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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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III. Ecosmos: A Revolutionary Organic Habitable UniVerse

E. A Thermodynamics of Life

Marletto, Chiara. Constructor Theory of Thermodynamics. arXiv:1608.02625. This latest contribution by the Oxford University mathematician is based upon applications of the Constructor Theory of Information conceived by the physicist David Deutsch, in collaboration with Marletto. Their original posting is at 1405.5563, with later entries by CM about Life at 1407.0681, and Probability at 1507.03287. The paper expands this informational physics to resolve residual technical issues as the field advances into the 21st century. Search Chiara for a new paper with Sara Walker as Accommodating Observers in Fundamental Physics.

The laws of thermodynamics, powerful for countless purposes, are not exact: both their phenomenological and their statistical-mechanical versions are valid only at 'macroscopic scales', which are never defined. Here I propose a new, exact and scale-independent formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, using the principles and tools of the recently proposed constructor theory. Specifically, I improve upon the axiomatic formulations of thermodynamics by proposing an exact and more general formulation of 'adiabatic accessibility'. This work provides an exact distinction between work and heat; it reveals an unexpected connection between information theory and the first law of thermodynamics (not just the second); it resolves the clash between the irreversibility of the 'cycle'-based second law and time-reversal symmetric dynamical laws. It also achieves the long-sought unification of the axiomatic version of the second law with Kelvin's. (Abstract)

Marsland III, Robert and Jeremy England. Limits of Predictions in Thermodynamic Systems: A Review. arXiv:1707.06680. Boston University and MIT physicists blaze these theoretical frontiers of our human encounters with natural creative energies – how can they be properly quantified, what do they mean with regard to what kind of universe and our own agency and avail. See also Speed, Strength and Dissipation in Biological Self-Assembly by the authors at 1711.02172.

The past twenty years have seen a resurgence of interest in nonequilibrium thermodynamics, thanks to advances in the theory of stochastic processes and in their thermodynamic interpretation. Fluctuation theorems provide fundamental constraints on the dynamics of systems arbitrarily far from thermal equilibrium. But these general results carry their own limitations: fluctuation theorems involve exponential averages that can depend sensitively on unobservably rare trajectories; steady-state thermodynamics makes use of a dual dynamics that lacks any direct physical interpretation. This review aims to present these central results of contemporary nonequilibrium thermodynamics in such a way that the power of each claim for making physical predictions can be clearly assessed, using examples from current topics in soft matter and biophysics. (Abstract)

The past twenty years have seen a resurgence of interest in nonequilibrium thermodynamics, based on advances in the theory of stochastic processes and in their thermodynamic analysis. Stochastic Thermodynamics has matured into a systematic theory of nonequilibrium processes, in which the analogies to thermal equilibrium that Prigogine and others were searching for can be mathematically defined. But these general results carry their own limits: far from equilibrium, they demand precise knowledge of the probability distributions of the relevant quantities, which are often experimentally inaccessible, or they invoke a “dual” dynamics that lacks any direct physical interpretation. This review aims to present a selection of central results from contemporary nonequilibrium thermodynamics in such a way that the power of each claim for making physical predictions can be clearly assessed. (1)

Matsoukas, Themis. Thermodynamics Beyond Molecules: Statistical Thermodynamics of Probability Distributions. Entropy. 21/9, 2019. The Penn State chemical engineering professor and author of Generalized Statistical Thermodynamics (Springer, 2018) describes a variational calculus which can lead to mathematical network relationships. A statistical mechanics thus accrues via a foray into information theories and Bayesian inference.

McKelvey, Bill. Toward a 0th Law of Thermodynamics: Order-Creation Complexity Dynamics from Physics and Biology to Bioeconomics. Journal of Bioeconomics. 6/1, 2004. To move beyond the 19th century machine theories of energy and entropy we need an expanded thermodynamics to express an inherently self-organizing evolution of life and its human phase. An array of scientists from Prigogine, Kauffman, Haken, Kelso, Salthe, Gell-Mann and others are joined to express the rise of order by the energetic interaction of autonomous agents in complex adaptive systems. These creative processes are at work prior to selection and for this reason McKelvey calls for an original “0th Law” instead of the “4th Law” often cited in this effort.

Darwinian natural selection is the traditional way of explaining how order appears out of the primordial soup – the selectionist explanation in biology and the one imported into bioeconomics. A more recent view from biology is that self-organization – pre 1st Law processes – explains more order in the biosphere that Darwinian selection – the view of the so-called self-organization biologist. (72)

Morel, Richard and George Fleck. A Fourth Law of Thermodynamics. Khimiya. 15/4, 2006. This online journal is a good instance of the worldwide accessible reach of humankind’s collective knowledge project. Its formal name is Chemistry: Bulgarian Journal of Science Education, and is published by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science, Google title above to reach. Emeritus Smith College, (Northampton, MA) professors of chemistry contribute to the welling witness and articulation that an alternative impetus for life via far-from-equilibrium, open system, thermal energies exists counter to the equilibrium entropy trap of closed systems. See many other citations in this section for much evidence. A 2012 working paper “Transcendental Thermodynamics,” in the spirit of Ralph Waldo Emerson, written by the authors for the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute at Smith, further evinces this vision. Google this title to access or https://dspace.smith.edu/handle/11020/23895.

