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About the Book

About the Book

Into the Cool is a scientific tour de force showing how evolution, ecology, economics and life itself are organized by energy flow and the laws of thermodynamics. There are natural, animate and inanimate systems like hurricanes and life whose complexity are not the result of conscious human design, nor of divine caprice, nor of repeated, computer-like functions.


The common key to all organized systems is how they control their energy flow. 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 inevitable tendency to change from being concentrated in one place to becoming spread out over time, and is why we age, die and decay. When left on their own, isolated organizations tend to descend into molecular chaos. Thermodynamics is shrouded by its quixotic entropy measure that increases with every action in nature. A more easily grasped statement of the Second law is that nature abhors a gradient and that systems tend toward equilibrium. The Earth sits suspended in the giant gradient between the sizzling sun and frigid outer space. Earthly organizations from weather systems to life "live" off this gradient.

Into the Cool details how complex systems emerge, enlarge, and reproduce in a world tending toward disorder. From hurricanes to life, from human evolution to the systems humans have created, this pervasive pull toward equilibrium governs life at many levels and at its peak in the elaborate structures of living complex systems. Schneider and Sagan organize their argument in a highly accessible manner, moving from descriptions of the basic physics behind energy flow to the organization of complex systems to the role of energy in life to the final section, which applies their concept of energy flow to politics, economics, and even human health.

A book that needs to be grappled with by all those who wonder at the organizing principles of existence, Into the Cool will appeal to both humanists and scientists. If Charles Darwin shook the world by showing the common ancestry of all life, so Into the Cool has a similar power to disturb—and delight—by showing the common roots in energy flow of all complex, organized, and naturally functioning systems.

© 2005 Hawkwood Institute Eric D. Schneider Into the Cool