Consider a cell. It has more efficiency than a human being even though a human being is a bulk of cells: The cell has fewer losses when it converts the food it ate for nutrition to do some sort of work. Does this mean that the entropy of organisms increases as they get more complicated? WOuld a higher life form produce more entropy than us? (Higher in terms of all physical capability to change the world it is manifested in)

Further does this imply, the more simple something is, the more efficient it is? Would a more complicated system be less efficient?

Consider complicated organisms, again a human for example. We have to eat and consume food to maintain our state. However, this process increases the total entropy as we break down long chains of biological polymers into many small simple ones. So, even if you are a complicated life form, do you need energy to maintain that complicated state?

tl;Dr: I am asking the relation between the complexities of system and efficiency. Would a more complicated system be less efficient? For those asking how to measure complexity.. you can choose any measure of your liking as long as it's consistent since it is a debated topic among scientists. You could even take the size of the genome if you wanted.

What I mean by efficiency: Efficency is the heat in / heat out ratio. Like the amount of energy we take in vs the amount of that we are able to use for any process. And the energy loss is like the entropy generated.

For example: consider the measure noted in this stack How efficient is the human body?

Say you start a small business then it provides some profit and you can tax it. To get more government funding , you need to making larger economic ventures. So if take entropy as the universal energy tax, then would creation of more and more complicated sorts of life be natural? I mean if you have a maximum entropy then it would lead to heat death, where all points in universe are in same temperature. SO what is it? how exactly does it all work out?

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    May 27 '20 at 2:57

There seem to be various misconceptions here:

  • Thermodynamic entropy is a microscopic quantity. Macroscopic complexity does not relate to entropy in any meaningful way. The difference in entropy between a human and a lump of bacteria with the same mass and temperature is negligible (and I have no idea who would “win”). In fact, if I had to maximise the entropy of either, I would disintegrate it into some homogeneous soup – and thus drastically decrease macroscopic complexity.

  • From an evolutionary point of view, it does not make sense to compare efficiency in terms of peak biomass production. Bacteria are capable of producing biomass much more quickly than humans, but that is under optimal conditions, which hardly ever happen in nature – which is why the Earth is not a big blob of unicellular organisms. In most natural environments, bacteria are dormant, starving, dying, or cannibalising each other most of the time – just so one of them manages to survive until the next source of food arrives. By contrasts, higher organisms are able to store energy, are better at finding food sources, and have a considerably lower death rate.

  • Macroscopic complexity does not need energy to be maintained per se. If I shock-froze a human, most of its macroscopic complexity would persist. The fact that I would not be able to restore a living human from this is primarily due to details such as crystallisation destroying cell structures, the brain, heart, etc. being designed to permanently run, and so on. There is no general physical concept behind this.

  • $\begingroup$ 1. So there is like some sort of double optimization happening, how much efficient can I get this machine to run while controlling the entropy the extent that it can be run for a long time 2. I did not mean in terms of biomass production. I mean efficient 3. hmm I'll have to think about this $\endgroup$
    – User688539
    May 26 '20 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ @DDD4C4U: 1. What do you mean by controlling the entropy? 2. What efficiency do you mean then? $\endgroup$
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 26 '20 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ 2. Energy in to energy out ratio , the literal Clausius stuff 1. I mean that if your entropy goes beyond some limiting value, then the system disintegrates as you told. So you need a balance between entropy generation $\endgroup$
    – User688539
    May 26 '20 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ 3. To suddenly freeze someone, you'd have to generate a lot of entropy. And if a body is fixed in place fully, then does it really have entropy? $\endgroup$
    – User688539
    May 26 '20 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ @DDD4C4U: 2) Energy in to energy out ratio , the literal Clausius stuff – What’s energy out here? Heat, mechanical work, electricity? Neither of these are relevant from an evolutionary or any other optimisation perspective. They are just side products. 3) What does this have to do with the point in question? I am just demonstrating that complexity is preserved without active maintenance. $\endgroup$
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 26 '20 at 9:28

It's not really about complication, but about metabolism--entropy, after all, is just energy being converted to heat. A Greenland shark is a very complicated animal, but it has a slow metabolism because of the cold environment it inhabits. Conversely, E. coli is about as simple as an organism gets without being a virus, but it has a very fast metabolism--each cell splits into two daughter cells every twenty minutes!

However, you could say that "warm-blooded" animals, which do tend to be complicated, are very inefficient. We are burning calories to generate heat constantly, after all. And while it doesn't necessarily take a lot of energy to maintain a complicated structure like our brains, keeping it working quickly does. The human brain is probably one of the most wasteful things in nature.

So, it's not innately tied to complexity, but there is a correlation.


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