The 2nd Law is the sixth studio album by English rock band Muse, released 28 September, 2012 by Warner Bros. and Helium-3. It was the band's second album after The Resistance (2009) to be entirely self-produced and features a plethora of additional musicians that performed brass, strings, and choir vocals. Recording of the album took place in studios between London and Los Angeles County, beginning in October 2011 and ending in August 2012.
The 2nd Law is a concept album about a deteriorating planet that its inhabitants can no longer live on. Major lyrical themes of the album include societal collapse, totalitarianism, and the second law of thermodynamics, which the album's title references. Musically, the band chose to experiment significantly and create a sound that was distinct from their past records. The album's sound incorporates art rock, progressive rock, and electronic music with Muse's traditional alternative rock style. Acts such as Queen, David Bowie, and Skrillex also served as key influences on the album.
The singles "Survival", "Madness", "Follow Me", "Supremacy", and "Panic Station" were released in promotion. "Survival" had been chosen as the official song for the 2012 Summer Olympics, "Madness" became an international hit, most notably topping the Billboard Alternative Songs chart for a record-breaking 19 weeks, and "Supremacy" was performed live to begin the 2013 Brit Awards. The 2nd Law received positive reviews from critics and performed well commercially; it was a top ten-charting album in 31 countries and a number one album in 13 countries. For its sales figures, it was certified platinum in four countries, including the United Kingdom, and triple-platinum in France. At the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, the album was nominated for Best Rock Album and "Madness" was nominated for Best Rock Song. "Panic Station" was later nominated for Best Rock Song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards the following year. As of 2018, The 2nd Law has sold over 2.3 million copies worldwide.
The name "The 2nd Law" references the second law of thermodynamics, which is quoted in the track "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable" as follows:
All natural and technological processes proceed in such a way that the availability of the remaining energy decreases. In all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves an isolated system, the entropy of that system increases. Energy continuously flows from being concentrated, to becoming dispersed, spread out, wasted, and useless. New energy cannot be created and high-grade energy are being destroyed. An economy based on endless growth is unsustainable.
The album's cover art, taken from the Human Connectome Project, represents the map of the human brain's pathways, "tracking the circuits in our heads and how we process information with bright, neon colors." The artwork was subsequently used by Muse in a social Connectome Project on 21 September 2012. As more fans joined the online project, the album art was built, representing the network of the neurons within the brain. As the album art branched and more fans joined the network, incremental segments of the album track "The 2nd Law: Isolated System" were released. .