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The second law of thermodynamics and the theory of entropy - a discussion  RSS feed

 
Elia Charalambides
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I think the second law of thermodynamics and more importantly the theory of entropy is total BS and Permaculture proves this.

If you look at the explanations of these terms you see them rife with wording such as: Order to Chaos, Heat Loss, Closed System(not closed loop systems, that's totally different). I especially like this one, stated as some sort of commandment from the bible: "Entropy, like time, runs in one direction only...it is not a reversible process".

All these terms are laden with cultural prejudices. Here's an example. Chaos in the mainstream sense is this terrible, perpetually growing state that needs to be managed or else we will all get overwhelmed by a tidal wave of dis-order. How else could modern man view the natural world with his regime of lawns, monocrop fields, and grid based layouts? Of course nature is chaotic from this perspective because once you stop mowing things start to grow. Though once you see the natural world through the eyes of permaculture the idea of chaos just falls away. As if it could never had existed in the first place. An artifact of a certain type of human thinking.

Take the idea of Heat Loss. As if we are quantifying and measuring every joule of heat for some account ledger. The very use of the term loss gives the impression of something irrecoverable forever. A common quote of this field goes as such: "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it is converted from a more useful more concentrated form to a less useful, less concentrated form." I'm sorry but am I the only one that thinks this is just nihilism under the guise of science. Physicists predict that at the end of the universe there will be nothing but an immense cold void because all the useful energy will have dissipated so much that while still all being there, it will be as if nothing is left. No more "useful" energy.

Closed systems do not and cannot exist! How is it that a core theory of modern physics and modern man's "understanding" of the world stands upon such blatant stupidity. Show me a closed system anywhere! For the longest time I felt like something was deeply wrong about this statement and then when I saw Bill Mollison and geoff lawton both talk about how there is no such thing as a closed system and that life itself is anti entropy I felt vindicated. Yes sure a cardiovascular system in a sense is closed. If you were cut and didn't stop the bleeding then yes you will bleed to death. But this is such a narrow and shallow understanding of the idea of a system in general. If you stop eating then you will also die. If you stop drinking you will die. If you stop breathing you will die. The cardiovascular system is just a small part of a much larger open system. By this infantile logic than we are just machines and if we are just pumped with blood everyday then we will live forever. I think any attempt at describing a closed system is just trying to mechanically cartesionally(as in Descartes, the fraud of the age) trying to reduce an open system to basic moving parts. Which you cannot. Nature is not a clock or a motor.

I attended a talk at the NYC Natural History Museum one night many years back and it was about just such a topic and it got me thinking. When the presenter (some physicist from Berkeley)was describing entropy he used the chicken egg metaphor. Describing how a whole chicken egg is energy and matter in a useful form and then when it breaks it become less useful and chaotic and that is entropy. That this is permanent and this process will always continue further and further causing more chaos. Order converted to chaos is entropy. You can't un-break the egg.
I found this explanation of the natural world(because thats what it was) incredibly shallow. Is this what physicists spend their time trying to prove? That you can't un-break eggs!
I wish I could go back to that talk and tell him "No you can't un-break an egg, but you can take that broken egg, eat the white and the yolk, which will give you energy, to take the broken shell and compost it by feeding thousands of micro-organisms in the soil, thereby growing the fertility and ecological diversity of the soil, to grow more productive plants, filled with more nutrition, for you to eat in the future, or to feed to the same chicken that gave you the broken egg, perhaps making it more healthy and even more productive. So in the end instead of sitting there stupidly mulling over a broken egg we've helped create an even more abundant, diverse, stable, ecological system."

I'd say thats anti-entropy.


 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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Science is not the only valid way of looking at the world, but it IS an extremely valuable tool for humanity...there is no reason it can't complement other sources of knowledge and wisdom, and it is a necessary piece of the puzzle for developing ways to heal the planet and sustain ourselves.

The basic laws of thermodynamics hold true, invariably, and all living systems (and permaculture!) exist and function within those parameters. To understand how living systems work within the laws of physics gives us an even greater sense of wonder and awe at the world we live in.

The language of thermodynamics is precise and technical, and it seems as though you are applying the concepts much to broadly, in ways never intended, to reach your conclusion that it's B.S. Words like order, chaos, entropy etc...within the context of physics they have very limited and well defined meanings in terms of energy....no physicist is saying order is 'good' or 'chaos' is bad. Reductionist thinking, cartesian dualism etc is a useful tool which can help us understand our universe...you are correct in pointing out that that understanding is not complete and needs to incorporate other ways of knowing, but that doesn't mean that it is BS. Such thinking becomes dangerous when it becomes so dominant that it is considered the only way of seeing the world.

