Reviews for The Order of Life
Dexterity chapter 1 . 10/8/2012
I think the second law of thermodynamics only applies to the entire isolated system: that every reaction results in an increase of entropy compared to the isolated system before the reaction. So even though we see increased order locally, there is decreased order elsewhere in the system.

Something I wonder about is...if the second law of thermodynamics apply, and the universe is an isolated system, and that energy/matter is not created or destroyed, then shouldn't we have reached maximum entropy already? If energy/matter was never created or destroyed, then it must have always existed, and given infinite time, infinite numbers of reactions should've occurred to bring us to maximum entropy, right?

So does that mean the universe is not an isolated system after all? Or the first law of thermodynamics isn't actually true - that energy/matter was once created, or had once been destroyed?

Ultimately, I think I'm more concerned if my experiments work tomorrow :)
Anihyr Moonstar chapter 1 . 9/1/2012
Oh god, this makes my head swim, and it's just a single paragraph. It really shouldn't, I mean, all the concepts are familiar. I think my favorite part is the mention that the "answer to life's question is not in fact 32" and then the blip at the bottom tied into that (because when I read "32" I was like, wait, is this related to the joke that the answer to life and all meaning in the universe is FORTY-two?).

I'm still not sure what exactly it means, but it's funny to see that the statement originated from something in science, at least. I never knew; I thought it was just made up entirely. But then, what things are? Most have origins. xD

/shutting up

- Moonstar
A Fire Rose chapter 1 . 8/21/2012
Hey! This is more of a challenge to review because it is an introduction to an essay, but I love this subject and have many thoughts about it. I believe that order cannot come from chaos, so that Someone must have deigned the universe. As Roger Penrose put it, “I would say the universe has a purpose. It's not there just somehow by chance." Newton was also a firm believer in this. I love how you present discussable questions, and use footnotes to explain certain aspects. And I love the subject, and that it's bite-sized!
Anxious Axolotl chapter 1 . 8/12/2012
I found this absolutely fascinating, I think you're pretty much doing my dream course! It was a pity this was so short, I felt there was a lot that was only touched on. I think your opening sentence might work better in the passive voice, but as a big fan of biology, it pulled me right in!

Your point about proteins being an example of order but also chaos amongst chaos was very interesting (I hope I interpreted that right!), but it didn't seem to tie in as well as a different example may have. The leap from simple compounds to proteins felt like a fairly massive leap.

I'm glad I got the chance to read this, it poses some interesting rhetorical questions I will be thinking about for a long time. Again, wish it was longer!
1.21 Jigawatts chapter 1 . 8/8/2012
The topic of max entropy has been talked about by a lot of philosophers as having a parallel in non-physical systems. For physical systems, its pretty well accepted as the measure for determining whether processes occur or not, within a given system boundary. But even Richard Feynman said that we don't know all of the basic laws of physics, just what we think is true based on what we observe. From the macro-thermodynamics standpoint (as opposed to the statistical thermodynamics standpoint), the entropy of a system is difficult to actually measure. We've only tabulated it by inferring its value based on the mapping of thermodynamic properties and Legendre transformations, relative to a reference level. From the statistical side, you can say that it is the number of states a molecule can occupy as you've stated.

I'm sure you've heard of the 'heat death' of the universe. It's a long time away, but the principle of it is based on the notion that the physical universe is a closed system. We don't have any reason to believe the contrary, but even in that we may be wrong, and in our lifetime we'll never really know. Assuming that the physical universe is a closed system is scientifically reasonable.

When it comes to extending that notion to human thought and interaction in the space of thought and emotions, you have to be careful. Is it reasonable to assume that the space of human thought is a closed system? It's not something that can be proven or disproven, and people can argue until you're blue in the face for either side.

I'd personally like to think that the parallel to physical behavior doesn't hold in thought-space. If that were true, then creativity would be a lie. Cultural advancement would be a lie. If the state of human thought was a closed system, then all that would take place would be the exchange of thought between humans and nothing innovative would take place. Every cultural development would need to have an equal or greater cultural degradation somewhere else in the system. It wouldn't make sense to me for that to be the case, but it does to some other people.

Philosophers trip over themselves to explain this. Some people use religion. Some people actually do believe cultural development and innovation is a universal lie and thoughtspace is a closed system. I personally don't. Without that assumption, the model of max entropy to explain the interaction of human thought breaks down.

