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III. Ecosmos: A Revolutionary Organic Habitable UniVerse

E. A Thermodynamics of Life

spinney, Richard, et al. Thermodynamics and the Dynamics of Information in Distributed Computation. arXiv:1712.09715. Spinney, Joseph Lizier and Mikhail Prokopenko, University of Sydney, Complex Systems Research Group, (search each), contribute to an imminent synthesis by tracing theoretical affinities between stochastic energies, informational aspects, and how nature seems to be engaged in a self-generating computation. See also above Nonequilibrium Entropic Bounds for Darwinian Replicators by Pinero and Sole for a companion take.

Information dynamics is an emerging description of information processing in complex systems. In this paper we make a formal analogy between information dynamics and stochastic thermodynamics. As stochastic dynamics increasingly concerns itself with the processing of information we suggest such an analogy is instructive in providing hitherto unexplored insights into the implicit information processing that occurs in physical systems. Information dynamics describes systems in terms of intrinsic computation, identifying computational primitives of information storage and transfer. This opens up the possibility of describing all physical systems in terms of computation. (Abstract excerpts)

Spinney, Richard, et al. Transfer Entropy in Physical Systems and the Arrow of Time. Physical Review E. 94/022135, 2016. Into the 2010s, theoretical studies of the temporal course of cosmic developmental evolution continue apace. Here University of Sydney, Center for Complex Systems researchers Spinney, Joseph Lizier, and Mikhail Prokopenko, propose that an informational vector can well trace and track its flight.

Recent developments have cemented the realization that many concepts and quantities in thermodynamics and information theory are shared. In this paper we consider a highly relevant quantity in information theory and complex systems, the transfer entropy, and explore its thermodynamic role by considering the implications of time reversal upon it. By doing so we highlight the role of information dynamics on the nuanced question of observer perspective within thermodynamics by relating the temporal irreversibility in the information dynamics to the configurational (or spatial) resolution of the thermodynamics. We then highlight its role in perhaps the most enduring paradox in modern physics, the manifestation of a (thermodynamic) arrow of time. We find that for systems that process information such as those undergoing feedback, a robust arrow of time can be formulated by considering both the apparent physical behaviour which leads to conventional entropy production and the information dynamics which leads to a newly defined quantity we call the information theoretic arrow of time. (Abstract)

Stewart, Ian. What Shape Is a Snowflake? New York: Freeman, 2001. This question leads to a consideration of the deeply patterned, geometrical features of a mathematical cosmos. A self-similarity seems in evidence everywhere from ice on windowpanes to galactic clusters. As a result, the universe is seen as fractal in kind because the second law of thermodynamics is said not apply to gravitating systems. This suggests an innate self-organizing drive in opposition to entropy, conceived as follows:

It has long been known that an even distribution of gravitating matter is unstable….Gravity causes the uniform state to break symmetry and leads to clumping. Because the gravitational effects turn out to be independent of scale, we expect clumping on all scales - a fractal universe.
So why doesn’t the second law work here? The second law was originally introduced to explain the behavior of gases. It shows that large collections of gas molecules, bouncing off each other, should spread out evenly. The forces between colliding molecules in a gas are short-range and repulsive….The forces between gravitating particles are the exact opposite - long-range and attractive…..The second law is a consequence of the structure of the forces assumed - short-range repulsive forces cause clumps to smooth out because particles are more likely to collide when in a clump. Gravitating systems work the other way. Their long-range attractive forces favor clumps and disrupt evenness. There has never been any reason - other than habit - to expect the second law of thermodynamics to apply to a gravitating system of particles. Our universe is outside its jurisdiction. (170)

Swenson, Rod. Thermodynamics, Evolution and Behavior. Gary Greenberg, ed. Comparative Psychology, a Handbook. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998. The universe is to be properly seen as a ramifying developmental process rather than decaying toward disorder.

Rather than being infinitely improbable ‘debt payers’ struggling against the laws of physics in a ‘dead’ world collapsing toward equilibrium and disorder, living things and their active, end-directed striving or intentional dynamics can now be seen as productions of an active order-producing world following directly from natural law. (216)

Tauber, Uwe. Phase Transitions and Scaling in Systems Far from Equilibrium. Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics. 8/1, 2017. Online at arXiv:1604.04487, the Virginia Tech, Center for Soft Matter and Biological Physics, theorist provides a technical survey of renormalization group approaches, universality classes in critical dynamics, quantum open systems, generic scale invariance, and so on.

Thurner, Stefan, et al. Three Faces of Entropy for Complex Systems: Information, Thermodynamics, and the Maximum Entropy Principle. Physical Review E. 96/032124, 2017. With Bernat Corominas-Murtra, and Rudolf Hanel, a Medcial University of Vienna research team post a technical distillation and synthesis of entropy as an extensive quantity of physical systems, a measure for information production, and as a means for statistical inference on multinomial processes.

