Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Entropy


Although studies have provided estimates of premature deaths attributable to either heat or cold in selected countries, none has so far offered a systematic assessment across the whole temperature range in populations exposed to different climates. We aimed to quantify the total mortality burden attributable to non-optimum ambient temperature, and the relative contributions from heat and cold and from moderate and extreme temperatures.

Concepts: Demography, Climate, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Entropy, Cold, Thermal radiation


Human intelligence comprises comprehension of and reasoning about an infinitely variable external environment. A brain capable of large variability in neural configurations, or states, will more easily understand and predict variable external events. Entropy measures the variety of configurations possible within a system, and recently the concept of brain entropy has been defined as the number of neural states a given brain can access. This study investigates the relationship between human intelligence and brain entropy, to determine whether neural variability as reflected in neuroimaging signals carries information about intellectual ability. We hypothesize that intelligence will be positively associated with entropy in a sample of 892 healthy adults, using resting-state fMRI. Intelligence is measured with the Shipley Vocabulary and WASI Matrix Reasoning tests. Brain entropy was positively associated with intelligence. This relation was most strongly observed in the prefrontal cortex, inferior temporal lobes, and cerebellum. This relationship between high brain entropy and high intelligence indicates an essential role for entropy in brain functioning. It demonstrates that access to variable neural states predicts complex behavioral performance, and specifically shows that entropy derived from neuroimaging signals at rest carries information about intellectual capacity. Future work in this area may elucidate the links between brain entropy in both resting and active states and various forms of intelligence. This insight has the potential to provide predictive information about adaptive behavior and to delineate the subdivisions and nature of intelligence based on entropic patterns.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Entropy, Intelligence, Intellectual giftedness


Mitochondria generate most of the heat in endotherms. Given some impedance of heat transfer across protein-rich bioenergetic membranes, mitochondria must operate at a higher temperature than body temperature in mammals and birds. But exactly how much hotter has been controversial, with physical calculations suggesting that maximal heat gradients across cells could not be greater than 10-5 K. Using the thermosensitive mitochondrial-targeted fluorescent dye Mito Thermo Yellow (MTY), Chrétien and colleagues suggest that mitochondria are optimised to nearly 50 °C, 10 °C hotter than body temperature. This extreme value questions what temperature really means in confined far-from-equilibrium systems but encourages a reconsideration of thermal biology.

Concepts: Energy, Thermoregulation, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Entropy, Internal energy, Heat transfer


Previous experimental study measuring the binding affinities of biotin to the wild type streptavidin (WT) and three mutants (S45A, D128A and S45A/D128A double mutant) has shown that the loss of binding affinity from the double mutation is larger than the direct sum of those from two single mutations. The origin of this cooperativity has been investigated in this work through molecular dynamics simulations and the end-state free energy method using the polarized protein-specific charge. The results show that this cooperativity comes from both the enthalpy and entropy contributions. The former contribution mainly comes from the alternations of solvation free energy. Decomposition analysis shows that the mutated residues nearly have no contributions to the cooperativity. Instead, N49 and S88, which are located at the entry of the binding pocket and interact with the carboxyl group of biotin, make the dominant contribution among all the residues in the first binding shell around biotin.

Concepts: DNA, Mutation, Energy, Mutant, Chemistry, Entropy, Gibbs free energy, Affinity


Rumor spreading can have a significant impact on people’s lives, distorting scientific facts and influencing political opinions. With technologies that have democratized the production and reproduction of information, the rate at which misinformation can spread has increased significantly, leading many to describe contemporary times as a ‘post-truth era’. Research into rumor spreading has primarily been based on either model of social and biological contagion, or upon models of opinion dynamics. Here we present a comprehensive model that is based on information entropy, which allows for the incorporation of considerations like the role of memory, conformity effects, differences in the subjective propensity to produce distortions, and variations in the degree of trust that people place in each other. Variations in the degree of trust are controlled by a confidence factor β, while the propensity to produce distortions is controlled by a conservation factor K. Simulations were performed using a Barabási-Albert (BA) scale-free network seeded with a single piece of information. The influence of β and K upon the temporal evolution of the system was subsequently analyzed regarding average information entropy, opinion fragmentation, and the range of rumor spread. These results can aid in decision-making to limit the spread of rumors.

Concepts: Entropy, Information theory, Data compression, Arithmetic coding, Self-information


Molecular dynamics (MD) simulation in the explicit water is performed to study the interaction mechanism of trypsin-ligand binding under the AMBER force field and polarized protein-specific charge (PPC) force field combined the new developed highly efficient interaction entropy (IE) method for calculation of entropy change. And the detailed analysis and comparison of the results of MD simulation for two trypsin-ligand systems show that the root-mean-square deviation (RMSD) of backbone atoms, B-factor, intra-protein and protein-ligand hydrogen bonds are more stable under PPC force field than AMBER force field. Our results demonstrate that the IE method is superior than the traditional normal mode (Nmode) method in the calculation of entropy change and the calculated binding free energy under the PPC force field combined with the IE method is more close to the experimental value than other three combinations (AMBER-Nmode, AMBER-IE and PPC-Nmode). And three critical hydrogen bonds between trypsin and ligand are broken under AMBER force field. However, they are well preserved under PPC force field. Detailed binding interactions of ligands with trypsin are further analyzed. The present work demonstrates that the polarized force field combined the highly efficient IE method is critical in MD simulation and free energy calculation.

