March 11, 2021

Molecular Labors

These are notes from my conversation with Vivek, a material physicist, on the idea of “work” at a molecular level.

  • The world tends toward disorder (entropy); almost any action in the world increases entropy (second law of thermodynamics).
    • An egg spreads when cracked open in a pan. The phenomenon of aging is the result of mistakes that happen over time in cellular reproduction
  • Living creatures (organisms) are using energy (such as the sun or other organisms) to create order out of disorder. This is work. All organisms need an external form of energy for life to exist, which is converting disorder into order. One other example of order created from disorder is the way stars form, matter brought together by ordering the force of gravity
  • Work is the expenditure of energy. This can locally reduce entropy
    • The gathering of food, or farming as a coordinated effort to order nutrients—soil, seeds, conditions‚ into the “fruits of our labor.”
    • Exercise forces muscles to grow; forces the molecules in muscles to become bigger and stronger
    • Plants that gather nutrients from sun energy, or organisms that use enzymes to break down material into nutrients
  • when we think about collective actions, can we look at hives and ant colonies, both of which have collective actors and defines roles?
  • is the bottom of the food chain akin to a working class (biopower)?
  • is the distinction between labor and work one of physical force? Labor being body-based, straining and work being brain more than brawn?