Of course there is no such thing as a closed system. But the Idea of a closed system is a very useful construct which allows us to understand and quantify energy flows. We can then apply that knowledge to the real world.

Yes, living systems create order...but on the level of chemistry and physics disorder increases at every single step, every single reaction. If entropy is like a giant river, life is like using an old fashioned mill water wheel turning in that river to pump a bit of the water back up. So a living system might harness the energy of 100,000 units of increasing disorder in order to create 10 units of higher order. Entropy increases massively, but it is possible to create a small amount of order by harnessing the power of that flow. The one way energy flow that powers our local system is driven by the impossibly massive nuclear fusion furnace of the sun.

And yes, someday it will be cold and dark.

I'd rather not be anti-science, it's too important a tool for permaculture. But yes, scientific thought needs to be tempered with other ways of seeing the world.

 
James Colbert
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No offense but I believe you have a misinterpretation of what science is and what it is doing. Science is only valid within a given parameter. It is pragmatism dependent on condition . In the example of the egg the egg is considered for pragmatic purposes its own system. Now of course this is an assertion -- an artificial framework imposed on reality, but that is what all pragmatic conception is. So entropy is a valid theory in that we as humans assert conceptual "objects" onto reality. The egg for instance or a human being, or a car, or any other thing humans conceive of.

I understand the law of entropy thus: whatever is built up must eventually break down. As all things are composite thus all things are subject to dissemination.
 
R Scott
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James Colbert wrote:No offense but I believe you have a misinterpretation of what science is and what it is doing. Science is only valid within a given parameter. It is pragmatism dependent on condition . In the example of the egg the egg is considered for pragmatic purposes its own system. Now of course this is an assertion -- an artificial framework imposed on reality, but that is what all pragmatic conception is. So entropy is a valid theory in that we as humans assert conceptual "objects" onto reality. The egg for instance or a human being, or a car, or any other thing humans conceive of.


This seems to be a mistake most people are making these days.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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James Colbert wrote:Science is only valid within a given parameter. It is pragmatism dependent on condition .


Sorry?, I don't get this..Thermodynamics is Not dependent on condition, or valid only within certain parameters, or applicable only if it happens to suit you. It's like gravity. One might not like the idea of it but I doubt if many people will go jumping off cliffs because gravity doesn't mesh with their ideology, or because they feel it doesn't apply to their particular situation on some given day.

The debate shouldn't be about whether thermodynamics holds true universally or not, it's about how we make value judgements in deciding how and when to apply our scientific knowledge of thermodynamics to the way we live in the world. Regardless, entropy, like S^&#, happens...

You are correct that the idea of a closed system is an intellectual construct that is helpful in understanding the physical world, and not intended as a description of something that exists in reality.


James Colbert wrote:

I understand the law of entropy thus: whatever is built up must eventually break down. As all things are composite thus all things are subject to dissemination.

kind of sort of...it is at play when things are built up and when things break down, it's more about energy. The original post was about entropy in thermodynamics, it's measured in joules / kelvin, it's about the tendency towards dissipation and equilibrium in a system, it determines which reactions are energetically favourable and will occur.
 
Rick Larson
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The fact is we live in a spec of time and now rely on energy that was formed a long time ago. In its simplest explanation, there would be no permaculture without the sun. A more complicated explanation would be the human population would not have built up to this level without the power of oil (both energy sources that were created a long time ago).

In the end, a long time from this day, everything will be equal.
 
Elia Charalambides
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Interesting.

I wonder where someone could think I was being anti-science. Permaculture is a design science, and I am all for permaculture as well as many other types of sciences. Also I don't think Science is only valid within a given parameter. That is an odd statement which in some ways does apply to theoretical sciences that have no basis in actual reality, like entropy, but doesn't apply to other observations that one can make of the natural world and how they can be more broadly applied outside the parameters of the "natural world". To me that's science. In fact the very premise of basing physical sciences(i.e. physics to name just one) off of the actual natural world and observations made of it would be more beneficial to life science as a whole than making theories and conjectures off of Cartesian logic that was introduced at a time when people thought God was this great old clockmaster setting the "gears" of nature and watching it all unfold.

You can take apart an engine, then put it back together and it will run. Now try the same with a dog.

If anything, the famous alchemical statement "As above, so below" more aptly describes physics, biology, astronomy and a host of other sciences and would probably be a better basis than ideas like entropy. Not to associate alchemy with permaculture but this idea is something that is very much championed by permaculture and is very evident especially when you get into pattern recognition. Which of course leads to ideas of connection and openness of systems. Its practically anti-cartesian. I think Cartesian theories are great for a clock maker and any mechanical engineer and the like, but to have his philosophy spread to life sciences is tragic indeed and I think we are seeing the results of it today.
 
