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The last 200 years have brought humankind an impressive array of technological marvels. These innovations have made their way into our industries, homes, and places of work. We are now surrounded with all kinds of "timesaving" devices, yet we have less time for ourselves than our parents and grandparents had. It seems that nothing is impossible for the human race and that we are in control of the world in which we live, yet biological and electronic bugs and viruses are threatening us daily in complex and unpredictable ways. World population and globalization of economies are growing steadily, as are environmental and socioeconomic disorders. Our technological powers are increasing, but so are their side effects and unintended consequences.
In the Science of Disorder, physicist and information technologist Jack Hokikian explains our predicament through the Laws of Thermodynamics-the Laws of Energy and Entropy. These laws control all processes in the universe, including our technologies and activities. Dr. Hokikian gives a comprehensive review of the significance of these fundamental Laws of Nature, especially as they apply to the environment and to our lives. He shows us how we can attain-through the Laws of Thermodynamics-a philosophy of life that can guide us in our daily actions and decisions.
Our world is changing rapidly and becoming more complex, disordered, and
polluted. Economies are in disarray, crimes and conflicts are all too
frequent, weapons are multiplying and spreading, and our lives are becoming
ever more hectic and uncertain. Despite sustained efforts to control
pollution, toxic gases are still spewing into our air, poisonous chemicals and
nuclear waste products are piling up, fertilizers and pesticides are
contaminating our water and food supplies, and our ecosystem is in a state of
distress. And in spite of prolonged attempts to eradicate undesirable viruses,
bacteria, and insects, the bugs are thriving and attacking us with greater
impunity and intensity.
The explanation to our puzzling situation can be found in the discipline of
thermodynamics. The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics govern all
processes and activities--from physical, chemical, and biological to economic,
social, and intellectual. For historical reasons, they are called the Laws of
Thermodynamics because they were discovered while studying heat and heat
engines; yet they are extremely general Laws of Nature, vitally important to
This book--written from a physicist's standpoint--describes how the Laws of
Thermodynamics apply to all areas of human endeavor, including chemistry,
cosmology, medicine, education, agriculture, economics, technology, and
Once we grasp the essence of the Laws of Thermodynamics, we understand why our
problems, from economic to environmental to social, are becoming increasingly
intricate worldwide. Knowledge of these laws will help us comprehend how
Nature works, and thus let us live in harmony with Nature and each other.
Solutions to our problems look very different depending upon whether we
neglect or work within the Laws of Thermodynamics. Thus it is important that
we be aware of these laws and their effects on our lives, our society, and our
environment so we can formulate policies that are not on a collision course
with Nature's Laws.
Before human knowledge disintegrated into a myriad of specialties, science and
philosophy were unified in their goal: to discover the truth about how Nature
works and to arrive at fundamental Natural Laws through which we can present a
unified view of Nature and our place in it. What we are left with today is
philosophy without science, while science has been taken over by
technology--applied science. As one scientist proclaimed: "Listen to the
technology and find out what it is telling you." But technology does not
provide us with any principles of Nature, principles needed to derive a
practical philosophy of life. For this we have to turn to the Laws of
Technology promised us a new world in which we would achieve control over our
environment and the forces of Nature, gain access to unlimited and cheap
energy and natural resources, and enjoy a youthful life free of diseases and
health disorders. These promises have not materialized, and for good
reason--because we live in a thermodynamic universe, one that cannot be
controlled by our technologies but instead is controlled by the Laws of
Although these laws were discovered a century and a half ago, most
people--including the educated--do not know enough about them. For example, in
Earth in the Balance, Al Gore refers briefly to the First Law of
Thermodynamics. But he makes no mention of the Second Law, the one that
affects us most.
The Laws of Thermodynamics--especially the Second Law--are frequently
misunderstood and misrepresented in the literature, which is a serious
disorder in human knowledge. Throughout this book, many popular
misunderstandings of the Second Law are pointed out and corrected, including
the widely held misconception that evolution violates it.
The main ideas of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics are explained in
general terms in the first two chapters, along with some historical
background. They provide the scientific foundation for the book's thesis.
In today's fast-changing environment, where technologies, theories,
ideologies, fashions, and information quickly become obsolete and are
discarded, the Laws of Thermodynamics provide a good sense of stability and
continuity. Not only have they withstood the test of time, they have become
stronger and stronger as more and more supporting data have accumulated.
The Laws of Thermodynamics are based on two thermodynamic quantities: energy
The First Law is about the conservation of energy. It says the amount of
energy in the universe is constant. This implies that energy cannot be created
or destroyed but can be transformed from one form to another. The expression
"You can't get something for nothing" stems from this law.
