An Irreducibly Complex Party Trick

| 197 Comments

Wanna demonstrate how evolution and scaffolding can produce irreducibly complex structures at your next ivory tower wine and cheese party or evil atheist conspiracy kitten roast? Just repeat the demonstration seen in this clip.

(HT: Nick Matzke.)

197 Comments

That…

is..

AWESOME!!!

Hmmm.…

German speaking people demonstrating how to make a human swastika.… that might not be a good sign…

Hmmm…

Hadn’t thought about that.

Still a neat demonstration of physics.

Wouldn’t I be using intelligence if I performed this trick? Aren’t I displaying purposeful forethought of the structure I am making as I arrange the chairs properly, then assemble my buddies in just the right order, and then instruct helpers to remove the chairs? Haven’t I used coded instruction, (in the form of this video) in order to get the information on how to do it?

I guess if this just randomly happened at a party it would be a good example of evolutionary processes but if it happens because someone else saw it done someplace and wanted to replicate what they saw isn’t it actually evidence of Intelligent Design?

fittest meme said:

Wouldn’t I be using intelligence if I performed this trick? Aren’t I displaying purposeful forethought of the structure I am making as I arrange the chairs properly, then assemble my buddies in just the right order, and then instruct helpers to remove the chairs? Haven’t I used coded instruction, (in the form of this video) in order to get the information on how to do it?

I guess if this just randomly happened at a party it would be a good example of evolutionary processes but if it happens because someone else saw it done someplace and wanted to replicate what they saw isn’t it actually evidence of Intelligent Design?

Then why do you need the chairs?

Intelligent design/creationism state that all forms were created as they are, with no incremental steps, correct? Needing to use chairs to form this structure means that there *must* be incremental steps in order to lead to the final structure’s form. It cannot be formed without the previous steps happening unless you know four people who are *serious* about doing the limbo. Also of interest is the fact that your final structure uses NONE of the previously required elements (helpers and chairs) to sustain itself.

The structure could be formed rather easily without using “design”, meaning that it could be made under random circumstances. Close quarters party, someone trips and sends their drink flying, guys and gals lean back to miss the spillage, said tripped guy falls and takes out some or all of the chairs. The result would be the same.

(Lurker, first time post, greetings all!)

fittest meme said:

Wouldn’t I be using intelligence if I performed this trick? Aren’t I displaying purposeful forethought of the structure I am making as I arrange the chairs properly, then assemble my buddies in just the right order, and then instruct helpers to remove the chairs? Haven’t I used coded instruction, (in the form of this video) in order to get the information on how to do it?

I guess if this just randomly happened at a party it would be a good example of evolutionary processes but if it happens because someone else saw it done someplace and wanted to replicate what they saw isn’t it actually evidence of Intelligent Design?

Something is “irreducibly complex” if removing one part destroys the whole thing. Once the chairs are gone the congregation of humans is irreducibly complex.

Behe made the “intelligent design” argument that things which are irreducibly complex have to be created all at once by magic. By Behe’s logic, all the humans had to come together in that formation instantaneously. To Behe, there is no other possible explanation.

The video is one more of many, many demonstrations that irreducibly complex structures can be built up one step at a time from simpler structures, but then become irreducibly complex when some simple structures are removed.

This does not model biological evolution and is not intended to, but it refutes Behe’s intelligent design assertion.

fittest meme said:

Wouldn’t I be using intelligence if I performed this trick? Aren’t I displaying purposeful forethought of the structure I am making as I arrange the chairs properly, then assemble my buddies in just the right order, and then instruct helpers to remove the chairs? Haven’t I used coded instruction, (in the form of this video) in order to get the information on how to do it?

I guess if this just randomly happened at a party it would be a good example of evolutionary processes but if it happens because someone else saw it done someplace and wanted to replicate what they saw isn’t it actually evidence of Intelligent Design?

Evolution via natural selection is not a random process. Mutations are random, but that the only random element of evolution.

