Prompted to post this morning thanks to the click-bait statement “Schrödinger spread the misconception that life works against entropy” in this tweet:
Schrödinger spread the misconception that life works against entropy, but there is a way of thinking at biological process as efficient entropy machines, see this dream-team paper 👇 @carlorovelli @drkjjeffery #BobPollack https://t.co/okJq99TR1A
— Francesca Vidotto (@FrancesVidotto) August 23, 2019
In fact it’s a link to an Arxiv paper by Kate Jeffery and Carlo Rovelli, one which I’ve had bookmarked for a couple of weeks. I think Carlo shared it when it was published.
Along with Carlo Rovelli’s
My take is that Schrödinger is not misleading provided you make the distinction between local and global effects. Schrödinger is definitely worth revisiting in order to understand, but he’s not wrong. In fact life’s “efficient” drive to replace entropy with order and excess energy (under local exploitation) is part of the drive in the global entropy increase of the cosmos. Clumping of material structures in vortices and galaxies (ie at all scales) is part of the same drive. Bacteria and mould in your compost heap. Local order, globally accelerated chaos. Life is “simply” the next stage after bio-chemistry has evolved from physics.
That statement is a summary of the position I arrived at thanks to Rick Ryals (who sadly passed away Dec 1st, 2018).
The drive is a kind of teleology, one that makes increasingly complex and intelligent life “inevitable” in an evolving cosmos, one evolving to its maximum entropy end according to the 2nd law.
I last mentioned this stuff only a week or so ago, in the footnote here “Who’s In Charge?” . Also I need to posthumously archive Rick Ryals “Entropic Anthropic Principle” material and have had Rick’s original 2006 “post” bookmarked recently whilst I cogitated.
‘So the second law of thermodynamics is never violated when the entropy of the universe always increases via the described perpetually inherent thermodynamic structuring, which enables the universe to continuously “evolve”.’
Also, this quote from the Rovelli / Jeffery paper:
[L]ife is not an improbable “fight against entropy” —as Erwin Schrödinger famously put it in his adventure into biology (Schrödinger 1944)— but is rather a statistically favored process directly driven by entropy growth, in which movement of a system within a space of available states leads it to discover —and traverse — channels between metastable states.
Absolutely – “a statistically favored process directly driven by entropy growth”. Life builds order and excess energy locally and temporarily, but is “driven” by overall long-run entropy growth. It’s “statistically favoured” – so is an inevitable part of the story.
Also significant, the concept of a continuously evolving universe. “Evolve” in scare quotes. Another current scientist who seems to get the structuring at all scales is Erik Verlinde, who also looks at entropy as the inverse of information, fundamentally limited in its density at the event-horizon of black holes. A topic on which Sabine Hossenfelder posted just last week, and dissed Darwin in the process!
That information density limit is the true quantum of fundamental physics. (See Smolin’s view-based realism.)
It’s all happening.