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Heat Death

  1. Aug 17, 2003 #1
    I read about this once and then forgot where I read it, very simplified the theory goes like this:

    Intelligent beings create heat.
    Most items in a civilized culture create heat ie light bulbs, computers, etc.
    At some point a civilization will create more heat than can be dissipated and eventually it will lead to death of that civilization.

    I think that I missed something in there. Can someone tell me what this theory is and how it works? Thanks![?]
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2003 #2


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    I have never heard of such a "law" applied to civilizations, unless "heat" has some much broader meaning the that given it by Physics. If I were to apply this rule physically to anicient civilizations I do not think it would apply. The Roman Empire did not fall to excess heat, if fell due its inablility to defend its boarders from foreign invasion. If anything Rome ran into problems of insuficient heat, they striped all easily accessable fuel for miles around the city.

    Now if you wish to redefine what is meant by heat, perhaps you could make an argument. As far as a pure physical argument goes I see no validity to what you are saying.
  4. Aug 17, 2003 #3
    Bigger scale

    I think he was talking on a larger scale. For instance if you had a civilization that was planet bound but highly advanced and overpopulated. The heat created by such a civilization would surpass the bounds of any heat dissipation. Sort of like global warming only on a different scale. I probally read it wrong thats why I posted to see if anyone had heard of that before. Seems a little suspect eh? Maybe you can tell me how heat dissipates or where it goes? Does anyone know how much heat is generated by for instance New York City?

    Thanks a ton!
  5. Aug 18, 2003 #4


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    How can you make such projections? First you must project the existance of the civilization, then you must project its inablility to regulate energy. Sounds like science fiction to me.

    To get a handle on the amount of heat produced by NYC you would need to know the amount of power consumed in a given period of time. This would include, electrical, gasoline, the number of humans, cats, dogs ect. Seems like it would be hard to get even a rough estimate.

    Another way would be to obtian an infrared signature from space.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2003
  6. Aug 18, 2003 #5
    Okay, I give up.

    Thanks for responding, like I said it was something I read a while back and could have come from a science fiction book for all I know. I appreciate your responding though! Have a great week!
  7. Aug 21, 2003 #6
    I think that the heat would dissipate much faster then it could accumulate. We are not talking about an enclosed system. Heat escapes the earth everyday and dissipates into space.:smile:
  8. Aug 22, 2003 #7
    I thought "heat death" referred to the final condition of the universe in a smaller than critical density initial matter distribution. Terms like "distribution" become meaningless at extremes, but essentially all matter evaporates into energy at the event horizon of black holes as space expands into a thin soup of electrons.
  9. Aug 22, 2003 #8


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    Heat death just refers to a closed system in thermal equilibrium and if the universe ever does reach thermal equilibrium that would be the heat death of the universe.
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