The Intelligent Design dogma known as Irredicible Complexity asserts that a structure judged to be irreducibly complex could not have evolved in a step by step process. In reality, not only is it possible, irreducible complexity is a prediction of how evolution works. The ID promoters shot themselves in the foot, much like Kirk Cameron did later with that lame “Crockoduck” canard that we’ve been laughing at him about ever since!

And that’s why I refer to Intelligent Design as a form of irreducible stupidity.

harold said:

fittest meme said:

Wouldn’t I be using intelligence if I performed this trick? Aren’t I displaying purposeful forethought of the structure I am making as I arrange the chairs properly, then assemble my buddies in just the right order, and then instruct helpers to remove the chairs? Haven’t I used coded instruction, (in the form of this video) in order to get the information on how to do it?

I guess if this just randomly happened at a party it would be a good example of evolutionary processes but if it happens because someone else saw it done someplace and wanted to replicate what they saw isn’t it actually evidence of Intelligent Design?

Something is “irreducibly complex” if removing one part destroys the whole thing. Once the chairs are gone the congregation of humans is irreducibly complex.

Behe made the “intelligent design” argument that things which are irreducibly complex have to be created all at once by magic. By Behe’s logic, all the humans had to come together in that formation instantaneously. To Behe, there is no other possible explanation.

The video is one more of many, many demonstrations that irreducibly complex structures can be built up one step at a time from simpler structures, but then become irreducibly complex when some simple structures are removed.

This does not model biological evolution and is not intended to, but it refutes Behe’s intelligent design assertion.

Harold is engaging in a strawman. Nothing new here.

In fact, scaffolding reinforces the notion of irreducible complexity. The only way for the 4 people to come together in that configuration is if a pre-existing scaffolding is present.

Behe never invoked magic in explaining this. He simply states that natural selection acting on fortuitous random mutations is simply not up to the job. No need invoking gods, goddesses, goblins, or gooks.

But hey, lets try the darwinian way -

1. one person leans backward (random mutation)and waits until a chance encounter with another person that just happens to slip their legs under the first person’s head (second random mutation).

2 Now this second random mutation needs to take place at the right time (before the first person loses the staying power (to stay in the backward leaning position) and collapses (deleted mutation), propping it up thus relieving the first person of the waiting burden (fixed mutation), which is now on the second person, leaning (surprisingly?) in the same way as the first person, who now waits for a change encounter (another random mutation but here the mutation needed is the same as the last, one with the ability to fix the last mutation in the same exact way).

3. This random mutation and fixation happened four times in the exact same way. Unprecedented! Each mutation waited who knows how long but each mutation withstood the strain and held out until another came along to fix it. And once all four mutations locked in, it ‘stood’ around waiting for a job to do, dunno maybe as a coffee table,( but hmmm, the scaffolding would have functioned as a coffee table, so why go thru the trouble of making a scaffold, producing the same coffee table in a different manner, then discarding the original coffee table).

So we can see that the scaffolding is evidence that the mutations could not have ordered themselves into that configuration, but could only have done so through the alreading existing chair scaffolding template. Once the template guides the mutations into the desired configuration, the template is no longer needed.

So Harold and Reed need to explain 1) what the scaffolding was doing there in the first place, and more importantly 2) why if it already had the ability to multi-task or be at least cross-functional, (ie act like a coffee table) would another molecular configuration be required (if the original scaffolding acted like a coffee table, why would the new configuration be selected for the same thing) or 3) be tolerated by the cell (does the cell really need to make a better coffee table by ‘asking’ the scaffolding to be a regular coffee table until the new and improved coffee table is assembled?).

No matter how you look at it, scaffolding is by no means evidence against irreducible complexity, but in fact reinforced it, contrary to what Harold or Reed would have you think. Teleology is the parsimonous explanation, not neo-darwinian evolution.

With neo-darwinian evolution, there are too many complications, too may patches to be applied to make the explanation work.

Reed, not a particularly good pedagogical tool to have in the evo-devo toolbox.

In other words, Steve P., you have nothing but whining and hot air.

Scaffolding IS evidence against Irreducible Complexity: scaffolding demonstrates how a biological structure developed in the first place. Irreducibly complex structures are explained as magically appearing as they are observed today, without scaffolds, without precursors, without having ever allegedly evolved from similar structures. Claiming that scaffolding reinforces Irreducible Complexity is a lie.

