A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Energy Of Change And Connection

Energy is eternal delight. WILLIAM BLAKE

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. HERACLITUS

A great day for radio and TV yesterday — Aung San Suu Kyi on Desert Island Discs (Radio 4) and Professor Brian Cox's new series on BBC2, Wonders Of Life.

I must confess I've never properly understood the laws of thermodynamics, but Professor Brian Cox explained the first two laws with stunning clarity.

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is always conserved, that every bit of energy contained in the Big Bang at the creation of the universe is around today but in different forms. The evolution of the universe is simply — or not so simply — the transformation of that energy. Energy is not created or destroyed; it is eternal.

And the second law of thermodynamics states that everything in the universe tends towards decay, disorder and entropy. (So don't worry about things like Venice gradually sinking and disappearing into the lagoon. It's meant to!)

I found this all connected with other stuff I learnt last night on the Radio 4 programme Something Understood. For instance, that in each seven year period of our lives all our body cells completely change and renew themselves. Our characters and personalities aside, we are physically not the same people we were seven years ago.

One thing is certain in this precious life and in this astonishing universe: everything is changing, evolving, being transformed the whole time, and the energy this takes is never lost, just dynamically reshaped and reconfigured.

And all living things are connected, and all share DNA, the blueprint of life — and we human beings still share some of the same DNA code to be found in even the earliest, simplest and most primitive of creatures.


Dominic Rivron said...

It was good, wasn't it? One of the things I really like about what BC does is the way he articulates and communicates what scientists know into stuff most people can grasp at one level or another. One of the problems of the 20th (and 21st) century is that most people when they think about life, the universe and everything resign themselves to thinking Newtonian and leave scientists to it. This is an unhealthy state of affairs. We all have a right to a crude, working knowledge - enough to to appreciate a little how the technology we use works and enough to know that we have begun to understand how the universe (and life) hangs together.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I found the Desert Island Discs interesting - it usually is as people always choose music one would never expect, don' t they?

George said...

As to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I have always understood it to include inevitable decay and entropy, but "disorder" is something new for me. Thank God I now have an explanation for what's being going on in my life for seventy years.

As to the First Law, there is something reassuring about all energy being conserved and transformed, notwithstanding the Second Law. It makes one think that the age-old theological question should not be whether there is eternal life, but rather what kind of eternal life.

The DNA connections are always fascinating, not only in animal connections, but in plant connections as well. I recently read (far-fetched as it might sound) that every breath a person takes today will contain a particle that was breathed by Alexander the Great.

A thought-provoking post, Robert. Thanks.

Dominic Rivron said...

Oh, and I meant to say, the extracting your own DNA with salt vodka and washing up liquid looked fun. Must try it.

Friko said...

I loved the confirmation that no energy is ever lost. So when I’m trudging through the mud, pushing against wind and rain, at least I know that it’s good for something, although it doesn’t seem so to me at the time.

The Prof is a fascinating man, he can even make a science dunce like me sit up and take notice.

am said...

Thanks for this post today. Energy is eternal delight!

Goat said...

Great summary of concepts I've always struggled with. Cheers.

The Solitary Walker said...

Many thanks for all these comments, everyone.