Concepts: Energy, Molecular dynamics, Fundamental physics concepts, Chemistry, Atom, Entropy, Gibbs free energy, AMBER


Previous studies have shown that the metabolizable energy (ME) content (energy available to the body) of certain nuts is less than predicted by the Atwater factors. However, very few nuts have been investigated to date, and no information is available regarding the ME of walnuts.

Concepts: Entropy


The term ‘stress’ - coined in 1936 - has many definitions, but until now has lacked a theoretical foundation. Here we present an information-theoretic approach - based on the ‘free energy principle’ - defining the essence of stress; namely, uncertainty. We address three questions: What is uncertainty? What does it do to us? What are our resources to master it? Mathematically speaking, uncertainty is entropy or ‘expected surprise’. The ‘free energy principle’ rests upon the fact that self-organizing biological agents resist a tendency to disorder and must therefore minimize the entropy of their sensory states. Applied to our everyday life, this means that we feel uncertain, when we anticipate that outcomes will turn out to be something other than expected - and that we are unable to avoid surprise. As all cognitive systems strive to reduce their uncertainty about future outcomes, they face a critical constraint: Reducing uncertainty requires cerebral energy. The characteristic of the vertebrate brain to prioritize its own high energy is captured by the notion of the ‘selfish brain’. Accordingly, in times of uncertainty, the selfish brain demands extra energy from the body. If, despite all this, the brain cannot reduce uncertainty, a persistent cerebral energy crisis may develop, burdening the individual by ‘allostatic load’ that contributes to systemic and brain malfunction (impaired memory, atherogenesis, diabetes and subsequent cardio- and cerebrovascular events). Based on the basic tenet that stress originates from uncertainty, we discuss the strategies our brain uses to avoid surprise and thereby resolve uncertainty.

Concepts: Brain, Energy, Physics, Cognition, Entropy, Gibbs free energy, Statistical mechanics, Conservation of energy


Minimizing energy dissipation has emerged as the key challenge in continuing to scale the performance of digital computers. The question of whether there exists a fundamental lower limit to the energy required for digital operations is therefore of great interest. A well-known theoretical result put forward by Landauer states that any irreversible single-bit operation on a physical memory element in contact with a heat bath at a temperature T requires at least k B T ln(2) of heat be dissipated from the memory into the environment, where k B is the Boltzmann constant. We report an experimental investigation of the intrinsic energy loss of an adiabatic single-bit reset operation using nanoscale magnetic memory bits, by far the most ubiquitous digital storage technology in use today. Through sensitive, high-precision magnetometry measurements, we observed that the amount of dissipated energy in this process is consistent (within 2 SDs of experimental uncertainty) with the Landauer limit. This result reinforces the connection between “information thermodynamics” and physical systems and also provides a foundation for the development of practical information processing technologies that approach the fundamental limit of energy dissipation. The significance of the result includes insightful direction for future development of information technology.

Concepts: Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Computer, Entropy, Statistical mechanics, Dissipation, Thermodynamic system


Cooling is a significant end-use of energy globally and a major driver of peak electricity demand. Air conditioning, for example, accounts for nearly fifteen per cent of the primary energy used by buildings in the United States. A passive cooling strategy that cools without any electricity input could therefore have a significant impact on global energy consumption. To achieve cooling one needs to be able to reach and maintain a temperature below that of the ambient air. At night, passive cooling below ambient air temperature has been demonstrated using a technique known as radiative cooling, in which a device exposed to the sky is used to radiate heat to outer space through a transparency window in the atmosphere between 8 and 13 micrometres. Peak cooling demand, however, occurs during the daytime. Daytime radiative cooling to a temperature below ambient of a surface under direct sunlight has not been achieved because sky access during the day results in heating of the radiative cooler by the Sun. Here, we experimentally demonstrate radiative cooling to nearly 5 degrees Celsius below the ambient air temperature under direct sunlight. Using a thermal photonic approach, we introduce an integrated photonic solar reflector and thermal emitter consisting of seven layers of HfO2 and SiO2 that reflects 97 per cent of incident sunlight while emitting strongly and selectively in the atmospheric transparency window. When exposed to direct sunlight exceeding 850 watts per square metre on a rooftop, the photonic radiative cooler cools to 4.9 degrees Celsius below ambient air temperature, and has a cooling power of 40.1 watts per square metre at ambient air temperature. These results demonstrate that a tailored, photonic approach can fundamentally enable new technological possibilities for energy efficiency. Further, the cold darkness of the Universe can be used as a renewable thermodynamic resource, even during the hottest hours of the day.

Concepts: Energy, Light, Sun, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Atmosphere, Entropy