Plus, you’re also deliberately lying when you claim that Behe didn’t invoke magic. He claims that the Intelligent Designer created these allegedly irreducibly complex structures in a process that mortal researchers will never hope to comprehend, let alone understand, ergo, “magic.”

Steve P. said:

Harold is engaging in a strawman.

harold is engaging Behe’s actual argument. Or are you conceding that Behe made a straw man argument?

Steve P. said:

… No need invoking gods, goddesses, goblins, or gooks.

Remind me: What part of the world do you work in?

apokryltaros said:

Scaffolding IS evidence against Irreducible Complexity: scaffolding demonstrates how a biological structure developed in the first place. Irreducibly complex structures are explained as magically appearing as they are observed today, without scaffolds, without precursors, without having ever allegedly evolved from similar structures. Claiming that scaffolding reinforces Irreducible Complexity is a lie.

Plus, you’re also deliberately lying when you claim that Behe didn’t invoke magic. He claims that the Intelligent Designer created these allegedly irreducibly complex structures in a process that mortal researchers will never hope to comprehend, let alone understand, ergo, “magic.”

No. To build a building you need scaffolding. But it is the end product that is alone useful, not the individual bricks and mortar. A house without a roof isn’t very good!

Because we learn to do something well, like repetitive scaffolding or making building blocks from experience or from a good teacher it does not prove evolution. It proves that you want to do better and achieve excellence if you are borne with the intelligence to do so, not everyone excels in some subjects usually because they are better at another. It is important what your building blocks are to form the right foundations to build the right structure. Constable painted landscapes, Rembrandt portraits they reproduced scenes on canvas. @ John Wilkins, I think while at school even if you are talented in one subject you should study all the other subjects too as each are designed to prepare you for what you will need when you leave those very vital young learning years you spend at school learning. It is not mimicking, it’s for one thing progressing with hindsight and foresight. I don’t think learning in isolation and out of the school community is altogether the right thing you have to know what the community as a whole needs from you and what you need from them as a team. But also working by yourself to achieve your own goals is achieving too but in a different aspect I think you need both experiences. It’s not evolution it’s using the talents inbuilt in the human make up, like the monkey’s swing through trees the best because it’s in the monkey make up, but we can copy them, if you are a gymnast; the same as they can go into space.

Some of those commenting here apparently either do not know or do not understand Behe’s argument about irreducibly complex (IC) systems.

Behe’s premise is that an IC system cannot possibly evolve because any predecessor would be missing a key part and would therefore be non-functional.

This argument is defeated by showing the existence of a feasible evolutionary path leading to an irreducibly complex system.

Such feasible paths have been identified.

Behe’s premise has thus been shown to be false.

Design arguments that rely on Behe’s premise are thus invalid.

Atheistoclast said:

No. To build a building you need scaffolding. But it is the end product that is alone useful, not the individual bricks and mortar. A house without a roof isn’t very good!

Don’t you EVER stop to think before blathering?

1. Most of the buildings in the world are built without scaffolding. I have done that myself.

2. Bricks and mortar are eminently useful for millions of things besides making buildings. Heat a brick and drop it into your soup pot to boil it. Brain an enemy with it. Use it for a weight in a deadfall to catch a rabbit.

3. A “building without a roof” is a hell of a lot better than nothing. Ever hear of a fort? Even a single small wall can save your life in a blizzard of sandstorm.

Just Bob said:

Atheistoclast said:

No. To build a building you need scaffolding. But it is the end product that is alone useful, not the individual bricks and mortar. A house without a roof isn’t very good!

Don’t you EVER stop to think before blathering?

1. Most of the buildings in the world are built without scaffolding. I have done that myself.

2. Bricks and mortar are eminently useful for millions of things besides making buildings. Heat a brick and drop it into your soup pot to boil it. Brain an enemy with it. Use it for a weight in a deadfall to catch a rabbit.

