After reading a synopsis of a paper by Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke, I have rarely been so embarrassed for the field of science. Bejan claims to have made a breakthrough discovery linking physics, biology and evolution. I'm embarrassed for two reasons. One, his 'breakthroughs' in physics seem rather obvious and Two, his comparisons with biology are thunderingly wrong.
He says that "The finding demonstrates that evolution doesn't apply only to biological things, but any physical system in motion". It is an extension of a physical law Bejan 'developed' ten years ago called the constructal law, which states that any flowing system allowed to change freely over time will trend toward an easier flowing architecture. In another jaw dropping revelation Bejan points out that bigger stones tend to roll further than small ones and rolling stones evolve to have less friction so that they can travel further. That is, they become rounder over time. "I'm showing that evolution is actually based in physics and that it is simply design change over time" he says.
His 'Aha!' observations are just restatements of the basic laws of physics, entropy, systems changing in the direction of lower energy states, etc. but his claimed breakthrough is how neatly it ties how physics works to how biology and evolution work.
What struck me is that exactly the opposite of what he is saying is true. As farmerman once pointed out, Biological systems are the only exception in the universe to the laws of physics in that they reverse entropy. While alive, they move from disorder to order, from low energy states to higher ones, they concentrate energy rather than disperse it. This is the exact opposite of all non-biological systems.
Here's a link to the article at physics.org: