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Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  171 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Scientists, theologians, and philosophers have all sought to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. Finding this natural basis of life has proved elusive, but in the eloquent and creative Into the Cool, Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan look for answers in a surprising place: the second law of thermodynamics. This second law refers to energy's ine ...more
Paperback, 378 pages
Published December 31st 2006 by University of Chicago Press (first published 2005)
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Nick Gogerty
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best science book I have read over 20 years. Truly fascinating premise. check out the website and buy the book. An amazing explanation of why and how for pretty much everything. ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
What is the source of the complexity which surrounds us, and of which we are exquisite examples? And why does such complexity exists at all, given the inexorable descent into chaos and heat death sanctioned by classical thermodynamics? The answer, according to Schneider and Sagan, is given by science, and specifically by thermodynamics itself - by the same Second Law that is invoked to justify the entropy increase in the universe.
One of the authors (Schneider) has proposed a generalized version
Jan 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting book which explains why life does not violate the second law. Nice discussion of the difference between thermodynamic and informational entropy. I would recommend reading the appendix and the concluding chapter first for those who might not be as interested in the historical developments and just want to get to the gist of the authors' ideas. Nice book to start with before delving into the math. ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
The Goodreads database only lists Eric Schneider as author of this book, but the other author is Dorion Sagan, who has through his several collaborative books with leading scientists addressed some difficult scientific questions. Such as, What is Life? and What is Sex? Willing to speculate without losing track of the parameters of reason, Dorion Sagan is a great popular science author. I recommend anything he has co-authored. He happens, probably not coincidentally, to be the son of the late sci ...more
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
This book throws a whole new light on systems, living and otherwise, combining physics with biology it verges on a theory of almost everything, from stars to economics, ecosystems and the beginnings of life itself. I didn't find it an easy read though, and was frustrated I couldn't read it quickly enough to enjoy it more, but that's probably my fault for not being smart enough. ...more
Neal Grout
This book confirms what I have already suspected for some time, that the purpose of living systems is to degrade energy at an optimal rate in accordance with thermodynamic laws and principles (although this book concentrates mostly on the entropy law). The authors present a sound evidence in favour of this argument.
Two Readers in Love
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and profound.

This book transformed my view of the relationship between physics, information systems, and biology. I believe this book deserves to sit on the same shelf as Shrödinger’s classic “What is Life?”
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was referenced to this book by another book, 'Life's Ratchet' by P. Hoffmann, which is a great book. Hoffmann mentions it in his suggested reading as an inspiration for his (first ever) book. However, contrary to Hoffmann, who presents a novel theory using concrete evidence, and diving into the details of the molecular level, Into the Cool is what I classify as 'gossip' category of pop science : spending the majority of 378 pages discussing other scientists' theories and experiments, and worse ...more
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a book! This was the first time I have read about thermodynamics, and it has completely shifted my worldview. Into the Cool helps to see the human and non-human systems, through we navigate on a daily basis, against a cosmic backdrop.

All these processes, they argue, are fueled by gradient-reduction. Biological systems have the extraordinary tendency to reduce the gradient between the hot sun and cool space by the reproduction of new gradients, which can then be broken down by new parts of
Jonathan Mugan
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nature abhors a gradient, and life emerges because it is an efficient way to increase entropy.
Alexis Caporale
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A+ for central ideas, and one of the better expositions on entropy.
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Def in the league of 'if you only chose one science book to read this year' type books. ...more
Galen Weitkamp
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Dorian Sagan’s “Cosmic Apprentice” is a collection of speculative and celebratory essays on biology, life and the human condition.

Some of these essays re-explore and extend arguments that were put forward in his 2005 book with Dr. Eric D. Schneider entitled “Into the Cool”. The main thesis of “Into the Cool” is that life is a thermodynamic phenomena that thrives on the energy gradients that characterize systems far from equilibrium. The Earth, for example, bathes in a river of radiant energy wh
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book that links non equilibrium thermodynamics (NET) with all kinds of self-organizing systems. In contrasts to many other books (such as Design in Nature, which tried to bring the same message but fell flat) this one gives many experimental overview and cites a wealth of sources to make its point. Thermodynamics has always been my favorite branch of physics and this book nicely shows the beauty, generality and elegance of this theory.
Clinton King
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is an excellent and well sourced discussion of how the second Law of Thermodynamics explains biological phenomena. In a sense, it was a page-turner for me. The book is written at a high level; at times, I felt it was going over my head. There is also the slightest tone (unintentional, to be sure) of arrogance on the part of the authors. Still, the ideas in this book are so compelling that I am glad I read it.
Soul Dancer
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A delightful journey successfully mixing the quantitative world with the more murky matters of qualitative data. This hearty dive into the deep end of understanding - well worth the swim!
Oct 13, 2014 added it
Shelves: dnf, nonfiction
Read the first third or so, then read this critical review - I agreed with it from what I read. ...more
Wayne Saxe
Jul 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
Matrix physics and thermodynamics. Very interesting take on quantum physics.
Martin Szugat
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mind changing
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