3. A “building without a roof” is a hell of a lot better than nothing. Ever hear of a fort? Even a single small wall can save your life in a blizzard of sandstorm.

1. Try building a skyscraper without scaffolding. I have no care for your own hickboy efforts at house construction.

2. I’m sure you could use a brick for a variety of applications - like smashing car windows - but that doesn’t help you build anything.

3. A house without a roof isn’t much good against the elements. It defeats the whole purpose of a means of attaining “shelter”.

Idiot.

fittest meme said:

Wouldn’t I be using intelligence if I performed this trick? Aren’t I displaying purposeful forethought of the structure I am making as I arrange the chairs properly, then assemble my buddies in just the right order, and then instruct helpers to remove the chairs? Haven’t I used coded instruction, (in the form of this video) in order to get the information on how to do it?

I guess if this just randomly happened at a party it would be a good example of evolutionary processes but if it happens because someone else saw it done someplace and wanted to replicate what they saw isn’t it actually evidence of Intelligent Design?

Except that many of the elements of the demonstration aren’t at all necessary to make it work. The chairs can be backless, it which point they merely need be arranged in a semicircular pattern that need not be especially exact to work. They can be of somewhat differing heights and the scaffold can still work. Stools with three legs rather than four would work. A less stable scaffold can be formed with only three people. Even a scaffold that only works for a little while still functions. Additionally, the video is totally unnecessary as a means of instruction and merely a red herring.

Your own trick here, which is nearly always the ID trick, is to look at an existing configuration and assume that it wouldn’t work any other way, wouldn’t work more simply, or couldn’t have functional precursors. It isn’t merely that biology disproves these ideas daily, but that biology is only one way of the many ways in which this idea can be debunked.

No one has really come through and answered my original questions.

Was or was not intelligence at play in this demonstration?

If it was then how can it be used as evidence against design? I quite honestly am surprised that the editors of this site would demonstrate their lack of understanding of the true claims of Darwinian Theory, Irreducible Complexity, and Intelligent Design by posting this video as if it bolstered their position. Either they are purposefully attempting to mislead people in this very important debate or they actually haven’t fully understood all sides of the argument.

The concept of Irreducible Complexity (which is a concept that is distinct from Behe who was the one who first articulated it in regards to this debate) doesn’t claim that irreducible complex things had to come together through “magic.” Nor does it claim that they can’t be assembled in a step by step process. It just claims that we have never witnessed such structures being assembled without a designing intelligence involved. Your video does not disprove this claim.

You can theorize that such structures as the “4 self-supporting guys” could have come together randomly as Sabz5150 has. However, to do so and claim it as fact you must provide evidence … not just a belief that it could have happened “rather easily.”

Admittedly, educated supporters of Darwinian Theory don’t make this naive claim. They would argue that the step by step assembly process will take place through the unguided process of Natural Selection; each step in the process must have utility and provide competitive advantage to it’s host organism. If you want to use this video to demonstrate this you should let us know how each step in the process did this for the organism ultimately using it. Remember, in this case your website was the organism and the purpose (albeit ineffective) was to disprove ID.

In your zeal to bolster your belief (a charge you frequently make of the other side) you have demonstrated some pretty poor reasoning in posting this. Probably time to admit your mistake.

Irreducible complexity says: “IRC structures could not have evolved.”

“So that implies that reducibly complex (RC) structures could have evolved. Otherwise the distinction is meaningless.”

“Well, I’ll admit that.”

“So what happens if an RC then evolves by losing parts of itself until it can’t lose any more and still work? Then an evolvable RC system has evolved into an IRC system.”

The example here may indeed be “intelligently design” but it is no different in its IRC characteristics than an unintelligently designed natural stone bridge.

“fittest meme” said -

No one has really come through and answered my original questions.

Was or was not intelligence at play in this demonstration?

Actually, I did give you the answer. The direct answer is “yes”.

Your question is absurdly irrelevant. I don’t often use words like “stupid” here, but frankly, it’s one of the stupidest questions I’ve ever seen in my life.

Again, the point here is not that this demonstration models biological evolution, it is that it disproves Behe’s (already long discredited) claims about “irreducible complexity”.

