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Schalk Cloete's picture
Research Scientist Independent

My work on the Energy Collective is focused on the great 21st century sustainability challenge: quadrupling the size of the global economy, while reducing CO2 emissions to zero. I seek to...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Sep 27, 2022

Like any good energy scientist, I believe the world would be a better place if more people understood the basics of thermodynamics. In fact, as the following article illustrates, the second law of thermodynamics is pretty much all you need to explain the past, present, and future of humanity.

We remain ignorant of this all-powerful influence at our peril.

Sandy Lawrence's picture
Sandy Lawrence on Sep 27, 2022

Excellent post. I was impressed by how the Olympic track cyclist was impressed by how hard it was to generate 700 watts to toast bread. Also, that plant photosynthetic efficiency is only 1% extraction of solar energy [though I have seen slightly higher estimates].

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 27, 2022

These are the type of lessons that you can and should bring to schools to teach kids about why we talk about energy efficiency (and, clearly, us adults can always use a refresher as well!)

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Sep 28, 2022

Another well written discourse, Schalk. Thanks.

I don't really understand thermodynamics.  I am instead very intrigued by quantum mechanics and chemical structure. The quantum mechanical harmonic oscillator zero point energy applies to biochemistry structure. Biochemistry has remarkable structure and includes electro dynamics. A lot of molecular modeling tools have been made available on my openSUSE linux distros. Wish I could say I knew more.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Sep 30, 2022

Schalk - as always, great and insightful article.  I am with Matt some of this should be taught in K-12 schools.   I highly recommend all of our community members to read this submission! 

Your intro had me giggling - I wish I could write like this :)


Do you ever sense the presence of some invisible force quietly controlling every aspect of our lives from behind a shadowy veil? Could it be the world’s billionaires and central bankers? How about all those omnipresent tech companies? Perhaps it could even be the Illuminati or some other mysterious society.

But no, none of these hold a candle to the almighty deity that graces the title of this humble article: the Second Law of thermodynamics."

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Oct 3, 2022

Thermodynamics is a relatively complicated subject for the average individual.

I think a more practical thermodynamics understanding lies with: 

“You don’t get something for nothing”.

Kind of a Yogi Berra, versus scientific, definition. For millennials, Yogi Berra was a catcher for the New York Yankees with an uncommon gift for practical humorous observations.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Thank Schalk for the Post!
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