This chapter explores theories in physics that see unity in the increasing complexity of matter from the first elements to molecules and life. The field of physics now recognizes a special class of “dissipative structures” that arise at energy gradients and use the flow of energy to “self-organize” structural complexity. All life requires nourishment to sustain its structure and goes through cycles of birth, maturity, and death, and thus may be a special form of the dissipative structures found all over nature. Eric Chaisson's theories show a common pattern of increasing energy flows that support increasing complexity of organization in both living and nonliving forms, revealing a unity between the inorganic and organic realms. This chapter first explains the correlation between brain size and energy and proceeds by discussing how the biosphere becomes more complex over evolutionary time. It then considers thermodynamic flow in a variety of ecological successions, along with the economic aspects of energy. It also analyzes Chaisson's ideas in relation to the concepts of complexity and entropy.
Columbia Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .