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Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Lifeby Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan
Synopses & Reviews
Scientists, theologians, and philosophers have all sought to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. Finding this natural basis of life has proved elusive, but in the eloquent and creative Into the Cool, Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan look for answers in a surprising place: the second law of thermodynamics. This second law refers to energy's inevitable tendency to change from being concentrated in one place to becoming spread out over time. In this scientific tour de force, Schneider and Sagan show how the second law is behind evolution, ecology, economics, and even life's origin.
Working from the precept that "nature abhors a gradient", Into the Cool details how complex systems emerge, enlarge, and reproduce in a world tending toward disorder. From hurricanes here to life on other worlds, from human evolution to the systems humans have created, this pervasive pull toward equilibrium governs life at its molecular base and at its peak in the elaborate structures of living complex systems. Schneider and Sagan organize their argument in a highly accessible manner, moving from descriptions of the basic physics behind energy flow to the organization of complex systems to the role of energy in life to the final section, which applies their concept of energy flow to politics, economics, and even human health.
A book that needs to be grappled with by all those who wonder at the organizing principles of existence, Into the Cool will appeal to both humanists and scientists. If Charles Darwin shook the world by showing the common ancestry of all life, so Into the Cool has a similar power to disturb (and delight) by showing the common roots in energy flow of all complex, organized, and naturally functioning systems.
The authors look to the laws of thermodynamics for answers to the questions of evolution, ecology, economics, and even life's origin.
About the Author
Eric D. Schneider served as senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and director of the National Marine Water Quality Laboratory of the Environmental Protection Agency. His work on thermodynamics—a topic he has pursued for more than twenty years—has been widely anthologized and cited. Dorion Sagan is coauthor of Acquiring Genomes and Up from Dragons. Called an “unmissable modern master” of science writing by New Scientist, Sagan has written for the New York Times, Natural History, and Wired, among other publications.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Trouble at the EPA
Part I: The Energetic
1. The Schrödinger Paradox
3. Eyes of Fire: Classical Energy Science
4. The Cosmic Casino: Statistical Mechanics
5. Nature Abhors a Gradient
6. The River Must Flow: Open Systems
7. Too Much, Not Enough: Cycles
Part II: The Complex
8. Swirl World
9. Physics' Own "Organisms"
10. Whirlpools and Weather
Part III: The Living
11. Thermodynamics and Life
12. Brimstone Beginnings
13. Blue Planet Blues
14. Regress under Stress
15. The Secret of Trees
16. Into the Cool
17. Trends in Evolution
Part IV: The Human
18. Health, Vigor, and Longevity
20. Purpose in Life
Appendix: Principles of Open Thermodynamic Systems
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