Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics and the Production of by Axel Kleidon

By Axel Kleidon

Identify is incorporated within the Springer Complexity programme.

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5). And here, along the path to civilization, as well as among the bricks, machines, and chips we’ve built, energy is a principal driver. Energy rate density continues rising with the increasing complexity of today’s gadget-rich society. Energy – the core of modern, non-equilibrium thermodynamics – ought not to be overlooked while seeking a broad, quantifiable metric for complexity. Whether acquired, stored, and expressed, energy has the advantage of being defined, intuitive, and measurable. Neither new science nor appeals to non-science are needed to justify the imposing hierarchy of our cosmicevolutionary scenario, from stars to life to society.

Change in environments usually precedes change in systems, and the resulting system changes have generally been toward greater amounts of order and complexity. Fig. 1. This symbolic “arrow of time” highlights salient features of cosmic history, from its fiery origins some 14 billion years ago (at left) to the here and now of the present (at right). Labeled diagonally across the top are the major evolutionary phases that have produced, in turn, increasing amounts of order and complexity among all material systems: particulate, galactic, stellar, planetary, chemical, biological, and cultural evolution.

Cultural systems, too, can be so modeled, for machines, cities, economies and the like are all described, at least in part, by energy flow. And it is non-equilibrium thermodynamics of open, complex systems that best characterizes resources flowing in and wastes flowing out, all the while system entropy actually decreases locally while obeying thermodynamics’ cherished second law that demands environmental entropy increase globally. Yet the quantity of choice cannot be simply energy, since the most primitive weed in the backyard is surely more complex than the most intricate nebula in the Milky Way.

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