Even scientific knowledge marches on. Absolute zero was thought to represent the lowest energy state for matter possible because translational, rotational, vibrational, electronic charge, magnetic and all other modes of Newtonian molecular energy storage would be absent. But then came quantum mechanics, and we get the mass-energy equivalence and zero-point energy representing energy states lower than that with Newtonian modes of energy storage absent. There are substructures within even a solid crystalline lattice that have considerable variability. I think it's culturally dangerous to assume that thoughtspace is a closed system. Lord Kelvin stated after studying Newtonian physics that there was no more science to be discovered. Einstein served him right.

What do you think?
lookingwest chapter 1 . 8/8/2012
And yet…the leading theory regarding... [Ack okay, with this one - why the ellipses? I really don't understand. Why not a comma? I don't even think you even need a comma.]

Coming at this from an English graduate perspective, I think the first line should be more hook-ish for an essay. Maybe you could shorten it to stopping after "3.5 billions years ago". It gets an attention grabbing statement that doesn't meander too long, and it should hook the reader into understand where we're starting with the essay anything, instead of going into the details about the elements. Just a thought.

The questions supported your argument well - but I think someone else already point that out. At the same time I am glad that you didn't start the essay with question, so that's a plus too. Good last sentence, I liked the creativity of the words "sea of chaos" because I felt like they reflected some of your more creative writing edges imagery-wise.

Content-wise this went 100% over my head and it would never be something I would pick up to read in my spare time, haha, so I think with this it really isn't meant for me as a reader - it's meant for someone who studies the same stuff you study. I think one thing that would be interesting to think about with this essay is audience. If you wanted to teach someone something new who has never been part of this field (i.e. me and probably other FP readers), this essay does not do a good job for that audience. It's dense, it's complicated, it introduces a lot of very specific details about a lot of very specific physical things and I dunno if I really got it - like maybe that the humans have to use max entropy? that societies devolve towards chaos in the end? Dunno, haha. That being said, i also don't know how I would argue with that, because you have so many examples, which is good.

But hey, if I'm totally off - if your intended audience is someone who is well versed in these subjects and has your background in your field, I could see this being intriguing and really interesting for them, as you're not only stating the facts of life, but also giving in a bit of an argument about it. So I could see that being stimulating. Basically - I felt unsure of who your audience was (again looking at this as an English graduate). I know you might've been looking for stuff on FP, but if this writing is supposed to teach these subjects on a very basic level, it doesn't do that good of a job. I don't know if many people can gather your main argument from this introduction without scratching their heads. Why not just say it straight and then give the supporting examples? (but that's only if your audience is for people who are not in your field, if it's for people that are, like I said, this does a good job :) ).
Highway Unicorn chapter 1 . 8/8/2012
Since i'm not that very educated behind thermodynamics and chemical theories, i'll just focus on the writing and structure part of this introduction rather then the information. I'm pretty sure you got all the info down X)

Anywhos, this is what I liked. I like your usage of rhetorical questions because it adds support to your points.

I didn't really the sentence you choose to open with. The sentence alone is fine, and well written, however it would have been better if you opened with something more catchier, that really hooks the readers attention from the get go. A well thought out question, or an unknown and interesting fact would have worked.

[And yet…] I didn't like the usage of the ellipse here; it threw off the flow.
A. Gray chapter 1 . 8/8/2012
I have to say that while this isn't my cup of tea usually I really enjoyed it. it gave a lot of info in a way that was easy to understand. I also love the stand you take. I can identify with it, and the footnotes are great to hammer that home.
The only thing that threw me was that it did seem like a wall of text. I realize that this is the way it needs to be, but I thout maybe you could give it a break at [absolute zero*. And yet…] to avoid it. Overall I liked it and look forward to learning more.
Whirlymerle chapter 1 . 8/7/2012
I don't think FP lets you do multiple asterisks, so all your footnotes end up having one asterisk. You might want to look this over.

I liked this because it was an interesting and thought provoking take on the origin of life on Earth.

[A state of order can only be achieved at the temperature of absolute zero*. And yet…the leading theory regarding the origin of life on this planet asserts that the Earth began with a temperature well over that which permeates the globe today] I couldn't find any point in your intro saying why a state of order is necessary in the first place. I think you need to clarify that for readers to understand your argument.

Merle