The Fourth Law provides a broadly applicable new paradigm that is especially important for biological investigations, from molecular to organismic and evolutionary levels. Life forms are, after all, dissipative structures that have the capacity to store and use information about themselves and to maximize entropic production by natural selection of the most entropically expedient forms. If we could observe the beginnings of extraterrestrial life we could predict, given long-term persistence of a generally supportive environment, that cells would probably evolve, that multicellularity would probably evolve, and that communities of organisms (ecosystems) would develop. Since every adaptive feature in a biological system can be described as an increased capacity to create entropy or as being better at making more individuals that are good at making entropy, we could predict features that would be a characteristic of life forms in any far-from-equilibrium system. We also note that the Fourth Law predicts a tendency toward the evolution of intelligent species on planets capable of supporting life, since intelligent species transcend purely metabolic means of increasing entropy. (309)

Nigmatullin, Ramil and Mikhail Prokopenko. Thermodynamic Efficiency of Interactions in Self-Organizing Systems. arXiv:1912.08948. As the century enters its third decade, we cite this posting by University of Sydney complexity scientists as an example of how it has become assumed and affirmed that a natural cosmic genesis does proceed to internally organize itself into quickening complexities from cosmic phenomena to our own intelligent phase.

The emergence of global order in complex systems with locally interacting components is most striking at criticality, where small changes in control parameters result in a global re-organization. We introduce a measure of thermodynamic interaction efficiency in self-organizing systems to quantify the change in order per unit work carried out or extracted. Our analysis formalizes an intuitive understanding of thermodynamic efficiency across diverse self-organizing dynamics in physical, biological and social domains. (Excerpt)

Ord, Alison, et al, eds. Patterns in our Planet: Defining New Concepts for the Applications of Multi-scale Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics to Earth-system Science. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 368/3, 2010. An Introduction to a special issue on topics such as self-organized criticality in earthquake dynamics, geophysical flows, and a coupled biosphere-climate model. Yet despairing 2010 books by, e.g., Carroll and Gleiser, over a 19th century entropic arrow of time do not even mention this robust 21st century science of an animate universe that could just as well be seen as spontaneously winding itself up in a way we are just beginning to fathom.

Although non-equilibrium thermodynamics began to grow in the 1930s (Onsager 1931; Prigogine 1955; Truesdell 1969), it has had something of a resurgence in the physical sciences in recent years, embracing ideas from classical solid mechanics and stimulated by advances in computer performance. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics has now advanced to a stage where it is beginning to offer a unifying approach to understanding and modelling coupled phenomena and complex systems as a whole. (3)

Ouldridge, Thomas. The Importance of Thermodynamics for Molecular Systems, and the Importance of Molecular Systems for Thermodynamics. arXiv:1702.00360. An Imperial College London bioengineer first surveys chemical and stochastic versions as a theoretical basis, and applies these generative propensities as a way to better quantify and understand living, biomolecular, cellular, organic phenomena.

Improved understanding of molecular systems has only emphasised the sophistication of networks within the cell. Simultaneously, the advance of nucleic acid nanotechnology, a platform within which reactions can be exquisitely controlled, has made the development of artificial architectures and devices possible. Vital to this progress has been a solid foundation in the thermodynamics of molecular systems. In this pedagogical review and perspective, I will discuss how thermodynamics determines both the overall potential of molecular networks, and the minute details of design. I will then argue that, in turn, the need to understand molecular systems is helping to drive the development of theories of thermodynamics at the microscopic scale. (Abstract)

Pavlos, Georgios, et al. Universality Tsallis Non-Extensive Statistics and Fractal Dynamics for Complex Systems. Chaotic Modeling and Simulations (CMSIM). 2/2, 2012. We note this new online International Journal of Nonlinear Science, based in Eastern Europe, and this paper by Democritus University of Thrace and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki physicists as an example of the many places, ways and vernaculars that the nonlinear revolution is robustly underway. They speak of a “general, cosmic Ordering Principle,” a turn from reduction to integral self-organization, and so on. Constantino Tsallis (search) is a Greek-Brazilian thermodynamics theorist. See also Nonlinear Self-Organization Dynamics of a Metabolic Process of the Krebs Cycle by Valery Grytsay and Iryna Musatenko in the July 2014 issue.

Pinero, Jordi and Ricard Sole. Nonequilibrium Entropic Bounds for Darwinian Replicators. Entropy. 20/2, 2018. Akin to Spinney, et al below, ICREA Complex Systems Lab, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona theorists join 21st century thermodynamic insights from Gavin Crooks, Susanne Still, Jeremy England, Anthony Bartolotta and others in search of better explanations of how life actually began. An aim of these entries is to finesse and unify the many geometric, self-similar, energetic, dissipative, informational, dynamical, Bayesian versions now in the theoretical mix.

Life evolved on our planet by means of a combination of Darwinian selection and innovations leading to higher levels of complexity. Theoretical models have shown how populations of different types of replicating entities exclude or coexist with other classes of replicators. On the other hand, the presence of thermodynamical constrains for these systems remain an open question. This is largely due to the lack of a general theory of out of statistical methods for systems far from equilibrium. Nonetheless, a first approach to this problem has been put forward in a series of novel developements in non-equilibrium physics, under the rubric of the extended second law of thermodynamics. The work presented reviews this theoretical framework and briefly describes the three fundamental replicator types in prebiotic evolution: parabolic, Malthusian and hyperbolic. (Abstract)

Prigogine, Ilya. From Being to Becoming. San Francisco: Freeman, 1980. A definitive statement of the revolutionary theories of nonequilibrium thermodynamics by their Nobel laureate founder. As a result, the old physics of a closed, static equilibrium is replaced by an open, dynamical emergence of a cosmic genesis. Living systems are “dissipative structures” that flourish due to their sustenance by a flow and dissipation of energy and information.

Prigogine, Ilya. Nonlinear Science and the Laws of Nature. International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos. 7/9, 1997. In an irreversibly developing universe, the arrow of an “evolutionary thermodynamics” can justify the directional rise of life.

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