Law and Disorder: Chance fluctuations can rule the nanorealm | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News

Law and Disorder: Chance fluctuations can rule the nanorealm

By
8:42am, July 24, 2002

Whether it's the gasoline-to-motion transformation of automobiles or the electricity-to-cooling action of refrigerators, all processes squander energy. They vent that waste in the form of heat. It's a law of thermodynamics, and no one has ever witnessed a sustained violation of it.

On the minute scales of cells and molecules, however, brief reversals of the usual rules routinely occur. Tiny mechanisms run in reverse or draw their power from random, normally untappable thermal motion in the surroundings. Such small systems, on average, still obey thermodynamics laws, although some theorists predict that certain quantum structures may not (SN: 10/7/00, p. 234: http://www.sciencenews.org/20001007/bob1.asp). Now, researchers in Australia report that they have experimentally confirmed a theory that enables them to predict how often and under what circumstances reversals will dominate the behavior of a classical tiny system.

The new observations could become a reality check

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

[title_1]
From the Nature Index Paid Content