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Entropy (Basel)


In his "What Is Life?" Schrödinger poses three questions: (1) What is the source of order in organisms? (2) How do organisms remain ordered in the face of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? (3) Are new laws of physics required? He answers his first question with his famous "aperiodic solid". He leaves his second and third questions unanswered. I try to show that his first answer is also the answer to his second question. Aperiodic solids such as protein enzymes are "boundary conditions" that constrain the release of energy into a few degrees of freedom in non-equilibrium processes such that thermodynamic work is done. This work propagates and builds structures and controls processes. These constitute his causally efficacious "code script" controlling development. The constrained release of energy also delays the production of entropy that can be exported from cells as it forms. Therefore, cells remain ordered. This answers his second question. However, "What is life?" must also ask about the diachronic evolution of life. Here, the surprising answer to this extended version of Schrödinger's third question is that there are no new entailing laws of physics. No laws at all entail the evolution of ours or any biosphere.


Institute for Systems Biology