Kelvin argued that the key issue in the interpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics was the explanation of irreversible processes. He noted that if entropy always increased, the universe would eventually reach a state of uniform temperature and maximum entropy from which it would not be possible to extract any work. He called this the Heat Death of the Universe. With Rankine he proposed a thermodynamical theory based on the primacy of the energy concept, on which he believed all physics should be based. He said the two laws of thermodynamics expressed the indestructibility and dissipation of energy. He also tried to demonstrate that the equipartition theorem was invalid.
Thomson also calculated the age of the earth from its cooling rate and concluded that it was too short to fit with Lyell's theory of gradual geological change or Charles Darwin's theory of the evolution of animals though natural selection. He used the field concept to explain electromagnetic interactions. He speculated that electromagnetic forces were propagated as linear and rotational strains in an elastic solid, producing "vortex atoms" which generated the field. He proposed that these atoms consisted of tiny knotted strings, and the type of knot determined the type of atom. This led Tait to study the properties of knots. Kelvin's theory said ether behaved like an elastic solid when light waves propagated through it. He equated ether with the cellular structure of minute gyrostats. With Tait, Kelvin published Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867), which was important for establishing energy within the structure of the theory of mechanics. (It was later republished under the title Principles of Mechanics and Dynamics by Dover Publications).