Tiezzi, Enzo. Steps Toward an Evolutionary Physics. Southampton, UK: WIT Press, 2006. Many scientists today are trying to comprehend and articulate an inherently self-organized emergence of complexity and consciousness. A Professor of Physico-Chemistry at the University of Siena draws on the non-equilibrium thermodynamics of Ilya Prigogine, along with the work of Sven Jorgensen, Robert Ulanowicz, and others, to foster this movement. This stated project of ‘ecodynamics’ is associated with a new international journal of that title.

Tlidi, Mustapha, et al. Dissipative Structures in Matter out of Equilibrium from Chemistry, Photonics and Biology: the Legacy of Ilya Prigogine. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. Vol. 376/Iss, 2018. An array of papers from a centennial remembrance of the Nobel physical chemist Ilya Prigogine (1917-2003), the prime founder of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, a theoretical revolution to this day. On a personal note, in 1987 at a complexity conference I had lunch with Ilya along with Robert Ulanowicz. Some entries are The Rehabilitation of Irreversible Processes by Rene Lefever, Reducing Nonlinear Dynamical Systems to Canonical Forms, and Dissipative Structures in Biological Systems by Albert Goldbeter.

The idea of this theme issue emerged during the XIV international Workshop on Instabilities and Non-equilibrium Structures, which took place in December 2017 in Valparaiso, Chile. This workshop, organized by the University of Chile and the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, was dedicated to Ilya Prigogine, who stimulated research in nonlinear physics, non-equilibrium thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. which has been described as the end of the tyranny of equilibrium in thermodynamics. We now have a deeper understanding of the behaviour of matter at equilibrium and out of equilibrium. (Abstract excerpt)

Tsallis, Constantino. Introduction to Nonextensive Statistical Mechanics. Berlin: Springer, 2009. Since the 1980s the Greek-Brazilian director of theoretical physics at the Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas, Rio de Janeiro, has conceived and developed this advanced version of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. As a recent article Roll Over, Boltzman (Physics World, May 2014, (Cartwright) cites it is seen as extending the work of Ilya Prigogine in this open system realm with good success and application. While couched in arcane terms and highly mathematical, its mature form provides foundational credence to an innately organic natural genesis from physics to peoples.

The whole theory is based on a single concept, namely the entropy noted Sq which, for the entropic index q equal to unity, reproduces the standard BG entropy, here noted SBG. The traditional functional SBG is said to be additive. Indeed, for a system composed of any two independent subsystems, the entropy SBG of the sum coincides with the sum of the entropies. The entropy Sq violates this property, and is therefore nonadditive. As we see, entropic additivity depends, from its very definition, only on the functional form of the entropy in terms of probabilities. The situation is generically quite different for the thermodynamic concept of extensivity. An entropy of a system or of a subsystem is said extensive if, for a large number N of its elements, the entropy is (asymptotically) proportional to N. Otherwise, it is nonextensive. This is to say, extensivity depends on both the mathematical form of the entropic functional and the correlations possibly existing within the elements of the system. Consequently, for a (sub)system whose elements are either independent or weakly correlated, the additive entropy SBG is extensive, whereas the nonadditive entropy Sq (q _= 1) is nonextensive. (Preface ix)

Ulanowicz, Robert. Ecology: The Ascendent Perspective. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. After noting the deficiencies of the determinist Newtonian model, a theoretical ecologist describes in its place the inherent propensity of the universe to develop by nested stages toward increasingly aware and purposeful organisms. As a process of “entitification,” this vectorial ascendancy of life can offset the “overhead” of entropic dissipation and can thus be seen as a revival of Aristotle’s formal and final causes.

Wagner, Nathaniel and Addy Pross. The Nature of Stability in Replicating Systems. Entropy. 13/2, 2011. The present dichotomy of an alien, moribund universe which is yet filled with organismic matter from biochemicals to people continues to confound science, blocks and deters a salutary discovery. Here Ben Gurion University chemists propose an additional tendency of non-equilibrium thermodynamic phenomena said to be a “dynamic kinetic stability.” This novel facility is then seen to contribute to the heretofore elusive integration of physical cosmos with its regnant life.

In this review we have attempted to describe the concept of dynamic kinetic stability and how it relates to the traditional and well-established concepts of (static) kinetic stability and thermodynamic stability. We believe that recognizing the existence and nature of this quite distinct stability type can assist in further bridging the physics-biology gap that has troubled physicists for the past century, and assist in placing Darwinian thinking within a broader physicochemical framework. We believe that in doing so one can obtain greater insight into central questions in biology, including the most enduring and controversial one—the nature of the physicochemical principles that could help explain the emergence of life from inanimate matter. (525)

Wicken, Jeffrey. Evolution, Thermodynamics, and Information: Extending the Darwinian Program. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. The late (1942-2002) Penn State University biochemist is credited a quarter century on by Richard Egel, along with Iris Fry, (search both) as an innovative theorist for the evident, necessary unification of living and human systems with nature’s intrinsic dynamical energies and generative programs.

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