The Theory of Cosmic Evolution

Faculty insight with Eric Chaisson

Eric J. Chaisson, an astrophysicist at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, discusses the theory of cosmic evolution with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast.

Video interview with Eric Chaisson 

Eric Chaisson, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is the chief advocate for the theory of cosmic evolution. Cosmic evolution is the study of change, whether changes in the universe, radiation, matter, or life.

Chaisson is focusing on how to address the issue of complexity and the flow of energy through systems. This appeals to the second law of thermodynamics, which is also known as the entropy law. It explains how, as the universe expands, entropy is increasing.

The dilemma of reconciling this law is that, seemingly, systems are growing more complex and are circumventing the law. But the systems are actually in accord with the law because systems are only complex for a limited amount of time. For example, galaxies are around for billions of years and humans are alive for 70 years on average in the West.

Most of the universe is characterized by increased entropy and dark matter we cannot specify. Chaisson is interested in the systems embedded in this universe and how, despite the universe expanding, the systems maintain their viability. Chaisson argues that the theory of cosmic evolution will never be complete, and he is now working on a thermodynamic model of the flow of energy through a whole spectrum of systems.

Eric Chaisson’s course and books

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