ANATOLY IVANOV / PROSE / TWEETS / thermodynamics

 +  2022-12-26 12:59

A review of Nick Lane’s “The Vital Question” is easy to write: just re-arrange a dozen of his own passages. The book itself, though, is not easy to read.

Unless… you understand at least the main principles of #physics, #chemistry and Latin.

However interesting the author’s main thesis — “I will lay out a hypothesis that connects #energy and #evolution” — it won’t resonate with those of us who’ve slept through the high school hard science classes, or have erased #thermodynamics, electromagnetism and valence

from their memory after graduation, the seemingly useless prerequisites for adulthood.

The author promises to describe his point “in enough detail that I can be proved wrong, while writing as accessibly and as excitingly as I can.

I’ve tried to avoid unnecessary jargon and have included occasional reminders of the meaning of terms; but beyond that I hope you will gain familiarity with recurring terms. With the occasional double check, I hope this book will be wholly accessible to anyone who is interested.”

And therein lies the problem. A few pages later, the jovial language of grandeur and metaphor shifts to “isotopic fractionation reported in the #graphite inclusions” and hops to the discussion of “prions — perfectly normal proteins that spontaneously refold into semicrystalline

structures that act as a template for more refolded prions, where the overall entropy barely changes.”

If you can follow the meaning of the above — hey, congrats, you’ve kept your knowledge sharp and up-to-date. Read on.

Actually, this thread is getting so long, it might be easier to continue reading the book’s review on my website:…

 +  2020-05-07 12:15

Some #motivation to get you through the day of hard #mental effort and discovery of #thermodynamics and of how the world works in general. 🤣


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