Order, Flow, and Complexity: A Precis on Cosmic Evolution -- Eric Chaisson
World Congress of the Systems Sciences, at Toronto, July 16-19, 2000
Plenary Session, Keynote Speech, July 17, 2000, 9:10 a.m.
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Eric Chaisson, Director, Wright Center for Science Education, Tufts University, Professor of Physics, Associate of Harvard College Observatory
plus 11 books
Most recently, the Hubble Wars
Editor of Astronomy Today
Astrophysicists: the universe as my laboratory
A sad time for astrophysicists:
Historians will call this a golden age
Seeing wondrous things
At the same time, also a golden age of biochemistry
Wish had become a biochemist
These two interdisciplinary fields are changing the views of the world.
Working to bring them together in a transciplinary: cosmic evolution
Cosmic evolution as changes in time: radiation, matter, life.
Change is the essence, the hallmark
Not just biological evolution
Not just neo-Darwinism: looking for a common denominator, beyound natural selection
Is there a cosmic selection?
Trying to build a cosmic heritage
Roadmap to the future.
30 minutes to talk about 12 billion years.
Science: Cosmology where life has a role
Who are we?
Where did we come from?
What are the origins of all of these systems?
Why is there so much order?
Why does complexity increase with time?
Why is there something, rather than nothing?
(Pairs of slides)
The arrow of time
Thread of change emerging over time
How atoms came together
Stars to the building blocks of life.
Biological evolution just a subset of a larger evolutionary scheme.
Extend biological evolution into the cosmic evolution.
Does the arrow point anywhere? No.
Does it point to us? No.
Does it tell a story? Yes
Y-axis: order or complexity or information or organization
Gut feeling, over time, there has been a rise in complexity
Don't know how the curve looks: exponential, hyper-exponential, linear
Looking for a common denominator
Want to understand how order emerges out of the sea of increasing entropy.
Physicist trying to understand, will look for density and temperature
Plot: density and temperature of all things in general
Big bang: started hot and dense, now thin and cooled
Not into space, but is the fabric of space
Example: early universe, where radiation was common, if a proton and electron tried to come together, radiation would break it apart.
Everything uniform and boring.
As the universe cooled and thin, clustering in galaxies, stars, planets, ....
Energy densities are part of the key.
Crossing of curves, so matter begins to coagulate.
Matter rules / dominates in localized systems.
As the universe changes, can plot in a pair of diagrams
Traditional thermodynamics, entropy
When universe changes and symmetry breaks, need multiple temperatures.
Expansion of non-equilibria
Set up temperature gradients
Growing difference between actual entropy and potential maximum entropy.
Then suitable for growth of information.
Curve begins to suggest increasing complexity
But, still don't know to handle information: the quantification,
As a physicist, scaling back to energy.
Looking at energy / rate information: energy over time
Can now plot: ergs per second per gram.
For galaxies, stars, planets.
Plot against time scale
Put these on the same page (and mix units)
Radiation in early universe, matter and life now.
In addition to matter emerging from the early era, there may be a life era.
Life manipulates matter more dramatically than matter manipulating life.
May be another era, where life is the dominant system.
Came from a conference on the origins of life, was the only physicists
Biologists can't agree on what is life.
Suggest a definition: An open coherent space-time structure, maintained far from the thermodynamic equilibrium by a flow of energy through it -- a carbon-base system operating in a
water-based medium, with higher forms metabolizing oxygen.
The first part of this definition is general to all systems.
Look a little more deeply (at 3 last slides)
Can see complexity: e.g. sun less complex than a red giant
Not talking about maximyum or mimum, looking at energy flow.
Some systems have too much energy flowing through them, e.g. big bang.
Futther up the plot: plants and animals
Some plants are less complex than others, up into mammals
Implications to third level: civilizations
A story about ourselves.
A cosmic framework to understand all things.
Understand life without introducing new concepts.
Possible life will control matter.
This is the bigger scheme of things.
Question from audience: Using the term chaos in the old sese, if use the more modern sense , does it make a difference?
No, it's robust.
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