It is impossible that you could accept what I say here.

jps0869 said: Except that many of the elements of the demonstration aren’t at all necessary to make it work. The chairs can be backless, it which point they merely need be arranged in a semicircular pattern that need not be especially exact to work. They can be of somewhat differing heights and the scaffold can still work. Stools with three legs rather than four would work. A less stable scaffold can be formed with only three people. Even a scaffold that only works for a little while still functions. Additionally, the video is totally unnecessary as a means of instruction and merely a red herring.

Making the components different in form doesn’t reduce their necessity in function. Bottom line is that a scaffold and proper assembly instructions are needed to replicate this Irreducibly Complex structure. The assembly instruction represent Design. Your right, without the video I could tell you how to do this trick but I would still be using coded information (in the form of language)to assure that the desired results were replicated.

Your own trick here, which is nearly always the ID trick, is to look at an existing configuration and assume that it wouldn’t work any other way, wouldn’t work more simply, or couldn’t have functional precursors. It isn’t merely that biology disproves these ideas daily, but that biology is only one way of the many ways in which this idea can be debunked.

No tricks. And I’m not the one doing the assuming. I’m just pointing out that in the example used as evidence for how “evolution and scaffolding can produce irreducibly complex structures” actually demonstrates intelligence so it’s ineffective evidence.

Maybe you “scientists” here have forgotten that the supernatural elements of logic and reason are pretty important in the application of science as truth is pursued.

fittest meme said: Maybe you “scientists” here have forgotten that the supernatural elements of logic and reason are pretty important in the application of science as truth is pursued.

Err … so how many well-established scientific theories are predicated on supernatural assumptions again? I’m trying to think of one but nothing comes to mind.

Maybe there’s some confusion over the definition of “supernaturalism” here. I would define it as: “It means there is no explanation, so we’ll make up an arbitrary explanation that actually explains nothing.”

fittest meme asserts that “each step in the process must have utility and provide competitive advantage to it’s host organism.”

Not true, not in the world of reality. This is where you fail miserably.

What is the utility of having chairs set in a square like that? Ascribing a purpose to the squared chairs is a post hoc process, not an a priori assumption. There are many possible reasons to place chairs in a square arrangement, some of them useful, the vast majority neutral.

How do squared chairs confer a competitive advantage? ‘Tis far easier to eat dinner using different arrangements, say, for instance, around the dinner table. Squared chairs facilitate the game of musical chairs better than a scaffolding event. Ultimately, it is the environmental conditions that dictate the usefulness of squared chairs and not the arrangement of the chairs themselves.

Steve P. said -

Harold is engaging in a strawman. Nothing new here.

I accurately paraphrased Behe’s claims about “IRC” and accurately noted how the video refutes them.

If my paraphrase had been inaccurate, Steve could have corrected me by quoting Behe and showing where my interpretation was wrong. And his failure to do that demonstrates that he can’t.

Then Steve P. goes on to contradict himself by also refuting Behe’s claims, more or less on exactly the same grounds I did (and Nick Matzke has by posting this video). In doing so, he has a short run of statements that are actually quite close to being accurate.

In fact, scaffolding reinforces the notion of irreducible complexity.

No, because if there can be scaffolding, there’s a way that the structure could come together incrementally, even though it can also become irreducibly complex incrementally.

Behe’s claim that IRC rules out incremental construction is thus refuted.

The only way for the 4 people to come together in that configuration is if a pre-existing scaffolding is present.

Whether or not it is the only way, which it probably isn’t, the fact the Steve P. even agrees that it is one way means that he contradicts Behe.

Behe never invoked magic in explaining this. He simply states that natural selection acting on fortuitous random mutations is simply not up to the job.

Technically, this borders on being true. Behe directly makes false claims that evolution is impossible. However, by simultaneously associating himself with the “intelligent design” paradigm, he does imply that his favored alternative is direct action by a magical deity.

This was the last borderline honest statement that Steve P. made.

No need invoking gods, goddesses, goblins, or gooks.

Really, Steve P.?

