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Scientists Debate GaiaThe Next Century$
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Stephen H. Schneider, James R. Miller, Eileen Crist, and Penelope J. Boston

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780262194983

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262194983.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 02 August 2021

Gaia

Gaia

Toward a Thermodynamics of Life

Chapter:
(p.45) 4 Gaia
Source:
Scientists Debate Gaia
Author(s):

Eric D. Schneider

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262194983.003.0006

This chapter sheds light on an important connecting principle of nature, one which helps explain processes as different as boiling pots of highly organized fluids, hurricanes, pulsating chemical clocks, the origin of life, the development of ecosystems, the direction of evolution, and Gaia itself. In retrospect all these systems are held together by a simple concept drawn from the famous second law of thermodynamics. This simple concept is “nature abhors a gradient.” With this intelligible but contemporary view of thermodynamics, one sees all of life as a thermodynamic dissipative entity residing at some distance from equilibrium, sustained by the ability to degrade energy gradients. The Gaian global ecosystem is involved in tapping the gradient between the hot sun and frigid outer space. Living systems are the result of energy processes which, while building higher complexity locally, are at the same time exporting lower quality energy beyond the confines of the evolving system.

Keywords:   connecting principle of nature, direction of evolution, Gaia, second law of thermodynamics, equilibrium, energy gradients, Gaian global ecosystem

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