Entropy vs Life: Does Nature Use Life to Increase Entropy?

In summary: S and N are enthalpy and entropy, respectively. Is he saying that the entropy of the Earth's atmosphere increases when energy from the sun is absorbed?
  • #1
aurorasky
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0
How do life and all processes linked to life go along with the second law of thermodynamics? If living creatures decrease their entropy because they are open systems and in a state of non-equilibrium with the environment, in general does the total entropy increase? (for example, if we have two exactly equal planets, does life evolution bring about a greater increase in entropy?) Is it correct then to conclude that, in some ways, nature uses life to achieve a higher state of entropy?
 
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  • #3
I would not conclude that. Entropy increases with our without life. By consuming the plants formed on planets life is not making a very significant contribution. Most of the entropy in our universe is in dead stars.
 
  • #4
@ZapperZ: thank you for the very informative articles (I really enjoyed reading them). Could you perhaps clarify some points?

1. If I am getting it right, entropy decreases because of day/night temperature differences and this decrease is much greater than the decrease in entropy due to life evolution, by several orders of magnitude. However, the decrease due to the sun is not related to life at all: it would be present even in Dead-Earth. But this decrease in entropy is what can possibly drive evolution and indeed for this reason the overall rate of entropy increase is positive. So my claim was wrong: if life didn't exist, entropy would be higher (I believed that, organizing themselves, living beings brought about greater increase of entropy in the environment. Maybe life is a statistical byproduct, whenever the conditions are permissive?). Did I understand Bunn's argument correctly?

2. Could you explain these passages:

'In this estimate we did not include any entropy increase due to thermalization of the radiant energy emitted by the Earth. If we assume that this radiation eventually thermalizes with the cosmic background (CMB) radiation in deep space, then an additional, much larger entropy increase results' What is thermalization?

'With these assumptions, we can use the standard thermodynamic result mu/T=- partial S/partial N' I don't know how he came up with this.
 
  • #5


I am trained to approach questions and concepts with objectivity and evidence-based analysis. In the case of entropy and life, there is ongoing debate and research on the relationship between the two.

First, let's define entropy. Entropy is a measure of the disorder or randomness within a system. In closed systems, entropy tends to increase over time according to the second law of thermodynamics. This is because energy is constantly being converted from a more ordered state to a less ordered state, resulting in an overall increase in entropy.

Now, let's consider life. Living organisms are open systems, meaning they exchange matter and energy with their environment. This exchange allows living creatures to maintain a state of non-equilibrium, where they can decrease their own entropy by taking in energy and using it to maintain their internal order and function. However, this does not necessarily mean that the total entropy of the system decreases. In fact, the overall entropy of the universe continues to increase, as energy is constantly being converted and dispersed.

So, does life increase or decrease entropy? It depends on the scale and perspective we are looking at. On a local scale, living organisms can decrease their own entropy by maintaining their internal order. However, on a larger scale, the overall entropy of the universe continues to increase.

As for the idea that nature uses life to increase entropy, this is a complex and ongoing area of research. Some argue that the emergence of life on Earth has led to an increase in the overall entropy of the planet, as living organisms have altered the composition of the atmosphere and the Earth's surface. Others argue that life has actually helped to decrease entropy by promoting complexity and organization.

In conclusion, the relationship between entropy and life is a complex and nuanced topic. While living organisms may decrease their own entropy, the overall entropy of the universe continues to increase. Whether nature uses life to achieve a higher state of entropy is still a matter of debate and further research is needed to fully understand this relationship.
 

Related to Entropy vs Life: Does Nature Use Life to Increase Entropy?

1. What is entropy and how does it relate to life?

Entropy is a measure of the disorder or randomness in a system. In the context of thermodynamics, it is often described as the amount of energy that is unavailable for work. In terms of life, entropy is often associated with the concept of aging and the inevitable degradation of biological systems over time.

2. Does life increase or decrease entropy?

According to the second law of thermodynamics, the total entropy of a closed system (such as the universe) will always increase over time. However, the way in which life interacts with and affects entropy is still a topic of debate among scientists. Some argue that life decreases entropy by creating and maintaining highly organized and complex structures, while others suggest that life is simply a means for increasing entropy in the universe.

3. How does nature use life to increase entropy?

One theory is that life acts as a type of "entropy pump" by converting energy from one form to another and releasing it back into the environment. For example, plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into chemical energy, which is then released through respiration and other metabolic processes. This energy transfer ultimately contributes to the overall increase in entropy in the universe.

4. Can we measure the impact of life on entropy?

Currently, there is no definitive way to measure the impact of life on entropy. Some scientists have attempted to quantify the amount of energy that living organisms consume and release, but this is a complex and ongoing area of research. Additionally, the concept of entropy is not well-defined for living systems, making it difficult to accurately measure its effects.

5. What are the implications of the relationship between entropy and life?

The relationship between entropy and life has significant implications for our understanding of the universe and the role of living organisms within it. It also has practical applications in fields such as ecology and conservation biology, as well as potential implications for the future of humanity and our impact on the environment.

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