The Missing Energy in Thermodynamics

 10/22/09 a new foreword to the A Law of Continuity in Change

This theorem, unifying the laws of physics from the conservation laws, does something unexpected.   It effectively changes the story of physics from one about the rules that controlled events follow in nature to how uncontrolled processes develop and work by themselves.   Uncontrolled processes as they take care of themselves sometimes predictably appear to follow abstract rules, and sometimes not.   If you study individual physical processes as for how they individually transpire, it’s very obvious that in reaching their ends they employ complications in the details than make them individually impossible to explain.   Average behavior never seems to occur, and even if validating the general abstractions of science, individual physical processes apparently never following them.    

 If you only interest here is in the theorem, jump to section 4, “Limits of change”.   This introduction is not really needed for the math and you can draw your own conclusions.

 Maybe the easiest way to understand the deeper issue, is through the missing variable in thermodynamics exposed by the question of how things work by themselves.    The issue is not with the general principle of thermodynamics that energy is lost whenever you use energy.    Any energy transfer process appears to generate energy losses.    The curiously missing variable in that equation has to do with how that energy transfers get started, not what they do as a steady state.   The riddle is that is seems necessary for energy to have been used to build the energy transfer process itself.   That self-investment of energy in building the energy use system, or ‘syntropy’, is an energy flow.   It necessarily precedes the assortment of entropies and work outputs of degrading the gradient.   

What this reveals is the need for development prior to the release of energy from the gradient!    That is to say, we often just don’t know where that energy source that builds the energy use process comes from, or have any information about what organizational process it energizes.   Yet, to this time, it has been represented as part of the energy released from gradient at some later time, but it may have come from somewhere else entirely.  

This is not actually mysterious at all except in physics, as “seed resources”, or
“venture capital” are very commonly understood as essential energy sources for kick starting the self-investment cycles for developing larger scale energy use processes.   Physics has been lumping that preceding energy flow in with the following energy use process as it was one of the energy loss products of depleting the gradient rather than the spark which initiated it.    That oversight means that science did not notice that this central principle of business models is also what all of nature uses to get its individual energy use systems going, and to initiate the construction of systems that take care of themselves…   My response on noticing that was to say “oops..” and choose to just carry on.   It’s a very good way to be responsive to things when you’re completely unprepared and not quite sure what response to make.

Even after being initiated by the energy from a seed resource an energy transfer process has not yet developed to the point of depleting the gradient.  A sprouting seedling has yet to begin photosynthesis, for example, and a business that opens its doors has yet to make a sale.   From that point the energy for building an energy transfer process mostly then comes from self-investment of the process in itself.   Like the ionization cascade that opens a channel for a spark discharge, self-investment from the initial current leak serves to open the channel, using a portion of the energy output of the process to expand the process.  That second source of syntropy, the fraction of the energy transfer product self-invested for building the processes, is also represented by physics as part of the entropy of the system of energy transfer.  

Those two “little twists” that reverse the time sequence of essential energy transfers almost seem implicitly to have been intentional.   Perhaps they served some purpose in history that is no longer apparent or necessary.   It certainly changes everything to realize the error, though.    How local systems use self-investment to produce energy transfer processes, employing an outside source of energy to begin, was disguised.    Also hidden by lumping all the “lost energy” of natural energy transfer processes into “entropy” was the energy flow responsible for allowing some energy use systems to stabilize rather than simply deplete their gradient and exhaust themselves.   Self-investment systems that grow by diverting some of their energy product to build their process can also stabilize.   They do so by divesting the same source of energy, stopping the accretion and stabilizing their development by doing so.  

Fortunately for people various kinds of energy using systems in nature ignore our failure to understand how, and take care of us by not exhausting themselves.  They both successfully initiate and then stabilize themselves, on their own, as if for our benefit, despite our theoretical construct of the universe not telling us to do so as well.   In theorizing about the universe we somehow arranged a couple critical aspects of cause and effect out of sequence. 

Over the past few centuries as science was applied to business and economics (the energy processes creating wealth), our misunderstanding kept us from seeing that the energy source used for business self-investment needed to be divested.  Otherwise business exhausts its resources and can’t stabilize.   It has monumental consequences for the future of the earth and our comfort on it.   Being unaware of local causation, or you might call it “self-determinant” causation, leaves us with no reason to end what seemed to work before, and no qualms about continuing our multiplying self-investment in creating wealth to a point of exhaustion and collapse.   The notion of divesting the same energy source as used to multiply the process just doesn’t come up.   Since human access to energy for any purpose is by purchasing it, that energy source for the self-investment growth of wealth and consuming the energy gradients of the earth, is money.

So, the theorem unifying the conservation laws is fairly simple, as theorems go.  It’s that using calculus the law of energy conservation can be differentiated, to create an infinite sequence of conservation laws for all the higher derivatives of energy flow.   When you then integrate that sequence of laws you get a polynomial expansion representing how energy flows begin or end.   What you get is in the form of an exponential, implying the presence of physical processes to develop that way.    

What it demonstrates is that the conservation of energy implies that local developmental processes are a necessary mode of causation.   By looking for and studying them you find confirmation of that and many other particulars about them.   Traditional physics and the other sciences that inherited its approach, which represent physical processes as controlled by operators between numbers,  overlook the questions about the intrinsic processes of physical developmental that are instrumental to change.   It’s the same error, it seems, as Plato and Ptolemy made, of representing nature as following our own ideals, that we invent to help us organize our thoughts for our own purposes.    

What the theorem does, in effect, is to turn all those answers into questions.  It points to where other scales of organization, beyond our information and ability to idealize, play crucial roles in the continuous chains of events.    That’s the place of complex systems.   Some of the characteristic gaps in our explanations for things point beyond our information to where these physical processes are filling the gaps, and we can look to find them.    It implies that science is just information, and that the subject of science is not how our information refers to itself.   The real subject of science is how our information refers to the realities beyond our information, pointers to the non-information world of real physical things and processes, and how they are inherently different from information  in kind.


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