The Non-equilibrium Thermodynamic Foundations of Fundamental Problems from Nature

A special issue of Foundations (ISSN 2673-9321). This special issue belongs to the section "Physical Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2023) | Viewed by 10775

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Guest Editor
Instítuto de Física, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City 01000, Mexico
Interests: origin of life; homochirality; ecosystems; non-equilibrium thermodynamics; dissipative structuring
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In the last few decades, the application of the physical framework known as “non-equilibrium thermodynamics” has allowed a greater understanding of difficult unresolved problems from Nature. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics brings out dynamical and emergent phenomena of many-body systems involving an extremely large number of microscopic degrees of freedom under a generalized thermodynamic potential. These phenomena, which arise when complex material is driven far from equilibrium, are very different from the phenomena found close to equilibrium and include dissipative structuring, space-time symmetry breaking, multiple stationary states, evolution over stationary states, history, and entropy production.

Some of the most difficult problems which have benefitted from such a non-equilibrium thermodynamic perspective include the origin and evolution of the universe (Big Bang), the origin of the second law of thermodynamics, the origin and meaning of time, the origin of complexity, the origin and meaning of dark energy, the universal particle–antiparticle asymmetry, the origin and evolution of life, the homochirality of life, global warming, understanding and controlling cancer, and understanding brain dynamics.

This Special Issue reviews the progress that has been made in these difficult fields through applying non-equilibrium thermodynamic formalism to these unresolved problems. Each review will be written in simple language for the non-expert, thereby allowing the utility of the non-equilibrium framework to be appreciated by those with little background in non-equilibrium thermodynamics and bringing wider recognition to your novel perspective on the problem.

Since Foundations is a new journal of the open-access publisher MDPI, the journal is offering to publish invited papers in this Special Issue free of charge. However, it is important that your intentions to publish a paper for this Special Issue are conveyed to us at the earliest possible date so that adequate planning of the Issue and its timely publication can be achieved.

Dr. Karo Michaelian
Guest Editor

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Foundations is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • non-equilibrium thermodynamics
  • Big Bang
  • dark energy
  • cosmology
  • particle–antiparticle asymmetry
  • origin of life
  • homochirality
  • meaning of time
  • origin of complexity
  • cancer
  • the second law of thermodynamics

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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16 pages, 863 KiB  
Article
Fatty Acid Vesicles as Hard UV-C Shields for Early Life
by Iván Lechuga and Karo Michaelian
Foundations 2023, 3(1), 99-114; https://doi.org/10.3390/foundations3010010 - 23 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1624
Abstract
Theories on life’s origin generally acknowledge the advantage of a semi-permeable vesicle (protocell) for enhancing the chemical reaction–diffusion processes involved in abiogenesis. However, more and more evidence indicates that the origin of life is concerned with the photo-chemical dissipative structuring of the fundamental [...] Read more.
Theories on life’s origin generally acknowledge the advantage of a semi-permeable vesicle (protocell) for enhancing the chemical reaction–diffusion processes involved in abiogenesis. However, more and more evidence indicates that the origin of life is concerned with the photo-chemical dissipative structuring of the fundamental molecules under soft UV-C light (245–275 nm). In this paper, we analyze the Mie UV scattering properties of such a vesicle created with long-chain fatty acids. We find that the vesicle could have provided early life with a shield from the faint but destructive hard UV-C ionizing light (180–210 nm) that probably bathed Earth’s surface from before the origin of life and at least until 1200 million years after, until the formation of a protective ozone layer as a result of the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis. Full article
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23 pages, 3598 KiB  
Article
Towards a Social-Ecological-Entropy Perspective of Sustainable Exploitation of Natural Resources
by Sebastián Michel-Mata, Mónica Gómez-Salazar, Víctor Castaño and Iván Santamaría-Holek
Foundations 2022, 2(4), 999-1021; https://doi.org/10.3390/foundations2040067 - 31 Oct 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1318
Abstract
An innovative and integrative modeling strategy for assessing the sustainability and resilience of social-ecological systems (SES) is presented by introducing a social-ecological entropy production (SEEP) method. In analogy to the thermodynamic entropy production of irreversible processes, we discuss a theoretical model that relates [...] Read more.
An innovative and integrative modeling strategy for assessing the sustainability and resilience of social-ecological systems (SES) is presented by introducing a social-ecological entropy production (SEEP) method. In analogy to the thermodynamic entropy production of irreversible processes, we discuss a theoretical model that relates energy and information flow with the cultural and epistemological peculiarities of different communities that exploit the same natural resource. One of the innovative aspects of our approach comes from the fact that sustainability is assessed by a single parameter (SEEP) incorporating the simulation outcomes of all the populations participating in the dynamics, and not only on the fate of the resource. This is significant as far as the non-linearities introduced by the coupling of the different dynamics considered may lead to high sensitivity to small perturbations. Specifically, by assuming two possible types of technical and environmental knowledge-transfer methods [direct (D) and phase-in (P)] within each one of the two communities that exploit and restore a resource, we generate four mathematical models to explore the long-term sustainability scenario due to the intervention, by a new epistemological community, of an initially sustainable resource-community SES. By exploring the space of four key parameters characterizing the degree of technical and environmental knowledge, as well as the rates of social inclusion and knowledge transfer, our simulations show that, from 400 scenarios studied in each case, the P-P model predicts 100% sustainable cases in the use of the resource after the intervention by the second community. The mixed scenarios P-D and D-P predict about 29%, and the D-D scenario only predicts 23% of sustainable cases. Catastrophic outcomes are predicted at about 71% in P-D and D-P scenarios, and about 77% of extinction of the system by exhaustion of the resource and community populations in the D-D scenario. In this form, our theoretical strategy and the knowledge-transfer scenarios studied may help policymakers to find a priori science-based criteria to solve possible controversies arising from social-ecological interventions. Full article
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Review

