Our work on thermodynamics and the Goldschmidt conference on geochemistry – well, that seems like an obvious match. But what we contribute is a little different, and the match is not quite so straightforward. What our perspective adds is (a) a focus on non-equilibrium thermodynamics and disequilibrium, and the processes that generate and dissipate this disequilibrium, and (b) a system‘s view which accounts for the environmental setting as well as the interactions and feedbacks within the Earth as an overarching thermodynamic system. Both of our contributions next week nicely illustrate these points and show how important it is to think „thermodynamics“ beyond its more narrow application to geochemical reactions.
Roberta, a PhD student from the University of Florence, presents our joint work with her advisor, Antonella Buccianti, as well as her colleagues at the Univ. of Florence on finding the answer to „Is the dissipative behavior of river chemistry and catchment weathering dynamics reflected in their frequency distributions?“ in session „9k – Critical zone processes across space and time“. This question is motivated by the frequency distributions of geochemical elements, which often either show a normal or log-normal distribution, or a power-law distribution. How is the type of the distribution related to the thermodynamics of the system, particularly whether it is a dissipative system, or a system close to equilibrium? Roberta used extensive geochemical samples from the Arno river basin in central Italy, related it to the non-equilibrium thermodynamics of river water mixing, and found some really interesting results. Her presentation takes place on Monday, 5 July 2021, 17:10 in Room 04 (online). Her work is ready for write-up, so there’ll be more on this soon, in form of a manuscript and, hopefully, another blogpost.
Axel presents an update of the joint work with Adam Frank (Univ. Rochester) and Marina Alberti (Univ. Washington) on „Thermodynamics of the planetary transitions from barren worlds to habitability and advanced technological societies“ in session „8f – Understanding the co-evolution of Earth’s interior, its surface, and its microorganisms„ (originally, it was submitted to a session on the Anthropocene, but apparently, this session got merged). This work is based on our paper Frank et al. (2017), which describes a basis to distinguish different planets regarding their processes that perform work and generate free energy, which reflects different forms of thermodynamic disequilibrium, and which results in different, dissipative dynamics, including human societies. This framework is currently extended to describe the general dynamics of such processes, the feedbacks involved, and how this links to concepts such as habitability and carrying capacity. His presentation is scheduled for Friday, 9 July 2021, 09:00 in Room 11 (online). More on this should come out sometime soon in form of a manuscript.