Energy is the operating currency of our Universe
“Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.” – Henry David Thoreau
All of Nature, living and non-living, are receivers, storage houses, and transformers of energy. . The study of physics teaches us that energy is neither created or destroyed. But, it can change from one form to another.
All patterns in Nature are manifestations of energy conduits that facilitate energy flow from one pattern to another. There are smaller patterns inside larger patterns. Electrons and protons beget atoms. Atoms beget molecules. Molecules join to form our body organs, mountains, and oceans. In the course of this journey, energy changes into different useful forms.
The plants that grow on our Earth receive electromagnetic energy from the sun. Plants, using the chlorophyll in their leaves, transform that energy into chemical energy which is stored as carbohydrates. A byproduct of this process is oxygen that is expelled by the plant. In turn, we humans are energy transformers. We eat plants or eat creatures that eat plants. We inhale the oxygen produced by plants to facilitate the transformation of our food into a chemical compound called “ATP”. The purpose for ATP is to store energy for use by our bodies. The cells in our body parts, organs such as our lungs, blood, and liver, perform these energy transformations and store the byproducts.
Recently, modern science has found that energy is the creator of physical forms and shapes. These forms and shapes are created to accommodate and transform the flow of energy. For example, the sandy beach pattern, familiar to all beach combers, is created by the energy of the water that flows over the sand. The water molecules are formed into flowing streams. The water’s kinetic energy pushes the sand around to create an evolving physical pattern. The patterns are created because the sand accommodates the kinetic energy that causes water to flow.
The important point is that energy is the creative force that has formed the patterns we see. This recent view is advanced by Adrian Bejan. He calls these patterns “flow systems” because patterns in Nature are complex systems that facilitate the flow and transformation of energy.
From the shape of the universe, to the flowing water in a river, the structure of fish schools, and even human society, the entire physical world is shaped by such evolving flows of energy. Adrian Bejan calls this the “Constructal Law”. He says that natural objects are collections of networks that are created by energy flow and serve as channels for the flow and transformation of energy. Shape and structure arise to facilitate energy flow. The constructal law helps confirm that nothing operates in isolation; every flow system is part of a bigger flow system, shaped by and in service to the world around it. Everything is connected.
Bejan’s constructal law describes a unity in all inanimate and animate matter. His ideas draw predictions and parallels between the massive polar currents in our oceans, a single fish, the Internet, social organization, a tree, a forest, a brain, a river basin, and on and on. Similarities in the structure of river basins, lungs, roots and branches of trees, and traffic systems are explained with the concept of energy flow systems. Energy flow is the phenomenon that provides this unity.
So why am I making this distinction between patterns in Nature and energy flow? I can assure you that this distinction is much more than academic rigor. The idea is vital to human survival because any disruption of energy flow or transformation through energy carriers can cause major environmental changes that would affect life in Earth. Altering the flow of energy from the sun through harmful emissions is a familiar example. The necessity of the highly interconnected life process of energy transformation is why we humans must not tamper with or destroy these vital links within life.
Here is a real treat for you. In this video see and feel the energy of this osprey as he goes fishing.
Why Do I Write These Essays?
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.