What's all this about Junior Birdman and Entropy? What are Junior Birdman and Entropy?

Junior Birdman was a gesture used on the Captain Video Children's TV show, which I gather was on in the late 50s and early 60s. I guess it's supposed to represent an aviator's helmet and goggles. It's to be accompanied by a song:

Up in the air, Junior Birdman
Up in the air, Upside Down!
Up in the air, Junior Birdman
Keep your nose to the ground.
It goes on to talk about boxtops and decoder rings. I've never seen Captain Video, but I learned the gesture from Rick "Cosmo" Anzalone, who was my neighbor in Berkeley during school year 75-76. Last I heard, Rick was a cellarmaster at Mirasou Vinyards.

The gesture is achieved by putting the thumb and forefinger of each hand together to make an "O", and leaving the remaining fingers straight. Keeping the "remaining fingers" parallel to each other, rotate your fingertips back towards your ears, and lift your elbows up so that your "remaining fingers" are pointing down the sides of your face and the "O"s are in front of your eyes.

Entropy is a measure of the inefficiency of thermodynamic processes (which includes just about everything, in case you weren't sure). stereotypically, it takes the form of unusable heat, and as such, it is also a measure of the (dis)order of a system. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of any given thermodynamic system must be positive. It is possible to have negative entropy (aka, reduced disorder) for some given subsystem, but only at the expense of increased entropy somewhere else. The short term upshot of this is that perpetual motion machines are impossible, and things like electric cars are extremely difficult to make practical. The long term upshot is that eventually, the universe will die a "heat death". There is no escaping it. fortunately, the time frame is many billions of years.
In the summer of 1979, I went to a party at Alan Barnum-Scrivner's house in eastern Massachusetts. The party was an annual affair, and was known as "The Fester". During this party I had what seemed to me a revelation about entropy, parties, chaos, and life in general. That it is in fact, and good thing. Parties seemed to be a very good metaphore for entropy and entropy and chaos always seems to accompany the times of greatest pleasure. Yes, we're using up the universe. but we aren't really given any choice. Entropy is there for us to enjoy.

For reasons which are inexplicable to me now, but seemed perfectly natural then, I found myself bellowing "Entropy!" periodically, and greeting people with Junior Birdman. From this point forth, Junior Birdman has been my standard greeting. For a little while, I was referred to as "Mr Entropy, 1979". I still believe entropy is a good thing. If racing a sailboat in 30 + knots of wind is not entropic, I don't know what is.

Well ordered systems seldom result in any benefit beyond the well orderedness. Real advances always come from chaos. Compare the advances of the chaotic renaisance with the more disciplined middle ages, the rigidly constrained iron curtain countries with the free-for-all entrepeneurealism of the west, etc. The russian and chinese revolutions themselves grew out of the extreme chaos at the time of their birth.

My use of Junior Birdman as a greeting has occasionally been interpreted as "four eyes". This could not be farther from the truth.

Bouncy Balls are the extraordinarily bouncy balls that sometimes known as "Super Balls" (tm), but are more appropriately available from dime candy machines in a smaller, approximately 3/4 inch size.

I believe that bouncy balls are a related entropic phenominon. My friend Raymond Drewry introduced me to bouncy balls, and for a time they were a big thing around Microsoft. Bouncy balls in quantity certainly display large amounts of entropy in a very graphical, easy to understand way.

It is Raymond's fondest wish that somebody he's never heard of or seen before approaches him on the street and hands him a bouncy ball. Raymond is currently Chief Technologist for Navio.