Show Book List

 

Eric D Schneider and Dorion Sagan

Into the Cool

You might not think of thermodynamics as the most interesting of subjects, but if you read Into the Cool then perhaps you'll change your mind. In it Eric D. Scheider and Dorion Sagan show how non-equilibrium thermodynamics can be applied to a wide variety of situations. Starting from the idea that 'nature abhors a gradient', they show how such thermodynamic gradients lead to systems organising themselves to use the energy available. I'm usually pretty skeptical of one-size-fits-all theories, but the application of this idea to the origin and evolution of life, to trees and forests, to human health, and to cities and the world economy, did seem pretty convincing.

Unfortunately the book is let down by its first few chapters. If these had been an introduction to various ideas in thermodynamics, such as the link between information and thermodynamics, then this would have opened the book up to a wide readership (this is a non-technical work). Instead the authors seem to be trying to distance themselves from such ideas, and do so with a rather strange style of writing. Hence I would recommend that before you read this book you read other popular science works dealing with thermodynamic ideas, so that you can put the ideas of this work into context. If you do so then I think you will find much of interest in this book.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 378 pages  
ISBN: 0226739368
Salesrank: 1689955
Weight:1.7 lbs
Published: 2005 University Of Chicago Press
Marketplace:New from $34.36:Used from $5.19
Buy from Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 378 pages  
ISBN: 0226739368
Salesrank: 1869710
Weight:1.7 lbs
Published: 2005 University of Chicago Press
Amazon price £24.00
Marketplace:New from £24.00:Used from £19.80
Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 378 pages  
ISBN: 0226739368
Salesrank: 1310252
Weight:1.7 lbs
Published: 2005 University Of Chicago Press
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 50.59:Used from CDN$ 38.19
Buy from Amazon.ca





Product Description
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.

“Whether one is considering the difference between heat and cold or between inflated prices and market values, Schneider and Sagan argue, we can apply insights from thermodynamics and entropy to understand how systems tend toward equilibrium. The result is an impressive work that ranges across disciplinary boundaries and draws from disparate literatures without blinking.”—Publishers Weekly