Am I the only person…

Pic of coffee with a creamer nebula.

Coffee and Cream Nebula by Flick'r user kchbrown.

… who often finds beauty in entropy? There’s a small bit of entropy that occurs for me every morning when I get my first cup of coffee. I’m one of those wussies who can’t drink it black so I keep a supply of flavored creamer handy in the fridge here at work. When I grab a mug full of java I head over to the fridge and put the cup down on a shelf inside to make sure it’s steady when I pour the creamer in.

The combination of a hot fluid in a cold environment and the addition of chilled cream results in some amazing patterns of light and dark in the coffee. Sometimes it’s full of swirls and eddies that look like a storm front or approaching hurricane. Other times it looks like explosions or smoke or even celestial bodies. It’s different every time and it’s always interesting to witness.

The chaos only lasts a short while and is easily erased when I stir up the coffee, but seeing those random patterns first thing in the morning always makes me pause to reflect at the incredible amount of action that takes place in a simple coffee cup.  There are whole books full of mathematical models that describe the processes that are playing out in front of me. Math that I’d never in a hundred years be able to wrap my head around, and yet the universe carries it out without hesitation hundreds of billions of times everywhere that hot and cold liquids interact. It’s like a small cosmic ballet that if you blink or aren’t paying attention can be easily missed.

On those days when I stop to watch the drama unfolding in the swirls and cascades I can’t help but smile. There’s something reassuring about the idea that the universe keeps on doing what it does regardless of whatever else is going on within it.