What is Life? (Chapter 6) - Schrodinger, Order, Disorder, and Entropy


entelechy – the supposed vital principle that guides the development and functioning of an organism or other system or organization.

metabolism – the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.

absolute zero – (-)273 degrees C

death – thermodynamical equilibrium


Schrodinger’s reason for writing this book: living matter, while not eluding the “laws of physics” is likely to involve other “laws of physics” hitherto unknown, which, once revealed, will form just as integral part of this science as the former.

The laws of physics are statistical laws.  They have a lot to do with the tendency toward disorder.

To reconcile the durability of heredity with tendency toward disorder, the genetic molecule has to be a “masterpiece of highly differentiated order” safeguarded by quantum theory.  Life seems to follow order which is “kept up.”

Question: What is the characteristic feature of life?

When it goes on to “do something” – moving and exchanging material with its environment, and for a longer period than should be expected.

Systems are usually subject to friction, equalization of chemical potential, and tendency toward uniform temperature.  This is when a uniform state is achieved and and no observable events occur.  

Living beings remain alive by drawing from its environment negative entropy.  The essential thing in metabolism is that the organism succeeds in freeing itself from all the entropy it cannot help producing while alive.  

Life continually sucks orderliness from its environment. 



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