Crying Of Lot 49

Exploring thermodynamic entropy and information theory clarifies the ambiguous
relationship between Oedipa Maas, Maxwell\'s Demon and the Tristero System in The

Crying of Lot 49. Through a convoluted, chaotic adventure leading to disorder,

Oedipa searches for the truth about Tristero, hoping it will save her from her
tower of imprisonment (Pynchon, 11). Pynchon dangles this elusive message over

Oedipa\'s head until she discovers Tristero\'s meaning. However, interference from
thermodynamic entropy and the entropy of information theory prevent the message
from being transmitted from the transmitter to the receiver. Thermodynamics
deals with the changes that occur in a system if energy distribution is
unbalanced. "Thermodynamics can be regarded as governing the direction of
all physical changes taking place in the universe. With time, the energy within
a system will inevitably tend to become distributed in the most probable
pattern, which consists of all the individual particles of the system engaging
in random, disordered motion" (OED). Thermodynamic entropy is the measure
of this disorganization in the universe. In a closed, isolated system, the total
quantity of energy remains the same, but irreversible transformations within
this system cause a loss in the grade of the energy. In The Crying of Lot 49,

Oedipa Maas realizes "her confinement" is similar to the closed system in
which entropy thrives (Pynchon, 11). If she does not open her system, her energy
will degrade until she is an embodiment of random disorder. "At some point she
went into the bathroom, tried to find her image in the mirror and couldn’t.

She had a moment of nearly pure terror." (Pynchon, 29). An image is created in
a mirror when radiation falls upon an object of varying density, causing light
to scatter, which composes the reflection. If there were no differences in
density, and only random motion, there would be no image to project. Pynchon
foreshadows Oedipa\'s fate through the degradation of thermodynamic entropy.

Mechanical energy is an example of high-grade energy and heat is an example of
low-grade energy. Thus, as entropy increases, negentropy degrades into heat,
which is "a form of energy arising from randomly moving molecules"
(OED). When a closed system possesses an unstable distribution of densities and
gas molecules cluster in different areas, there is a lower probability and
higher potential to do mechanical work. The loss of heat in entropy expresses
the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy functions at the stagnant maximum of
thermodynamic entropy, when energy or ideas cannot be transferred because the
universe is at normal human body temperature. Oedipa suffers this loss of heat
to some degree, because her embodiment of thermodynamic entropy is an obstacle
to her understanding of the message. "As if, on some other frequency, or
out of the eye of some whirlwind rotating too slow for her heated skin even to
feel the centrifugal coolness of, words were being spoken" (Pynchon, 14).

The rate of oscillation or vibration at which that these words are being spoken
is unintelligible to Oedipa, coming at her like a "confused, tumultuous
process "of the exchange of heat from a hot to cold system in exchange for
usable energy (OED). Thus, Oedipa is incapable of receiving the information
whirling around her. She is trapped within the thermodynamic entropy of her
system. Information theory is the mathematical theory of communication used to
determine speed and quantity of information transmission. It statistically
computes redundant information necessary to counteract any distortion or loss
that may occur during transmission from one information source to another. Aside
from the semantics of information, Claude Shannon asserts that the message is
selected from a set of possible messages. A system with certain physical or
conceptual entities must be designed to operate for each possible selection; not
just the one chosen, because this is unknown at the time of design. If the
number of messages in the set is finite, this number is a measure of the
information produced when one message is chosen from the set with all choices
being equally likely (Shannon, 3). Shannon believes information is a
mathematically defined quantity representing the degree of choice exercised in
forming one message or symbol sequence out of all possible messages and that
entropy is a "measure of the rate of transfer of information within that
message" (OED). Oedipa identifies the Tristero System as the system that
will "end her encapsulation in her tower" of thermodynamic entropy (Pynchon,

31). She has a set of possible messages to choose from as to the identity of The

Tristero. The Tristero System is operative for each possible selection with each
option being equally likely. Statistically, the entropy of information theory
measures the probability of a system