But then what happened? Who was the designer, what precisely did the designer do, when did the designer do it, how did the designer do it, and what is an example of something that isn’t designed, so that we can compare? Please don’t reply without answering these questions.

But hey, lets try the darwinian way -

And at this point he shovels out some of the most tiresome, dull-witted, pointless straw man nonsense I have ever seen.

You do understand that this means that you lose, right Steve?

The minute you resort to mis-characterizing the idea you claim to argue against, you prove that you can’t actually argue against it when it is stated correctly.

You’re literally not fooling anyone.

You’re not fooling yourself to any satisfying degree, or else your head wouldn’t have exploded when you saw an accurate refutation of Behe.

You’re certainly not fooling anyone who knows anything.

And I doubt if you’re fooling any neutral person who doesn’t know anything.

Harold you said:

“This does not model biological evolution and is not intended to, but it refutes Behe’s intelligent design assertion.”

Reed introduced the video by stating:

“Wanna demonstrate how evolution and scaffolding can produce irreducibly complex structures at your next ivory tower wine and cheese party or evil atheist conspiracy kitten roast? Just repeat the demonstration see in this clip.”

I guess your disagreement is with the editor not me.

Regarding your understanding of Behe’s presentation of Irreducible Complexity I’d suggest you read the book before making the misrepresentations you do here. It would be helpful for the sake of all involved.

And yet, the only people here misrepresenting Behe are the Intelligent Design proponents. If they had actually read Darwin’s Black Box, they would have known that Behe never discusses scaffolding, or anything else. All he did in explaining Irreducible Complexity is pontify about how impossible it is to conceive of evolution creating complex biological structures without an Intelligent Designer creating such structures in the first place.

fittest meme said:

You can theorize that such structures as the “4 self-supporting guys” could have come together randomly as Sabz5150 has. However, to do so and claim it as fact you must provide evidence … not just a belief that it could have happened “rather easily.”

Admittedly, educated supporters of Darwinian Theory don’t make this naive claim. They would argue that the step by step assembly process will take place through the unguided process of Natural Selection; each step in the process must have utility and provide competitive advantage to it’s host organism. If you want to use this video to demonstrate this you should let us know how each step in the process did this for the organism ultimately using it. Remember, in this case your website was the organism and the purpose (albeit ineffective) was to disprove ID.

Natural selection an unguided process? Where did you get that load of tripe? Seems you’re the one showing that you don’t understand the basic concepts.

Natural selection is an EXTREMELY guided process. Guided by the environment in which the organisms live. Alter the environment and over time the organisms as a whole will evolve to better suit the new environmental alterations.

Assuming that natural selection is not guided is… well… naive.

apokryltaros said: If they had actually read Darwin’s Black Box, they would have known that Behe never discusses scaffolding, or anything else. All he did in explaining Irreducible Complexity is pontificate about how impossible it is to conceive of evolution creating complex biological structures without an Intelligent Designer creating such structures in the first place.

And do not forget to add that no IRC system identified by Behe actually turned out to be IRC.

Steve P. said:

Individual organisms don’t violate the SLoT. Death sees to that.

Life does however, violate the SLoT by its very existence and persistence.

Nothing violates the 2LoT.

Neither living things nor life as an abstract concept violate 2LoT any more than icemakers or air conditioners do.

They may locally create little pockets of local entropy reversal but that’s only because they utilize external energy. They do nothing more than move a little entropy around for a while, and when they stop, entropy as a whole has increased measurably.

mrg said:

I was just considering that the only way I could think of myself for life to actually violate the SLOT is for organisms to obtain energy off ambient heat or the like – second-order perpetual-motion machines. Not being a physicist I’m not all that imaginative in the matter, but I am hard-pressed to think of any other behavior that would suggest a violation of the SLOT.

One of the formulations of the second law says there has to be a temperature difference between which a thermodynamic engine works. You cannot just extract energy from an ambient reservoir at a single temperature.

And that makes sense, because the underlying energy one is extracting from a heat reservoir has to be converted to kinetic energy in the particles that are going to pound on pistons or turbine blades, etc.. If the temperature of the “engine” and its background were the same, there would be no net transfers of momentum, hence energy.