The Second Law is about entropy. It stipulates that entropy increases in all
processes irreversibly. Physicists identify entropy as a measure of the
disorder of a thermodynamic system. In economic terms, the Second Law can be
regarded as Nature's unyielding tax collector. It exacts a tax from all our
activities by increasing the disorder of our thermodynamic system. Through
increases in entropy, the Second Law controls and dictates the way all
processes proceed in the universe. For this reason, it maintains a supreme
position within the Laws of Nature. It demands our undivided consideration.
Whether we are physicists, biologists, economists, psychologists, or
politicians; whether we are conservatives, liberals, or middle-of-the-roaders;
whether we are technologists, environmentalists, deep ecologists, or
ecofeminists; whether we are Africans, Americans, Asians, Australians, or
Europeans; whether we are capitalists, communists, or socialists--we all feel
and are affected by the cumulative effects of the physical, social,
environmental, economic, and intellectual entropies within us and around us.
Consequently, it is to our advantage to learn and understand what entropy is
Three decades ago, ecologist René Dubos remarked that "the technological and
other practical applications of science have been oversold." This eminent
biologist believed that science would be more useful to humanity if it devoted
more energy toward "the development of knowledge and attitudes that would help
man to examine objectively, rationally, and creatively the problems that are
emerging as a result of social evolution." He pointed out that "this aspect of
science is given very low priority--if not neglected altogether--in
universities and research institutes," adding that "we hardly give any thought
to the long-range consequences of our scientific and technological
interventions into man's life and nature." Dubos' observations are as relevant
today as they were then.
Regrettably, the Laws of Thermodynamics have not received the emphasis they
deserve. They can help us understand and tackle today's problems, particularly
problems of our own making. Moreover, the discipline of thermodynamics
includes important universal concepts, such as the irreversibility of natural
processes. Our perspective on the world is very different if we view it as a
reversible system subject to our control rather than an irreversible system
governed by the Laws of Thermodynamics.
Once we become familiar with these laws, many previously unexplained phenomena
and paradoxes become apparent. We see why time flows only one way, why we age
irreversibly, why our lives are becoming increasingly complicated and
uncertain, why we are experiencing "future shock," why we have less time for
ourselves even though we are surrounded with more "timesaving" devices than
ever before. We realize why so many promises and expectations have not come
true. We are also able to foresee some dangers ahead.
The current educational environment and economic conditions have created a lot
of specialists. Yet the concepts we have learned in our specialties, while
useful and functional, have narrow ranges of applicability. They do not equip
us with the ability to view the world in a general, comprehensive way. On the
other hand, the discipline of thermodynamics--through its all-encompassing
laws--allows us to see the whole picture. Indeed, it forces us to examine the
total picture. Many of our gross errors in judgment have come about because we
have considered only part of the thermodynamic system.
To deal with today's diverse but interconnected set of problems, we need a
common set of general principles of Nature, principles that apply to all
processes and activities. Then we will have a basis for discussing and
tackling our pressing problems in economics, government, education, health
care, transportation, technology, and ecology.
Posted June 13, 2003
How the natural 'disorder' of things affects all of us: This amazing book is a wonderful explanation of why so many disturbing and seemingly 'chaotic' world events are occurring and what we could do to mitigate their effects. Jack Hokikian, a real scientist in the true meaning of the word, has taken a difficult yet critically important subject and created a 'must-read' book for anyone who cares about our future on this increasingly crowded planet. Dr. Hokikian clearly describes the Laws of Thermodynamics and uses them to explain the accelerating 'rush to disorder' which we are all experiencing in our daily lives. Far from being a dry dissertation about little-understood laws of Physics, Dr. Hokikian's brilliant and entertaining book brings home with a loud bang the critical importance of understanding the impacts of our universe's immutable physical laws and why we, and particularly our leaders, must be made to fully understand these impacts. He uses many riveting examples from real life to clearly illustrate the chaos and disorder around us along with equally clearly explained causes and effects. This beautiful book, in clear everyday language, spells out exactly why we see such increasing chaos and disorder around us and how we got to this point and how, once we understand this, we can slow down and perhaps even reverse this frightening process. The author, Dr. Hokikian is no wild-eyed 'mad scientist' nor is he a fanatical 'tree-hugger'. He is a University Physics Professor, a successful professional engineer and a highly-respected Database Systems designer. I fully recommend this book to all who want to understand our world better. Practicing scientists and engineers as well as laypersons with genuinely 'inquiring minds' will gain tremendous insight and knowledge from this book while being entertained by Dr. Hokikian's lucid and elegant, non-patronising writing style.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.