Elia Charalambides
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Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:
You are correct that the idea of a closed system is an intellectual construct that is helpful in understanding the physical world, and not intended as a description of something that exists in reality.



But see that's the thing, I don't think it helps at all in understanding the real world I think it just confuses and confounds. I think the reductionist thinking that brought about this mentality should only be applied to man-made complexities. The human mind can't possibly cope with all the possible variables that nature introduces into its systems and attempting to reduce them the same way just ends up removing us from reality. What is the point? If a conclusion is reached but based off of a fallacious reality then its useless.

The type thinking that Permaculture espouses seems to be a great remedy to this, especially pattern recognition and whole systems thinking.
 
Max Kennedy
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Elia Charalambides wrote: If a conclusion is reached but based off of a fallacious reality then its useless.


This is a bit extreme, the process of understanding the parts to understand the whole has been a tremendously powerful tool. Reductionist thinking isn't bad in itself but becomes bad when the part is taken as the whole or out of context of the whole. As for thermodynamics/entropy it talks about the process of complexity becoming simplified over time. There are a couple of misunderstandings you are making here, it doesn't say that the process is a straight line nor a smooth curve. Thus though the tendency is for things to "wind down" at any given moment in any given place the opposite may be true and complexity/order increases. Permaculture is such an example of a temporary perturbation of the trend which is where your second mistake lies, time scale. The timescales of these concepts isn't years, centuries or even millenia but millions and billions of years. When the sun eventually becomes a red giant and swallows the earth all the biological complexity will disappear, at least on earth, and permaculture will be but one more thing that succumbs to entropy. Thus it is not a proof that the idea is incorrect.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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Elia Charalambides wrote:That is an odd statement which in some ways does apply to theoretical sciences that have no basis in actual reality, like entropy..


Statements like this come across as anti-science, or hostile to science, or maybe just misinformed. I assure you that the theoretical sciences are based in actual reality, not some make-believe.

Yes, reductionist thinking / cartesian dualism etc misses some of the information packed in complex systems, but that does not mean that it's findings are invalid or 'BS' or have 'no basis in actual reality'. It is appropriate and good to understand how the parts work, and then to apply some systems theory to understand more of how the whole functions, and the emergent properties of the whole (which are missed in a reductionist analysis.

You can't pick and choose your realities. Entropy describes how stuff works at an atomic level everyday, and the constraints of thermodynamics are the foundation that shapes the complex systems and emergent properties that you are excited about. Systems theory is a good approach when you are trying to understand how a plant integrates into it's ecosystem, if you want to understand the molecular biology of photosynthesis then the reductionist lens is entirely appropriate. They are complementary. They do not invalidate each other.

Elia Charalambides wrote:

You can take apart an engine, then put it back together and it will run. Now try the same with a dog.

I think Cartesian theories are great for a clock maker and any mechanical engineer and the like, but to have his philosophy spread to life sciences is tragic indeed and I think we are seeing the results of it today.


Yes, the dog has emergent properties as a whole that are beyond what can be described just using thermodynamics, but at the same time, every molecule of the dog's being at every moment Does follow the laws of thermodynamics exactly.

The connection between a cartesian worldview and classical physics isn't necessary. You are correct to say that cartesian reductionism is an inadequate lens for apprehending the entirety of the living world, and that we should not base our whole worldview / philosophy / value judgements on that type of thinking....But that doesn't make physics invalid, it is just a recognition that physics is only one tool in our tool box.

Entropy isn't just about far away or far off in the future or dying stars. You can not begin to accurately describe the most basic reactions of photosynthesis, carbon sequestration, or any of the myriad processes that underlie ecosystem function and go on constantly without employing an understanding of entropy, physics and chemistry.
 
Joe Braxton
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Everyone will tend to believe whatever best fits their preconceived ideas................I believe I'll have another beer...........
 
James Colbert
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Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:
James Colbert wrote:Science is only valid within a given parameter. It is pragmatism dependent on condition .


Sorry?, I don't get this..Thermodynamics is Not dependent on condition, or valid only within certain parameters, or applicable only if it happens to suit you. It's like gravity. One might not like the idea of it but I doubt if many people will go jumping off cliffs because gravity doesn't mesh with their ideology, or because they feel it doesn't apply to their particular situation on some given day.

The debate shouldn't be about whether thermodynamics holds true universally or not, it's about how we make value judgements in deciding how and when to apply our scientific knowledge of thermodynamics to the way we live in the world. Regardless, entropy, like S^&#, happens...

You are correct that the idea of a closed system is an intellectual construct that is helpful in understanding the physical world, and not intended as a description of something that exists in reality.