BTW, on entropy of mixing: on thinking that over again, I would conclude that there is no entropy of mixing of, say, two gases, if the two gases are indistinguishable from a energetic point of view. If, however, the molecules of the two gases don’t interact with each other the same way they interact with themselves, there is a change in entropy.

Yup; that’s the key.

Related question: is there a change in entropy with a gas expanding into a vacuum? Just YES or NO will be fine, these are matters on which my inclination would be to say: “I’ll take your word for it.”

Yes. :-)

I may have left the wrong impression over on that ID Creationism and the Second Law thread.

I was traveling, trying to use some of my old pedagogical tricks, and hurriedly posting stuff on the run without editing first. In my exchanges with SWT, I was raising some common student misconceptions; and I suspect that wasn’t very helpful to others not particularly aware of or concerned about such issues.

Also, after I returned to the thread later, I discovered I mangled my sentences on a post in which I had attempted to show why entropy increased. I corrected that in my next-to-the-last post over there.

But you might want to know that the reason that the spatial coordinates are included in labeling the microstates of a gas is that a volume variable is a conjugate variable to pressure. Taking the derivative of the entropy with respect to volume gets you the pressure.

And this illustrates one of the important reasons for the concept of entropy; it ties the macroscopic state variables together and allows finding a variable in terms of the other variables. It also relates microscopic states to macroscopic states.

“Temperature” is conjugate to energy. So taking the derivative of the entropy with respect to the total energy gets the inverse of the temperature also.

Way back when I started “simplifying” thermodynamics concepts for lay audiences on the advice of colleagues, friends, and relatives, I resisted because I thought not addressing such subtle issues would lead to more confusion, not less.

I think they were right and I was wrong; but eventually someone brings up these issues, and I don’t know if the “simplifying” helps in the long run. That’s why I stopped work on a little book I started many years ago. I couldn’t figure out where to stop without completely changing the audience to whom the book would be addressed.

Mike Elzinga said:

One of the formulations of the second law says there has to be a temperature difference between which a thermodynamic engine works. You cannot just extract energy from an ambient reservoir at a single temperature.

Yah, that’s what I was getting at. If organisms could act like Maxwell’s Demon, they would be in obvious violation of the SLOT.

The puzzle is: what other behavior would indicate a violation of the SLOT? I can’t think of any that would be categorically different.

mrg said:

Mike Elzinga said:

One of the formulations of the second law says there has to be a temperature difference between which a thermodynamic engine works. You cannot just extract energy from an ambient reservoir at a single temperature.

Yah, that’s what I was getting at. If organisms could act like Maxwell’s Demon, they would be in obvious violation of the SLOT.

And the solution to the Maxwell’s Demon paradox is that the demon has to extract energy from somewhere. If the demon is at the ambient temperature of an isolated container of gas, the demon can’t do work.

And if the demon contains its own internal energy source, it has to be at a higher temperature than that of the gas in order to exploit that “reservoir” of energy. So energy gets dumped into the gas increasing its entropy.

And this still says nothing about how such a demon “learns” the positions and momentums of all the gas molecules flying around it. And there is also that trap door that has to be accelerated and decelerated.

Somehow, ID/creationists have managed to use Maxwell’s Demon to “prove” that “information” is the same as “negentropy.” But all this illustrates is that they are really, really confused.

The puzzle is: what other behavior would indicate a violation of the SLOT? I can’t think of any that would be categorically different.

I suppose a creature that extracted energy from a low temperature reservoir, dumped energy to a high temperature reservoir and did work on its external environment at the same time.

I don’t think many people have thought about it, but if you put a living organism in an ambient environment at the same temperature as the organism itself, many exothermic organisms will increase their internal temperature in order to maintain internal processes. The creature’s core temperature will rise, and if it cannot increase enough, the creature stops functioning. It’s called heat stroke; and it is directly related to the second law of thermodynamics.

But there is also more to it with “soft” creatures. Eventually they slip outside their temperature window and internal systems start going chaotic.

