Posts Tagged Arrow of Time

Chaos or Order? No, Life!

We see everything in opposites,

Right or WrongChaos or OrderGood or BadYin or YangHot or Cold, …

There is more to it than that.

We all talk about Order fighting Chaos, and most of us see ourselves fighting Chaos on the side of Order. But thats not how the universe is, and that is the reason why so many of our struggles go wrong.

Man is always struggling on one or the other side,
instead of finding the middle way.


Lets take a simple example: The Sun is the most Chaotic we know and the Moon is the most ordered we have, nearby. A Black Hole is of course more ordered, but our moon is just up there. The Sun and The Moon are two opposites, and we would not like to live on any of them, one too hot and the other too cold, so we live on Earth, somewhere in between those two extremes, alive in Equilibrium. Seen from that point of view, both the Sun and the Moon is deadly Bad, while the Earth is Good for living.

I define the Equilibrium as the midpoint between chaos and order, and in this context it is Life (I prefer the vocabulary of chaos theory for that of thermodynamics.)

The more ordered or dead the universe is, the higher entropy of the universe following the Second Law of Thermodynamics. With time the entropy will increase until the absolute death of the universe. So, with Entropy, big is Bad!

Following the Second Law life depends on the difference between Warm and Cold:

Since any thermodynamic engine requires such a temperature difference, it follows that no useful work can be derived from an isolated system with maximum entropy; there must always be an external energy source and a cold sink.

Its interesting that our universe have suns and planets, and life on at least one planet, contrary to the Second Law. The life on Earth has been build against all odds, decreasing the local entropy constantly, since the Big Bang.

Misuse of Resources

Today we are increasing the entropy here on Earth with an alarmingly high rate. Our use of the resources of Earth and our destruction of nature is increasing the entropy and destroying our chances for survival in the long run, removing natures possibilities to decrease the entropy while trying to keep the equilibrium.

In Scientific American there is an intelligent article “Does Nature Break the Second Law of Thermodynamics?” about Thermodynamics and local self-organization.

As we normally think in dualities, we have problems defining equilibrium. If we take Thermodynamics as an example, they define equilibrium in the one extreme where entropy is highest, where the universe is dead. In Chaos-theory equilibrium lies somewhere between chaos and order.


From “The Middle Way” by Radha Burnier:

Sir Martin Rees, the eminent scientist who is the British Astronomer Royal, states in his book Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, that there is this kind of equilibrium or balance in the cosmos itself. According to him, these six numbers, which are either very, very small or very large, represent various forces in the universe, but all those forces exist in a state of equilibrium. It is very similar to the Eastern idea that there are three gunas or three kinds of forces working throughout manifestation. When they are in a state of equilibrium, it is called spiritual sattva or truth. Sir Martin Rees mentions that through the ages, the force of gravity has been in a state of fine balance with the force of expansion. If the force of gravity were too great, the universe would collapse into nothing. If the force of expansion were too great, the universe would expand away into nothingness.

In Christianity we talk about following the Golden Middle way, staying away from the sides, and the Indians talk about Dharma, the way to follow. In Kabbalah the Pillars at the sides are the opposites, Order to the left and Chaos and energy to the right, and the middle pillar is the equilibrium, Life. In the crosses on Golgotha we have Christ in the middle symbolizing life, Love.

Here a description of The Second Law of Thermodynamics without Entropy, very instructive.


Ilya Prigogine

Ilya Prigogine

From WikiPedia

Prigogine is known best due to his definition of dissipative structures and their role in thermodynamic systems far from equilibrium, a discovery that won him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.

Dissipative structures theory

Dissipative structure theory led to pioneering research in self-organizing systems, as well as philosophic inquiries into the formation of complexity on biological entities and the quest for a creative and irreversible role of time in the natural sciences.

His work is seen by many as a bridge between natural sciences and social sciences. With professor Robert Herman he also developed the basis of the two fluid model, a traffic model for urban networks, using Bose-Einstein Condensation theory in traffic engineering.

Other Work

In his later years, his work concentrated on the mathematical role of determinism in nonlinear systems on both the classical and quantum level. He proposed the use of a rigged Hilbert space in quantum mechanics as one possible method of achieving irreversibility in quantum systems. He also co-authored several books with Isabelle Stengers, including End of Certainty and the classical book La Nouvelle Alliance (The New Alliance).

The End of Certainty

In his 1997 book, The End of Certainty, Prigogine contends that determinism is no longer a viable scientific belief. “The more we know about our universe, the more difficult it becomes to believe in determinism.” This is a major departure from the approach of Newton, Einstein and Schrödinger, all of whom expressed their theories in terms of deterministic equations. According to Prigogine, determinism loses its explanatory power in the face of irreversibility and instability.


In deterministic physics, all processes are time-reversible, meaning that they can proceed backward as well as forward through time. As Prigogine explains, determinism is fundamentally a denial of the arrow of time. With no arrow of time, there is no longer a privileged moment known as the “present,” which follows a determined “past” and precedes an undetermined “future.” All of time is simply given, with the future as determined as the past. With irreversibility, the arrow of time is reintroduced to physics. Prigogine notes numerous examples of irreversibility, including diffusion, radioactive decay, solar radiation, weather and the emergence and evolution of life. Like weather systems, organisms are unstable systems existing far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Instability resists standard deterministic explanation. Instead, due to sensitivity to initial conditions, unstable systems can only be explained statistically, that is, in terms of probability.

The Golden Triangle and the Fibonacci Spiral

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