Cosmic Evolution as the Rise of Complexity in Nature
* Book: Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature. By Eric Chaisson. Harvard University Press, 2001
"According to the modern view recently expressed by, among others, Ilya Prigonine, Isabelle Stengers, and Eric Chaisson, complexity emerges when energy flows through matter. Only in this way it is possible for more complex structures to arise. Yet what does the concept of energy flows mean? This is not as straightforward as it may seem. Eric Chaisson defines Free Energy Rate Density – indicated with the symbol Φm – as the amount of energy per second that flows through a certain mass (free energy is energy able to perform useful tasks; this means an energy differential exists that can be tapped). Chaisson next shows that there is a clear correlation between levels of complexity and his calculated free energy rate densities. This is the central argument of his book Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature (2001). Although, compared to most other aspects of Big History, humans may seem vanishingly small, according to Chaisson we have generated by far the biggest free energy rate densities in the known Universe. Unfortunately, the term free energy rate density is rather cumbersome, while it is equivalent to the term Power Density used by other scientists. Because now Chaisson is also using the term power density, this will be our preferred term."