Mike Elzinga said: I suppose a creature that extracted energy from a low temperature reservoir, dumped energy to a high temperature reservoir and did work on its external environment at the same time.

Yeah, but that process would be driven by a Maxell’s Demon: “In with the hot particles! Out with the cold ones! Now let’s do something with the hot particles we’ve collected.”

mrg said:

Mike Elzinga said: I suppose a creature that extracted energy from a low temperature reservoir, dumped energy to a high temperature reservoir and did work on its external environment at the same time.

Yeah, but that process would be driven by a Maxell’s Demon: “In with the hot particles! Out with the cold ones! Now let’s do something with the hot particles we’ve collected.”

:-)

LOL!

Hmm … now that I think of it, what do think the odds are of me getting a grant from the DI for a four-cylinder Maxwell’s Demon engine? Just think of the sales pitch: “Along with destroying evolution, the DI will go down in history for solving the energy crisis!” The beauty of it would be that they’d probably believe me.

mrg said:

Hmm … now that I think of it, what do think the odds are of me getting a grant from the DI for a four-cylinder Maxwell’s Demon engine? Just think of the sales pitch: “Along with destroying evolution, the DI will go down in history for solving the energy crisis!” The beauty of it would be that they’d probably believe me.

You think they’d be interested in acquiring some Nevada beachfront property, then?

mrg said:

Hmm … now that I think of it, what do think the odds are of me getting a grant from the DI for a four-cylinder Maxwell’s Demon engine? Just think of the sales pitch: “Along with destroying evolution, the DI will go down in history for solving the energy crisis!” The beauty of it would be that they’d probably believe me.

With all the hot air coming from that building, it might be hard to remove any skepticism that there isn’t a hidden high-temperature reservoir somewhere providing the source of the energy.

I suspect it would be called an “Ahmanson Source.”

apokryltaros said: You think they’d be interested in acquiring some Nevada beachfront property, then?

There is a Brooklyn Bridge in Las Vegas, believe it or not. I’m not sure what the scale is.

Mike Elzinga said: With all the hot air coming from that building, it might be hard to remove any skepticism that there isn’t a hidden high-temperature reservoir somewhere providing the source of the energy.

An old gag from my industry days: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic a rigged demo.”

Following on the Maxwell’s Demon motor I could sell them an “IDG (Information Decay Generator)”, circulating an electronic copy of the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA in flash memory and deriving motive power from the gradual corruption of the text.

mrg said:

Following on the Maxwell’s Demon motor I could sell them an “IDG (Information Decay Generator)”, circulating an electronic copy of the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA in flash memory and deriving motive power from the gradual corruption of the text.

So if one circulates an electronic copy of the Bible – which doesn’t corrupt (wink, wink) – one has a perpetual motion machine of the first kind.

Mike Elzinga said: So if one circulates an electronic copy of the Bible – which doesn’t corrupt (wink, wink) – one has a perpetual motion machine of the first kind.

I think we could devise a system in which the gods automatically download the scriptures. But nobody would fund it … the scriptures might not be theirs.

mrg said:

Mike Elzinga said: So if one circulates an electronic copy of the Bible – which doesn’t corrupt (wink, wink) – one has a perpetual motion machine of the first kind.

I think we could devise a system in which the gods automatically download the scriptures. But nobody would fund it … the scriptures might not be theirs.

Ah; a perpetual sectarian warfare machine!

Uh, wait; don’t we already have that?

On thinking it over, I’m getting fonder of the idea of pitching my MD motor to the DI. Maxwell’s Demon has so much in common with an Intelligent Designer: nobody’s ever seen him, no evidence shows he exists, but he sure would be handy if he did. Obviously the DI would love the idea.

mrg said:

On thinking it over, I’m getting fonder of the idea of pitching my MD motor to the DI. Maxwell’s Demon has so much in common with an Intelligent Designer: nobody’s ever seen him, no evidence shows he exists, but he sure would be handy if he did. Obviously the DI would love the idea.

The biggest advantage in pitching it to the DI is that you don’t have to get into any pathetic level of detail.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on August 27, 2011 2:45 PM.

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