ISBN-10:
0970895321
ISBN-13:
9780970895325
Pub. Date:
05/15/2002
Publisher:
Los Feliz Publishing
The Science of Disorder: Understanding the Complexity, Uncertainty, and Pollution in Our World

The Science of Disorder: Understanding the Complexity, Uncertainty, and Pollution in Our World

by Jack Hokikian

Hardcover

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Overview

The Science of Disorder: Understanding the Complexity, Uncertainty, and Pollution in Our World

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780970895325
Publisher: Los Feliz Publishing
Publication date: 05/15/2002
Pages: 303
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Chapter 1. Nature's First Law

What is Energy?
The Emergence of the First Law of Thermodynamics
Impossibility of Perpetual Motion Machines
Radioactivity and Perpetual Energy

Chapter 2. Nature's Second Law

The Beginning of a New Science
The Birth of the Second Law of Thermodynamics
Nature's Irreversible Trend
What Is That Quantity Called Entropy?
Maxwell's Demon Attempts to Demolish Nature's Law of Entropy
Entropy as "Time's Arrow"
Boltzmann's Entropy Relation

Chapter 3. Nature's Laws in Action

The Relentless Increase of Entropy
From a Clockwork Universe to the Heat Death of the Universe
Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Entropy as a Measure of Ignorance and Uncertainty
Humans as an Open Thermodynamic System
Why Do We Age Irreversibly?
Is Evolution a Miracle in Violation of the Second Law?

Chapter 4. Knowledge and Entropy

Knowledge Undergoes Thermodynamic Transformation
Thermodynamic View of the Educational System
Disorder in Knowledge

Chapter 5. The United States in High Entropy

The High-Entropic Life in the United States
Possessions Generate Entropy and Dissipate Time
Drowning in a Sea of Words
More Choices but Less Time
Are We Freeing Ourselves from Machines, at Last?

Chapter 6. The Agricultural-Industrial Complex

Modern Agriculture and the Second Law
Chemical Control of Insects
Soil Erosion and Degradation of the Environment

Chapter 7. What Does the Second Law Really Say?

The Availability of Energy and Natural Resources Revisited
Entropy: The Supreme Manager of All Natural Processes
The Greenhouse Effect
High Tech's Environmental Entropy
Can We "Control" Natural Processes?

Chapter 8. Economics, the Environment, and the Laws of Thermodynamics

Economic Theories
The Economics of Computers and Technology
The Concept of Environmental Externalities in Economics
Economics as an Applied Science

Chapter 9. Why Things Look So Good on the Horizon--Until We Get There

Why Great Expectations Turn to Disillusionments
Is Nuclear Fusion Our Response to the Second Law?
Space: The Unlimited Frontier?
Entropy and Growing Global Interdependence

Chapter 10. The World Through the Eyes of Thermodynamics

The Concept of "Doing More with Less"
Change and Technological "Progress" Re-examined
Recognizing Low- and High-Entropic Actions and Life-styles

Chapter 11. The Thermodynamic Imperative

Does Science Tell Us How to Live?
The Necessity of Projecting a Consistent Scientific Message
Making Entropy a Part of Our Daily Language
Thermodynamics and the Unity of Knowledge

Notes

Index

Introduction

Introduction

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
humankind.

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
ecology.

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
Thermodynamics.

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
Thermodynamics.

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
and entropy.

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
all about.

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.

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