New Criticals

Second, in regard to biology, the results of his calculation lead England to the following insight:

“We often think of the main entropic hurdle that must be overcome by biological self-organization as being the cost of assembling the components of the living thing in the appropriate way. Here, however, we have evidence that this cost for aerobic bacterial respiration is relatively small, and is substantially outstripped by the sheer irreversibility of the replication reaction as it churns out copies that do not easily disintegrate into their constituent parts.”

In other words, the process of replication is driven forward by its irreversibility; irreversibility is the mechanism of the second law’s probabilistic mandate to randomize matter and energy. The organization among the parts of the organism which is engendered by this irreversibility is, in fact, a minor component of the overall energetics of the process. The organization is easily “payed for” by the heat (entropy) given off by the chemistry of replication, and the amount of entropy is related to the “durability” of the structure because the reverse process is the rate at which a bacteria will spontaneously decompose into its components. Thus England is able to conclude that no matter what coarse-graining scheme one selects in order to count microstates and macrostates, “the resulting stochastic population dynamics must obey the same general relationship entwining heat, organization, and durability.”