James Colbert wrote:

I understand the law of entropy thus: whatever is built up must eventually break down. As all things are composite thus all things are subject to dissemination.

kind of sort of...it is at play when things are built up and when things break down, it's more about energy. The original post was about entropy in thermodynamics, it's measured in joules / kelvin, it's about the tendency towards dissipation and equilibrium in a system, it determines which reactions are energetically favourable and will occur.


In fact thermodynamics and entropy are dependent on condition. The problem in understanding this lies with the comprehension that the reality we experience as humans is almost always filtered through a lens of conceptuality and thus we make assertion of "objects" onto reality. For entropy to be valid there must first be objects or systems which experience said entropy. It is here that the assertion is made on to reality and it is here where the distortion of reality lies. Reality holds no objects that are not forced upon it. For more on this see the work of Kant who believed that we as humans can never know a thing "in itself." That is to say we can't experience reality devoid of our humanity. I do not agree with Kant on this point but for the most part this is true. We experience reality through the concepts we overlay on to it. Without said concepts there is no entropy. That being said concepts are useful. They allow us to model a system (which is itself a concept) however when we for example call an egg a system we are necessarily creating conditions. We are restraining the purview for the purposes of some end. If an egg is a system then it is subject to entropy, if on the other hand the egg is part of a larger system say an ecosystem the egg, the resulting chicken, and the matter/energy generated will simply change in the direction of either more or less systemic organization. This direction of change will depend greatly on the new system asserted.

It may seem as if I am harping on a single point but I believe in it lies something beneficial to those trying to use science in a pragmatic way. Conceptual truths are dependent on both cause and condition. Every conceptual assertion is both correct and incorrect. We cannot make a system, or a theory, or a concept which applies in all cases.

To say that entropy doesn't apply to permaculture is wrong, to say that entropy applies to everything is wrong. Within a permaculture system we have to a degree created something stable but never permanent. How does a permaculture system exist without a solar system; or a sun; or water? How does entropy exist without objects, things, and systems? Like most things the truth lies in between polar extremes.
 
P Thickens
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Humans create models (parallels, representations) to make large or complex things easier to understand.

All models are wrong, but some are useful. Knowing which is which is the key to understanding the bigger, more complex thing.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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James, it seems if you are interested in promoting the use of science in a pragmatic way, then a pretty good starting place would be to concede that objects do, in fact, exist, and that physical laws apply to them. Without that much, we're running around like solipsists with paper bags over our heads and i have no idea how we're ever going to harvest the potatoes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happily post-modern. I have no illusions about absolute truths. Sure, everything is relative, and we, to a great extent, create the reality we perceive through projecting ourselves on it. But I also believe there is a very real, objective world out there that behaves in absolutely predictable ways regardless of what i happen to be thinking. Entropy isn't a 'conceptual' truth, it's not conditional, and it's not contingent on a society's worldview or someone's perception. The brick wall i'm about to start smacking my head against is going to make me bleed despite your kind visualizations of feather down.

It's a dangerous conceit and real hubris to imagine that somehow the universal physical laws that order the universe don't apply to us. Is gravity conditional then? Let's take up olympic ski jumping! What about heat + oxygen + fuel = fire...does that depend on whether we have agreed that there should be combustion or not? Or is the house going to burn down anyway? How fast is the light travelling today? Nice for photographs... Hydrogen atoms sure were heavy last weekend... I heard Plank's constant was down seven basis points on uncertainties with the european debt crisis...

How is entropy different? How is it conditional? Where can I go and measure something happening that isn't in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics?? Any example?? And can we sell it??

We can go anywhere and measure this stuff and get reliable, accurate, reproducible results...it is a highly, highly corroborated theory....i'm not saying that it is perfect, or that it's complete, or that it's all that we need. I am saying that it is real, and we need to deal with it, and it's not productive to pretend that it isn't...







 
James Colbert
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Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:James, it seems if you are interested in promoting the use of science in a pragmatic way, then a pretty good starting place would be to concede that objects do, in fact, exist, and that physical laws apply to them. Without that much, we're running around like solipsists with paper bags over our heads and i have no idea how we're ever going to harvest the potatoes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happily post-modern. I have no illusions about absolute truths. Sure, everything is relative, and we, to a great extent, create the reality we perceive through projecting ourselves on it. But I also believe there is a very real, objective world out there that behaves in absolutely predictable ways regardless of what i happen to be thinking. Entropy isn't a 'conceptual' truth, it's not conditional, and it's not contingent on a society's worldview or someone's perception. The brick wall i'm about to start smacking my head against is going to make me bleed despite your kind visualizations of feather down.