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17 pages, 1864 KiB  
Review
Longevity, Aging and Cancer: Thermodynamics and Complexity
by J. M. Nieto-Villar and R. Mansilla
Foundations 2022, 2(3), 664-680; https://doi.org/10.3390/foundations2030045 - 17 Aug 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2069
Abstract
From the perspectives of the thermodynamics of irreversible processes and the theory of complex systems, a characterization of longevity and aging and their relationships with the emergence and evolution of cancer was carried out. It was found that: (1) the rate of entropy [...] Read more.
From the perspectives of the thermodynamics of irreversible processes and the theory of complex systems, a characterization of longevity and aging and their relationships with the emergence and evolution of cancer was carried out. It was found that: (1) the rate of entropy production could be used as an index of the robustness, plasticity, and aggressiveness of cancer, as well as a measure of biological age; (2) the aging process, as well as the evolution of cancer, goes through what we call a “biological phase transition”; (3) the process of metastasis, which occurs during the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT), appears to be a phase transition that is far from thermodynamic equilibrium and exhibits Shilnikov chaos-like dynamic behavior, which guarantees the robustness of the process and, in turn, its unpredictability; (4) as the ferroptosis process progresses, the complexity of the dynamics that are associated with the emergence and evolution of cancer decreases. The theoretical framework that was developed in this study could contribute to a better understanding of the biophysical and chemical phenomena of longevity and aging and their relationships with cancer. Full article
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30 pages, 6230 KiB  
Review
Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamic Foundations of the Origin of Life
by Karo Michaelian
Foundations 2022, 2(1), 308-337; https://doi.org/10.3390/foundations2010022 - 21 Mar 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 4617
Abstract
There is little doubt that life’s origin followed from the known physical and chemical laws of Nature. The most general scientific framework incorporating the laws of Nature and applicable to most known processes to good approximation, is that of thermodynamics and its extensions [...] Read more.
There is little doubt that life’s origin followed from the known physical and chemical laws of Nature. The most general scientific framework incorporating the laws of Nature and applicable to most known processes to good approximation, is that of thermodynamics and its extensions to treat out-of-equilibrium phenomena. The event of the origin of life should therefore also be amenable to such an analysis. In this review paper, I describe the non-equilibrium thermodynamic foundations of the origin of life for the non-expert from the perspective of the “Thermodynamic Dissipation Theory for the Origin of Life” which is founded on Classical Irreversible Thermodynamic theory developed by Lars Onsager, Ilya Prigogine, and coworkers. A Glossary of Thermodynamic Terms can be found at the end of the article to aid the reader. Full article
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