M. Harold, The Vital Force: A Study of Bioenergetics
(New York: Freeman, 1986).
Franklin Harold hints at the inherent paradox
of studying nature by citing an Anonymous axiom:
trouble with simple things is that one must
understand them very well."
his first chapter, "Energy, Work, and Order",
Harold surveys the history of thermodynamics
in physics finally tracing that work into "Energy
Flow in the Biological World." The world
of physics is so different from "the biologist's
world, which "is populated by singular
and wriggly objects such as fungi and butterflies,
genes and enzymes" that it is hard to discern
how the two worlds interact. Do living organisms
follow the first two laws of thermodynamics?
Energy balance sheets dating back to Lavoisier's
work on animal and plant respiration show that
the law of energy conservation holds within
very narrow limits of error. The second law
is more difficult--organisms perform work evolving
towards greater complexity, yet maintaining
states of low entropy. This does not violate
the second law because living beings are not