It's a dangerous conceit and real hubris to imagine that somehow the universal physical laws that order the universe don't apply to us. Is gravity conditional then? Let's take up olympic ski jumping! What about heat + oxygen + fuel = fire...does that depend on whether we have agreed that there should be combustion or not? Or is the house going to burn down anyway? How fast is the light travelling today? Nice for photographs... Hydrogen atoms sure were heavy last weekend... I heard Plank's constant was down seven basis points on uncertainties with the european debt crisis...

How is entropy different? How is it conditional? Where can I go and measure something happening that isn't in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics?? Any example?? And can we sell it??

We can go anywhere and measure this stuff and get reliable, accurate, reproducible results...it is a highly, highly corroborated theory....i'm not saying that it is perfect, or that it's complete, or that it's all that we need. I am saying that it is real, and we need to deal with it, and it's not productive to pretend that it isn't...









I don't want to get into an e-argument about this but... I have had this discussion with many people before. I should probably preface this by saying that I have a degree in Philosophy and basically studied this one topic throughout my undergrad. Not that that should lend credibility to my position I only wish to point out that I have considered this topic at length. Its not that there isn't an objective world. What is in dispute is the concepts or "objects" which populate that reality. You yourself admit that truth is relative. That is exactly the same thing as saying that things are conditional. We can't create concepts which are exact representations of reality. Thus the relations between objects (ie entropy, gravity, etc.) to some degree must be fallacious.

My point is not to argue ontology but simply to point out that for science to be useful it must be used in the right context and when the context is out of the realm of your theory, concept, or object you must create new theories, concepts, and objects to create a model which applies to the novel conditions. This is how science evolves. Old theories are replaced with new ones, Newtonian physics is replaced Relativity. Of course Newtonian physics is still useful but only within the realm of relatively large objects moving at speeds well under that of light.

For more on this topic check out "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" by David Bohm one of the founders of Quantum mechanics and one of the greatest theoretical physicists of the 20th century. He likened objects to patterns formed as water moved in a stream. Rocks and unseen elements form the implicate (as opposed to the explicate) and the patterns of the water such as a swirling vortex (caused by the elements under the water) form the explicate. The explicate are what we commonly call objects, things, or concepts. In this same manner science grasps at the void and asserts objects where there is in fact a perceived pattern created by implicate conditions. Its like looking at clouds and seeing a dog, then after realizing the wind is blowing and changing your theory after much debate and mental masturbation deciding it is in fact Australian cattle dog. It was David Bohm's assertion that continued progress towards greater understanding and towards greater knowledge requires comprehension of the above. It is conceptual rigidity which prevents one from forming new concepts in the face of unique conditions.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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No, No, definitely not an e-argument, more like an hour on the back porch with a bottle of homebrew.. Sorry if i got my arms waving there. I don't think you and I even have that much disagreement here.

James Colbert wrote:
Its not that there isn't an objective world. What is in dispute is the concepts or "objects" which populate that reality. You yourself admit that truth is relative. That is exactly the same thing as saying that things are conditional.


I don't understand how saying 'truth is relative' is exactly the same as saying 'things are conditional'? Truth and Things do not carry the same ontic significance. Truth is a human construct and Things are going to be around a long time after the last clever ape. Things have an ontic state independent of the epistemic perspective... (Part of me would deeply love to say that about Truth, even has faith in that, but I think I'd have a hard time making the argument)..unless you must go and bring quantum mechanics into it, and then we have to scramble ontology and epistemology together....but remember we're still talking about Gardening here...nobody uses relativity for artillery ballistics, and I see no pressing need to base farming systems on quantum mechanics. (smiling, imagining threshing buckwheat with the CERN accelerator)
James Colbert wrote:

My point is not to argue ontology but simply to point out that for science to be useful it must be used in the right context and when the context is out of the realm of your theory, concept, or object you must create new theories, concepts, and objects to create a model which applies to the novel conditions. This is how science evolves. Old theories are replaced with new ones, Newtonian physics is replaced Relativity. Of course Newtonian physics is still useful but only within the realm of relatively large objects moving at speeds well under that of light.


Fine, and my point is that basic chemistry, biology, botany, and ecology are not contexts 'out of the realm' of the theory of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics describes the processes we are likely to encounter everyday in the material world (and the farm or garden) exceptionally well, and it's a highly useful tool for understanding them. As I said above, it is one tool in the box and can be complemented by other theoretical frameworks and more wholistic thought. I am mostly objecting to the original poster's contention that ' the second law of thermodynamics is BS and permaculture proves it', which I think is indefensible. You can't even make coffee in the morning if the second law doesn't hold...

