Archive for the ‘Dissipative Structures’ Category

35 – On Dissipative Structures (Part II)

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The Theory of Dissipative Structures gives us an insight into a Universal Order embodied in every physical system in our Universe, including you and me.

As all physical systems in our Universe, we must consume, synthesize, and dissipate energy sources to support the continuity of our form of existence. But because we are dependent on the steady availability of energy sources, environmental fluctuations inevitably influence our unfolding. Therefore, we are always in flux, always transforming.

Minor fluctuations may be surmounted without noticeable impact on the structural integrity of the system, but if the disturbance is significant, a part or the entire system may have to be re-organized.

During a major fluctuation like the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, or the plague that devastated Europe in the 1300s, the system is shaken up, and novel ways to adapt are introduced to cope with the new order. The old set of connections, the elements of the old pattern come into contact in original ways, creating new connections to adapt to the demand. If the system is successful in reorganizing, it will transform into a higher or simpler level of complexity, but if it fails, it will degenerate and ultimately disappear.

– When a solar system is formed into a star, planets, moons, and so forth, it creates an energy-based network of connections that link them together at many points and in many ways into a relatively stable, cohesive, and dynamic system. – When a species congregates into groups with basically the same fundamental characteristics, it creates an energy-based network of connections that link them together at many points and in many ways into a relatively stable, cohesive, and dynamic system. – When a human being congregates into groups of atoms, cells, organs, and so forth, it creates an energy-based network of connections that link them together at many points and in many ways into a relatively stable, cohesive, and dynamic system.

But because the connections can only be sustained by a steady and dependable dissipation of energy sources, the system is vulnerable and challenged when energy sources change. Examples of this are famines created by changes in food supplies during natural or man-made disasters, or the disruptive destruction of wars, or when we lose our jobs and must cut down on our energy consumption.

Thus, depending on the scale and impact of the challenge, the system may have to recoil, or might be annihilated altogether, or may use the challenge as an opportunity to evolve into a different level of complexity.

If a higher level of complexity is achieved, the new organization will demand greater sources of energy; this will rend the newly re-organized system more unstable, more dependent on resources, more vulnerable to internal and external fluctuations.

Notice the paradox, the more complex or intricately connected the system is, the more vulnerable and unstable it becomes. So, increased complexity means increased vulnerability and instability. Amazingly enough, this very instability is the key either for the disintegration and ultimate demise of the system, or a medium for the system to achieve higher levels of complexity and order.

The human species has grown into a multi-billion, technologically advanced, highly diversified, incredibly complex yet unstable and vulnerable system. Our astonishing growth is clashing with the stability of the environment on which our lives depend. And by not taking decisive action to address the impact of our growth, we are rapidly reaching a threshold from where we may not be able to recover.

Indoctrination into the subservient acceptance of a Paradigm driving us into our own destruction, 1 – Shields our educational systems from teaching us about the impact of  exponential population growth, 2 – Perpetuates the unsustainable economic doctrine of insatiable consumerism, 3 – Allows corporations to devastate natural resources, 4 – Silences visionary, inquiring and dissenting minds, 5 – Promotes beliefs that incite not only division and hate but inhibit rational inquiry into our symbiotic relationship with Nature.

Like the earth, or the solar system, or the Milky Way, we are highly complex creations of Nature; each one of us is a one-of-a-kind organization of interconnected elements, and although totally dependent on energy sources for our subsistence, we are all endowed with the dynamism to transform not only ourselves but our world. We are Catalysts for Transformation.

Accepting the Fact that we not only embody but participate in a life-giving Universal Order, will catapult us into a more rational and beautiful understanding of ourselves and of the world that gives us Life.

So, this is our plight: We either move beyond our destructive Paradigm, or we allow it to ravage us.

Share the knowledge.

Revised March 2018

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32 – On Dissipative Structures (Part I) …

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

We do not think about our bodies, the human body, as a synthesizer of energy, but this is fundamentally what we are. We consume different forms of energy from our environment through our nose, mouth, skin, eyes, then synthesize and release this energy into motion, action, emotion, reproduction, vision, ideas, waste.

In 1977, the Belgian Physicist and Chemist Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for a theory he called Dissipative Structures (from the Latin dissipatus: to scatter) that explains how, in a profoundly symbiotic relationship with environments, open systems* … like you, and me, and molecules, and cells, and planets, and galaxies … fuel their development through a constant yet balanced intake and release of energy sources. The theory also explains how this process can be the catalyst for transformation into higher levels of complexity as systems adapt to changing environments.

Dissipative Structures are open systems that unfold naturally into relatively pre-determined designs … a seed of an oak tree into an oak tree, a human baby into an adult human being, a cloud of interstellar dust into a solar system, a congregation of stars into a galaxy, billions of human beings into the species we call Humanity.

As the open system develops, self-organizes, stabilizes, and attains structural and functional continuity, it innately learns to manipulate its intake and release of energy sources into relative states of equilibrium. But disturbances in its equilibrium inevitably result as environments and resources change and fluctuate. If the disturbance is minor, the system can dampen it and preserve its structural integrity. But if the disturbance reaches a critical size, a part, or the entire system is disturbed; the system is shaken up and novel interactions are introduced to cope with the disturbance. The old set of connections and the elements of old patterns of organization interact with each other in novel ways to adapt to the new environmental demands. If the system is successful in re-organizing, it is then transformed either into a more complex or a simpler structure with new energy demands, which then may make it more vulnerable to environmental fluctuations. But on the other hand, if the system fails to re-organize, it will begin to disintegrate and ultimately dissipate back into the environment from which it initially came from.

Humankind is facing such disturbance: As an open system, the species has reached a critical point where our numbers and levels of energy consumption are not only overwhelming resources but altering the chemical equilibrium of the environment in which our lives depend. If we are unable to re-organize into a new order in which we are in equilibrium with the environment, we might end up joining the list of extinct species.

The solution is clear: Worldwide acknowledgment and acceptance of responsibility for the damaging impact on the relative stability of the environment of our exponential growth and rapacious consumption.

But most of our leadership … political, economic, religious … with no vision for the future of Humankind other than unlimited growth and satiation of their selfish interests, are oblivious to the impending environmental disturbances being created by the unsustainable and destructive economic system they are bent on perpetuating.

It is up to us to spread the knowledge: Humankind is out of equilibrium. We are synthesizers of energy, and the levels of energy we consume and release through our exponential growth are disturbing the chemical balance of the environment that gives us life. We can not continue to exist as we have in the past without the environment we are plundering.

*Open systems come into existence through primal evolutionary processes and interact freely with environments, as opposed to ‘closed systems’ which are generally man-made to fit specific expectations.

Reviewed March 2018

Note: New posts are usually published on the 1st and 15th of the month. To subscribe to the Blog, click on the RSS feeder (orange icon) on the left column of the Home page, down below the Archives.