Problem: Do biological systems contradict the second law of thermodynamics? By taking energy from their surroundings and synthesizing large, complex biological molecules, plants and animals tend to concentrate energy, not disperse it.How can this be so?

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In this problem, we are asked if biological systems contradict the second law of thermodynamics


Recall that the second law of thermodynamics states that: “the entropy of the universe increases.

  • Entropy is the degree of randomness or disorder in a system.


The system is the part of the universe that is of interest.

  • There are three types of system.
    1. An open system can exchange both energy and matter with its surroundings.
    2. closed system can exchange only energy with its surroundings, not matter.
    3. An isolated system is one that cannot exchange either matter or energy with its surroundings


The surroundings is everything that is not included in the system.

The universe is the combination of the system and the surroundings.


To answer this problem, let us first define what kind of systems are biological systems.

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Problem Details

Do biological systems contradict the second law of thermodynamics? By taking energy from their surroundings and synthesizing large, complex biological molecules, plants and animals tend to concentrate energy, not disperse it.

How can this be so?

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What scientific concept do you need to know in order to solve this problem?

Our tutors have indicated that to solve this problem you will need to apply the Second and Third Laws of Thermodynamics concept. If you need more Second and Third Laws of Thermodynamics practice, you can also practice Second and Third Laws of Thermodynamics practice problems.