I'll have to find a copy of Bohm. I'm all for continued progress in understanding the fundamental nature of the universe, but it may not have immediate implications for how I farm. I admit I have a tendency towards mysticism rather than quantum mechanics, but that's probably just because I don't have a handle on the math
 
wayne stephen
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The second law of thermodynamics is not relative or bunk. It is never applied to biological systems because we recieve energy from the sun. The earth is not a closed system. In a closed system differences in temperature and energy will equilibriate. The idea that natural laws are misproven by permaculture reveals a lack of knowledge about those laws. I have heard the second law of thermodynamics used to debunk the laws of evolution by creationists. I frequently see t-shirts that say " Talk to me about the second law of thermodynamics " . This is a creationists attempt to show that the laws of entropy could not have led to increased life , we would have settled into cold , still entropy. Only a divine breath of life could maintain and grow life systems. 2 good responses to that t-shirt - say nothing , smile , and point to the sun. Or - Say " Only if you talk to me about the first , third , and zeroeth. " A creationist freind of mine who is also a physics teacher probably could , but he should know better.
 
James Colbert
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Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote: No, No, definitely not an e-argument, more like an hour on the back porch with a bottle of homebrew.. Sorry if i got my arms waving there. I don't think you and I even have that much disagreement here.

James Colbert wrote:
Its not that there isn't an objective world. What is in dispute is the concepts or "objects" which populate that reality. You yourself admit that truth is relative. That is exactly the same thing as saying that things are conditional.


I don't understand how saying 'truth is relative' is exactly the same as saying 'things are conditional'? Truth and Things do not carry the same ontic significance. Truth is a human construct and Things are going to be around a long time after the last clever ape. Things have an ontic state independent of the epistemic perspective... (Part of me would deeply love to say that about Truth, even has faith in that, but I think I'd have a hard time making the argument)..unless you must go and bring quantum mechanics into it, and then we have to scramble ontology and epistemology together....but remember we're still talking about Gardening here...nobody uses relativity for artillery ballistics, and I see no pressing need to base farming systems on quantum mechanics. (smiling, imagining threshing buckwheat with the CERN accelerator)
James Colbert wrote:

My point is not to argue ontology but simply to point out that for science to be useful it must be used in the right context and when the context is out of the realm of your theory, concept, or object you must create new theories, concepts, and objects to create a model which applies to the novel conditions. This is how science evolves. Old theories are replaced with new ones, Newtonian physics is replaced Relativity. Of course Newtonian physics is still useful but only within the realm of relatively large objects moving at speeds well under that of light.


Fine, and my point is that basic chemistry, biology, botany, and ecology are not contexts 'out of the realm' of the theory of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics describes the processes we are likely to encounter everyday in the material world (and the farm or garden) exceptionally well, and it's a highly useful tool for understanding them. As I said above, it is one tool in the box and can be complemented by other theoretical frameworks and more wholistic thought. I am mostly objecting to the original poster's contention that ' the second law of thermodynamics is BS and permaculture proves it', which I think is indefensible. You can't even make coffee in the morning if the second law doesn't hold...

I'll have to find a copy of Bohm. I'm all for continued progress in understanding the fundamental nature of the universe, but it may not have immediate implications for how I farm. I admit I have a tendency towards mysticism rather than quantum mechanics, but that's probably just because I don't have a handle on the math


Hey Kari, I think for the most part we are in agreement it is only the semantics and nomenclature that is in dispute. If it is accurate that truth is relative then that means things which we call true are in fact given primacy because of emotional assent. That is to say that which is true is that which we emotionally consent to as individuals or as a group. It in fact has little to do with what ontologically is. So to, what is real is simply that which we "feel" has primacy. Without the human mind the world is not divided. That is to say there are no things without humans to point them out. The universe makes to separation between a worm, that bird that eats it, the egg the bird lays, and the human being whom consumes the egg. They are all one undivided whole. It is like looking at an ocean and calling this wave a car; that wave a particle accelerator; and the other wave a Higgs Boson. THink about it on a quantum level. Its all energy, waves propagating on some incomprehensible medium. It is the waves that we find significant as humans, we name them, categorize them and define the relationships between them all the while ignoring the medium, the stillness that gives the waves their relative significance.

For all practical purposes you are absolutely right biology, botany, ecology, chemistry, etc. are applicable to permaculture. But consider this -- was there entropy before the big bang? Will there be entropy after the universe settles to a void? Is there entropy when considering a system such as the multi-verse? Does entropy apply to singularities? To preclude the possibility that entropy is not conditional is to ignore novel conditions in which it may not apply.

