Re: Second law of Thermodynamics

George Andrews (andrewsg@letu.edu)
Thu, 20 Nov 1997 12:15:42 -0600

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> At 09:58 PM 11/19/97 -0600, Glenn Morton wrote:
> >At 09:43 AM 11/19/97, Moorad Alexanian wrote:
> >
> >>We understand the second law of thermodynamics in a probabilistic
> sense.
> >>Therefore, if a set of outcomes are equally likely, then the most
> probable
> >>configuration is the one that randomness will drive the system to.
> Is that
> >>the case with your example? Or are there constraints that would
> exclude some
> >>of the possible outcomes? What laws determine such constraints?
> >
> >As I mentioned some sequences kill the animal. But within large
> limits each
> >protein (and thus the DNA behind it) are free to wander through a
> large
> >number of viable possibilities. There are something like 10^94
> different
> >permutations of the cytochrome c molecule that will function just
> fine and
> >dandy in your body. (see Hubert Yockey, Information Theory and
> Molecular
> >Biology, p. 59). There are a total of 10^137 possible permutations
> of a
> >sequence that long. So, yes there are limits, but they aren't very
> limiting.
> >
> >glenn
>
> I am curious Glenn. If we go through those 10^137 possible
> permutations at
> the rate of one a second, it will take 10^130 years. Suppose we have
> 10^100
> such molecules, it would still take 10^30 years. Do these numbers much
>
> larger than the age of the universe bother you? I recall reading
> somewhere
> that the astronomer Fred Hoyle believed that such large magnitude
> numbers
> would rule out randomness as a possible mechanism for change.
>

I believe complexity and non-equilibrium thermodynamics answer such
arguments. Self-organization radically reduces the sequence space
defined by the random permutations. Thus, while each permutation may be
equi-probable, self-reproducing or autocatalytic ones will be
overwhelmingly favored. This does away with the above improbability or
the need for supratemperal time.

Additionally, the assumption of equi-probable states does not imply each
state is equally likely to be observed. As equilibrium thermal dynamics
informs us, the most probable state is the one with the greatest
degeneracy and therefore the one our observations detect. Since life is
a non-linear, transient phenomena, equi-probable assumptions are called
into question.

George Andrews

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