Physics of Life 1. Thermodynamics
What you'll learn
- Have a better understanding of the thermodynamics of life
- Learn how the laws of thermodynamics apply to living systems
- Gain new insight into the origin of life and how principles of thermodynamics illuminate this long-standing problem
- Learn how thermodynamic constraints shape ecosystems and how thermodynamics can provide predictive tools for analyzing extinct ecosystems
- Learn how life is a disequilibrium state and how thermodynamics illuminates basic phenomena like homeostasis and metabolism
- You should have had high school physics and introductory college-level biology
Life exists in a world constrained by laws of physics and chemistry. Life is still distinct from the physical world, and this course explores why. The answer lies in the fundamentally biological phenomenon of adaptation. Physics of life thermodynamics is the first of a series of four courses that deal with this question. Physics of light thermodynamics considers such questions as the thermodynamic definition of life, how metabolism works, the thermodynamics of the origin of life, and the thermodynamics of ecology and community structure.
This is not your standard approach to physics.The course is not heavily mathematical, and is geared towards how biology exploits physics in the service of adaptation.
I assume that you have a basic background in high school physics and chemistry, as well as introductory level college biology.
Who this course is for:
- Biology students who want to understand how life works in the physical world.
I am a Professor of Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York.
I am a physiologist by training but with a deep interest in the interface of physiology, ecology, adaptation and evolution. You can read some of my thoughts in two books I have published: The Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal-Built Structures (2000) and The Tinkerer's Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself (2007), both published by Harvard University Press. I have completed a third book, Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something Alive and Why Modern Darwinisms Fails to Explain It, which was published in September 2017 by HarperOne. You can find out more about me at my web site (link above).
My current research focuses on the problem of emergent physiology in social insect colonies. specifically the mound building termites of southern Africa.