January 24, 2008

DYSON: That is absolutely crucial. If everything has positive specific heat, as the 19th century scientists believed, then it means that hot objects then lose energy to cold objects. You are constantly losing free energy, and as hot objects lose energy they become cooler, and cold objects gaining energy become warmer. Everything goes into a uniform temperature and the universe dies and life cannot persist. That was talked about a great deal in the 19th century. They called it the ‘heat death’, when everything goes to thermal equilibrium so life couldn’t persist. But it happens that gravity has the opposite effect; that if you have an object like the sun that’s held together by gravitation, that in fact the more energy you give it, the cooler it gets. And the more it loses energy, the hotter it gets.

LLOYD: Yes. If you look at star clusters, they occasionally will kick out a star, and the star will escape to infinity. And if you then look at the other stars, they’re huddled together more and they’re moving faster. They’ve gotten hotter, effectively.

DYSON: It means that in fact energy flows from cold objects to hot objects, if they’re bound together by gravitation, so that you get further and further from equilibrium. That’s the basic reason why the laws of physics favor heterogeneity rather than homogeneity.

– From Life: What a Concept!


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