerous mudslides.

But not everything that can happen works out fine for everyone. Thousands of Syrians fleeing fighting at home huddled in the unprecedented cold at the Turkish border, trying to keep the snow out of their flimsy tents. Snow weighed down the tents of displaced Yazidis in the Kurdistan region. In Australia, the rain that brought relief from fires also brought flooding and dangerous mudslides. Flash floods in New South Wales took down trees and power lines, leaving 60,000 homes without electricity.

On the other side of the world, floodwaters rose in the southern United States. In Jackson, Miss., the Pearl River spilled its banks, reaching its third-highest level on record as the waters spread into neighborhoods and damaged homes. Just a week before, Antarctica hit a record high temperature of 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit, sparking more concern from climate activists over the earth’s temperatures.

The “climate crisis” was one of the many talking points at the ninth Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19—and the most intense. Front-runners for the presidential nomination blasted the newcomer, billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Decorum spiraled into disorder as the moderators lost control and the six politicians resorted to personal attacks. In one heated exchange, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticized Sen. Amy Klobuchar for forgetting the name of the president of Mexico in an earlier interview. Later, she shot back with cold sarcasm, “I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete.”

The same day, an attack far more horrible made headlines. A 43-year-old German man identified as Tobias Rathjen opened fire in a town near Frankfurt. He killed nine people and wounded six more in two hookah bars before returning home to kill his mother and then himself. All nine Rathjen killed in the bars were immigrants. Most were Muslim. A manifesto he posted on social media points to racist motives that tie his actions to far-right terrorism.

Five days earlier, what could have gone wrong in Germany went right when German police arrested 12 men, preventing them from carrying out their planned attack on mosques in 10 states. The men were part of “Hard Core,” a far-right group hoping to spark disorder and possibly a civil war.

Meanwhile, disorder continued to spread across the world as the death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus continued to rise. On Feb. 19 Iran’s first two coronavirus deaths came in the city of Qom, a half-day’s drive from where snow had given students an unexpected holiday. As experts feared a widespread outbreak of the virus in the Middle East, Qom shut down the city’s schools and universities.

By late February, 12 more had died in Iran. The virus had spread to at least 40 countries, infecting more than 81,000 people and killing more than 2,700.

As Murphy’s law plays out around the globe, not everything that happens will be fine with everyone. But Christians know that entropy is not the end of the story, since Christ reversed it as He rose from the dead.

Leah Hickman

Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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  • family8plus6sofar
    Posted: Mon, 03/02/2020 09:32 am

    I am very disappointed in the "reporting" in this piece...  For example: the German man who shot and wounded or killed mostly Muslim immigrants in the hookah bars near Frankfurt ~ you said, "A manifesto he posted on social media points to racist motives that tie his actions to far-right terrorism."  And then in the next paragraph, "Five days earlier, what could have gone wrong in Germany went right when German police arrested 12 men, preventing them from carrying out their planned attack on mosques in 10 states. The men were part of “Hard Core,” a far-right group hoping to spark disorder and possibly a civil war."  Will someone please tell me what makes these terrorist attacks and plans far right?  Terrorism is terrorism (and is wrong)!  Why does anyone in the media use a qualifier such as far right (I've not seen any labeled with a far left qualifier)?  Reporting should not be commentary!  Using such qualifiers just adds fuel to the fires.  As I said, I'm very disappointed in WORLD Magazine for being drawn in to the politically correct terminology used by the secular media.