Toward a Scientific History. Robert Aunger. Many scales:. Many schools : Marxist Structuralist Deconstructionist Anthropological Psychological Economic Feminist. Local World/global ‘Big’ history. No consensus?. History as ‘story-telling’.
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white elements = negative entropy producers (i.e., perform useful work)
black elements = positive entropy producers (i.e. regions of high dissipation)
A random fluctuation in internal flux or external force will generally not lead to a sustained increase in entropy production
A significant change in output is more likely to start with a new kind or level of energy flow in a system, due to a new way of extracting energy from the system’s surroundings. (Smil, 1994; Vermeij, 2004)
Increased energy flow can cause new physical structures to form. Thermodynamic disequilibrium at point X induces a flow of energy toward an energy sink at point Y, producing a transient flow which increases disequilibrium at point Y. This new situation can cause a new or modified transport structure to form linking them (e.g., Belusov–Zhabotinsky reaction, self-organising nanostructures).
A major energy novelty invokes several consequences, suggesting that these groups of events are linked together and so should be treated as inter-independent.
Such structured processes can be called ‘non-equilibrium steady-state transitions’ (NESSTs).
NESSTs identify the time/place/mechanisms for the birth of new historical periods.
Scan the events covered by ‘big’ history (cosmological, geological, biological, cultural) looking for this pattern:
Event associated with a sustained increase in energy flow (with entropy production) through a system
followed ‘rapidly’ in the same area by an organisational event and a control event
which can be causally linked
‘Energy flow density’:
the amount of free energy flowing through a gram of the relevant structure per second, in ergs (Chaisson, 2001)
(NOTE: free energy [to do work] and entropy are linearly related in the Gibbs, Helmholtz and negative Massieu formulations, and so good enough measure for general trends; e.g., S = (E-F)/T where ; S = entropy; E = internal energy; F = Helmholtz free energy; and T = absolute temperature)
‘metabolism first/compartment intermediate/replication last’ position
(Leslie White, 1949)
10.11Eras in Perasmology
Origin of life
increasing complexity (more degrees of freedom)
increasing levels of energy disequilibrium