The main thing here is that I think we should be actively looking for the flaws in our theories and axioms. To search out and find those conditions where they don't apply so that we can expand our knowledge. We should know that whatever we know is to some degree wrong (including this very statement). That way we don't miss a chance for greater understanding because of our affinity for how we think it is because of our conceptual rigidity. This was my only point, but because I am philosophically trained I had to address it in the most verbose manner... sorry.
 
duane hennon
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the laws of thermodynamics aren't wrong, just incomplete

http://constructal.org/
 
Eric Toensmeier
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The way I learned this is that entropy applies to non-living systems, but living systems can reverse the trend. This negative entropy or "negentropy" is actually one of the defining characteristics of life and one of the reasons permaculture is so hopeful, as it is a science of applied (and edible) negentropy.
 
Lance Wildwood
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"Indeed at the Stuttgart University of Technology, West Germany in 1952 these theories were tested under strict scientific and laboratory conditions by Professor Dr. Ing. Franz Pöpel, a hydraulics specialist. These tests showed that, when water is allowed to flow in its naturally ordained manner, it actually generates certain energies, ultimately achieving a condition that could be termed 'negative friction'. Checked and double-checked, this well-documented, but largely unpublicized, pioneering discovery not only vindicated Viktor Schauberger's theories. It also over-turned the hitherto scientifically sacred 'Second Law of Thermodynamics' in which, without further or continuous input of energy, all (closed) systems must degenerate into a condition of total chaos or entropy. These experiments proved that this law, whilst it applies to all mechanical systems, does not apply wholly to living organisms."

http://merlib.org/node/5134

Seems simple?
 
Topher Belknap
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[Yes, I realize I am performing thread necromancy here, but this is one of the first thread I saw upon joining Permies.com, and it almost caused me to give up.]

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a very well establish component of our most basic understanding of how reality works. To find any evidence against it (to say nothing of proof) would be Noble prize winning stuff to say the least. If the OP thinks they have so much as a single counter-example I implore them to make it known to the world at large, and collect their well-earned prize.

Or is it more likely that they aren't clear on what exactly the second law of thermodynamics actually means?

Here is an equation to start with:

How should this equation (or one of the other equations for describing entropy) be changed to include the revelations made by Permaculture?

Thank You Kindly.

P.S. You can't discredit 'science' by proving some scientific concept is wrong; that IS science, that is what it DOES. And as far as we have been able to tell, the ONLY thing that can.
 
Burra Maluca
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I think this discussion of entropy lies a little closer to what Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison are really getting at when they talk about entropy - The Concept of Entropy in Permaculture
 
Topher Belknap
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Burra Maluca wrote:I think this discussion of entropy lies a little closer to what Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison are really getting at when they talk about entropy - The Concept of Entropy in Permaculture


Perhaps, but they are trying to use the term correctly (even if a bit confused about the consequences), not trying to give it some new meaning (thankfully, we have enough problems with people understanding it as is).

But that is all irrelevant to the original post, which is trying to say that Permaculture *disproves* entropy (the physics concept, not GL and BM's concept of it) And here is my problem with that. Saying that permaculture disproves the second law, is the same thing as saying that permaculture *requires* the second law be untrue, in order to work. I have far more evidence for that second law, than for permaculture, so I would therefore conclude that permaculture is useless. This is the damage that statements like that do.
 
Craig Dobbson
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For the visual learners:



 
duane hennon
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questions for the "entropists"

how did things get ordered so that entropy could dis-order them

in the video, it talks about the pool balls flying apart when hit with the cue ball or the glass of milk breaking when it hits the floor
and says these can't be reversed because of entropy. BUT the point to remember is that these things didn't FORM because of the opposite
what made these things and what broke them are different.
even after these specific items are broken, conditions exists to rack a new set of 8-ball or make another glass of milk

as a corollary, how did the singularity get compressed so the "big bang" could happen?
and after the "big bang" why didn't entropy just spread things out evenly like a mist or fog?

instead we see order, pattern and evolution everywhere

we see new star formation, solar systems, galaxies (ordered systems of solar systems), groups (ordered systems of galaxies), groups of groups, etc
as far as we can see. individual pieces eventually breakdown to be recycled, but nowhere do we see the universe reaching a place in space then fizzing apart

something else in addition to "entropy" must be involved

here's a different take on the subject that includes "life"

http://www.nature.com/srep/2014/140210/srep04017/full/srep04017.html
http://constructal.org/
 
Shane McKee
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Hi folks; just a comment here - there is no problem with the second law of thermodynamics in permaculture or in life or in science. Only a misunderstanding. Indeed, biology and permaculture *depend* on the second law; evolution is *not* counter to it, any more than whirlpools "defy" gravity. Thermodynamics explains the flow of energy, and it is that flow that allows our planet to generate those endless forms most beautiful. Reductionism works; it is extremely valid and useful. There is no requirement for a deus ex machina, but when we zoom out to the level of what *systems* are doing - that is when we see interesting phenomena. Our planet absorbs vast amounts of energy daily from the sun, and radiates some of it away at night - while it's passing through biological (and indeed regular physical) systems, it can do amazing things. If anything, permaculture is a recognition that there is plenty enough of that to sustain life on this planet indefinitely into the future, as it has been doing (entropically) for the last few billion years.

