ORDER AND CHAOS

Laws of Energy and Entropy

Stanley W. Angrist and Loren G. Hepler

Pelican, London, 1973.


A popular science book in the old tradition of the genial explanation of sometimes difficult concepts, this 1967 work is presumably long out of print. As it would be a useful antidote to occultist blather about "giving people energy", more's the pity.

"Helmholtz used his conservation ideas to oppose those scientists who believed there was a unique 'vital force' in living organisms. He reasoned that living organisms containing such a 'force' could be perpetual motion machines - which they are not." (p.16)

This is the story of 200 years in the struggle to establish the laws of thermodynamics. There is a chapter on how energy is measured and accounted for as it is converted from one form to another, and a chapter on bond energies in molecules. This is followed by "Man: The Constant Temperature Energy Converter", investigating the metabolism. This chapter may help the reader of Fuller's Epic Poem and other works to attempt Fermi solutions of some of our global energy problems.

Here are the Three Laws of Thermodynamics:

  1. Energy may be changed from one form to another but is neither created nor destroyed. (p.63)
  2. Microscopic disorder (entropy) of a system and its surroundings (all of the relevant universe) does not spontaneously decrease. (p.134)
    Or:
    Every system which is left to itself will, on the average, change towards a condition of maximum probability (p.141)
    Or:
    Our information about an isolated system can never increase. Reversible processes conserve, irreversible ones lose information. (p.176)
    Or:
    If you think things are mixed up now, just wait. (p.141)
  3. The entropy of a system in equilibrium is zero at the absolute zero of temperature. (p.168)
"Negentropy measures the quality of energy. A system contains negentropy if it has a possibility of doing work. Systems not at a uniform temperature throughout, not at a uniform pressure throughout, or not at a uniform electrical potential, can all do work and thus all contain certain amounts of negentropy." (p.174)

For more on how this relates to Fuller's conception, see Entropy.


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Paul Taylor 2001