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Explain the Relationship Between Homeostasis and Entropy

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As defined by thermodynamics entropy is a measure of the energy within a system that cannot be harnessed to useful use; cybernetics has took over, making entropy a pillar of information theory. Notwithstanding the focus put on viable systems and organizations (as epitomized by the pioneering work of Stafford Beer), cybernetics’ actual imprint on corporate governance has been frustrated by the correspondence assumed between information and energy. But the immersion of enterprises into digital environments brings entropy back in front, along with a paradigmatic shift out of thermodynamics.

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A beaker of distilled water contains water molecules and it's ion products in a chemical equilibrium. Without putting energy into the system it stays just as it is. Change the system, such as by tossing in some hydrochloric acid, and the balance changes. However, within a short time complete ionization of the HCl takes place and you again have a chemical equilibrium (with higher concentration of hydrogen ions, a.k.a. lower pH). The key concept is that any system is most stable at its lowest free energy state under current conditions. When that state is reached the system is at equilibrium. In a steady state, energy is put into the system constantly in order to maintain a higher free energy state than at equilibrium. You may also have heard the phrase steady state. An organism an be said to be in a steady state, in which case we are using the phrase interchangeably with the term homeostasis. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to be more precise, though?. While homeostasis refers to the entire internal environment, the term steady state can be restricted to describing specific mechanisms. A cell is in homeostasis because every mechanism that keeps it alive is in a steady state. For example, an enzyme complex called sodium/potassium ATPase (also known as the sodium/potassium pump) uses energy from the hydrolysis of ATP to "trade" sodium ions for potassium ions, thus maintaining a constant internal concentration of potassium. Potassium concentration can be said to be in a steady state

The term dynamic equilibrium is also used synonymously with steady state, but the use of that term can be confusing. A dynamic equilibrium is not the same as a chemical equilibrium. A 1981 edition of Webster's dictionary provides a rather narrow definition of the term homeostasis, refering specifically to animals. Homeostasis was defined as the maintenance in an animal of a "constant internal milieu," that is, a relatively constant internal environment, despite changes to the external environment. More generally, homeostasis can refer to the maintenance of relatively constant conditions within any system. In fact the term is now used in reference to cells, animals, plants, and local or global ecosystems. The term could probably apply to a self-sufficient machine, for that matter. A key concept is that mechanisms must be in place to maintain constancy within a system, and that the system is itself dynamic. The latter quality is essential to the definition. The living tissue in a tree maintains homeostasis, but not so a block of wood after it is cut from the tree.

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In this theory, we perceive stress as anything that may lead to destabilization of a system independently of the quality or modality of a given stressor. The accumulation of stress-associated entropy leads to an allostatic process, which eventually results in a state of adaptation/maladaptation once a new set point is established (Boregowda SC). As the triggering of an allostatic process constitutes a key moment in the development of possible system pathology, being able to express it mathematically is crucial. Based on our theory, each organ/tissue can be numerically characterized by certain amount of cumulative entropy at each time point that may predict future failure of the system

However, in accordance with the theory of Goldstein et al. [20], it is not only the “wear and tear” of the tissue themselves that predicts system failure, but rather the “wear and tear” of the regulatory feedbacks involved. In principle, the dynamic aspects of our theory (entropy production associated with regulatory feedbacks) is based on two presumptions: 1) that the KS entropy can be defined for all the regulatory feedbacks at all their hierarchical levels (as these feedbacks could defined by a system of differential equations and thus can be considered dynamical systems) and 2) Latora et al’s [17] suggestion that KS entropy is connected to physical entropy in the mass (i.e. in this case tissue/organs). Using this as a departure point, we propose that entropy of the regulatory feedback loop is inevitably bound with physical entropy of the tissues involved (which does not exclude the possibility of the loop failure with intact tissues with low cumulative entropy, as observed in the clinical practice in extreme stressors) (Aoki I., 1991).

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In a word, they also produce waste and by-products that aren’t useful energy sources. This process increases the entropy of the system’s surroundings

Since all energy transfers result in the loss of some usable energy, the second law of thermodynamics states that every energy transfer or transformation increases the entropy of the universe. Even though living things are highly ordered and maintain a state of low entropy, the entropy of the universe in total is constantly increasing due to the loss of usable energy with each energy transfer that occurs. Essentially, living things are in a continuous uphill battle against this constant increase in universal entropy.

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Aoki I. Entropy principle for human development, growth and aging. J Theor Biol. 1991;150: 215–223. pmid:1890856

Gallagher D, Belmonte D, Deurenberg P, Wang Z, Krasnow N, Pi-Sunyer FX, et al. Organ-tissue mass measurement allows modeling of REE and metabolically active tissue mass. Am J Physiol. 1998;275: E249–258. pmid:9688626

Rahman A. A novel method for estimating the entropy generation rate in a human body. Therm Sci. 2007;11: 75–92.

Boregowda SC, Choate RE, Handy R. Entropy Generation Analysis of Human Thermal Stress Responses. Int Sch Res Not. 2012;2012: e830103.

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