So yay for physics, yay for entropy, yay for biology and yay for permaculture
 
Topher Belknap
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duane hennon wrote:

questions for the "entropists"

how did things get ordered so that entropy could dis-order them


That is a really good question! In fact, that is one of the fundamental questions of the universe.

the answer is:


No one knows.

we see new star formation, solar systems, galaxies (ordered systems of solar systems), groups (ordered systems of galaxies), groups of groups, etc
as far as we can see. individual pieces eventually breakdown to be recycled, but nowhere do we see the universe reaching a place in space then fizzing apart

something else in addition to "entropy" must be involved


Nope, There really was a VERY small amount of entropy at the start of the Universe. We are basically coasting on that, and will for the next few Trillion years.

Take any of those examples you give, and isolate, and measure the entropy and you will notice it increasing. (Or pick up your Nobel Prize).

If it helps imagine all those solar systems, galaxies, groups of galaxies, etc. as one small uniform thing. Doesn't that seem a lot more ordered than those things.

Permaculture, by the way, is an exercise in INCREASING entropy. A permaculture food forest is a lot more disordered than the desert it is replacing.
 
Shane McKee
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BTW, Duane, that is not a silly question - in fact it is probably the most profound question of all. It seems that there is indeed a "counter-entropic" force that pushed the space of the early universe apart that matter got both created and distributed in a highly "counter-entropic" way. We've seen little ripples in the cosmic microwave background that indicate that this wasn't completely uniform - small fluctuations that ended up forming the nucleation points of galaxies and stars. And indeed, this means that even our universe isn't a "closed" system as such - it is undergoing expansion even still. But, strikingly, if you tot up the entire mass-energy content of the universe, the answer seems to be *zero* (energy plus gravitational negative energy). Now my head hurts, but I would strongly recommend Max Tegmark's "Our Mathematical Universe" for some of the latest cutting edge thinking on this thorny issue.

Meanwhile, let's continue to make the most of the self-replicating nanotechnological assemblages nature has supplied us with...
 
Topher Belknap
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Shane McKee wrote:It seems that there is indeed a "counter-entropic" force that pushed the space of the early universe apart that matter got both created and distributed in a highly "counter-entropic" way.


What makes you call inflation 'counter-entropic'?
 
duane hennon
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Topher Belknap wrote:
duane hennon wrote:

questions for the "entropists"

how did things get ordered so that entropy could dis-order them


That is a really good question! In fact, that is one of the fundamental questions of the universe.

The answer is:


No one knows.


and therefore nobody knows if "entropy" is true

we see new star formation, solar systems, galaxies (ordered systems of solar systems), groups (ordered systems of galaxies), groups of groups, etc
as far as we can see. individual pieces eventually breakdown to be recycled, but nowhere do we see the universe reaching a place in space then fizzing apart

something else in addition to "entropy" must be involved


Nope, There really was a VERY small amount of entropy at the start of the Universe. We are basically coasting on that, and will for the next few Trillion years.

if there was only a VERY small amount of entropy at the start of the universe
and nothing else was involved,
where did the blueprints and energy to build all those structures come from?




Take any of those examples you give, and isolate, and measure the entropy and you will notice it increasing. (Or pick up your Nobel Prize).

If it helps imagine all those solar systems, galaxies, groups of galaxies, etc. as one small uniform thing. Doesn't that seem a lot more ordered than those things.

no
entropy is suppose to break down structures to uniformity where there is no energy difference ( ah, the dreaded "heat death")
those structures shouldn't have formed in a "entropy only" universe
and yet here we are (see the links)

Permaculture, by the way, is an exercise in INCREASING entropy. A permaculture food forest is a lot more disordered than the desert it is replacing.



a desert left alone is pretty much like a closed system and degrades in structure, plant and animal species ( a pretty uniform thing) at an entropic low point
because everything formally there has scattered to the wind

a desert with INPUTS can become a food forest with lots more options for the energy to flow through
and while it may seem like disorder for those looking for disorder
patterns exists that can be seen by those looking for them


btw welcome to permies

 
I think I'll just lie down here for a second. And ponder this tiny ad:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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