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in thermodynamics, a characteristic of certain processes (changes of a system from an initial state to a final state spontaneously or as a result of interactions with other systems) that can be reversed, and the system restored to its initial state, without leaving net effects in any of the systems involved. An example of a reversible process would be a single swing of a frictionless pendulum from one of its extreme positions to the other. The swing of a real pendulum is irreversible because a small amount of the mechanical energy of the pendulum would be expended in performing work against frictional forces, and restoration of the pendulum to its exact starting position would require the supply of an equivalent amount of energy from a second system, such as a compressed spring in which an irreversible change of state would occur.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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