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A 2005 thermodynamics humor version of a fourth law of thermodynamics. [9]
In thermodynamics, the fourth law of thermodynamics refers any of a number of various hypothetical or postulated statements regarding either energy, matter, temperature, time, or power principles in nature.

Newly stated fourth laws often have reference to evolution, in such a way that they are said to reconcile the increasing entropy tendencies of the second law. In the history of thermodynamics, there have been dozens of various supposed "fourth laws". [1]

The first mention of the idea of a ‘fourth law’ of thermodynamics seems to have occurred in the 1930s lectures of German chemist Walther Nernst, formulator of the third law. Specifically, at the end of a 1937 lecture at Oxford University, remembered vividly by English physical chemist Keith Laidler, Nernst commented that it took three people to formulate the first law, two for the second, but that he had been obliged to do the third all by himself; hence, by extrapolation, there could never be a fourth law. [8] A later 1990 restatement of this logic by American physicist Peter Landsberg is: [6]

“There cannot really be a fourth law for the following reason: There were three main personalities whose work led to the formulation of the first law: Mayer, Helmholtz, and Joule. Two people, Carnot and Clausius, were the main pioneers of the second law, while only one person, Nernst, was involved in the original statement of the third law. Thus nobody can formulate a fourth law. Now the zeroth law does not fit into this scheme, but then everybody knows about that law.”

In other words, Nernst (and later Landsberg) was using mathematical humor to say or argue that:

Number of people behind development of

3 Mayer, Joule, HelmholtzFirst law
2 Carnot and ClausiusSecond law
1NernstThird law
0Nobody (according to Nernst, via extrapolation of first column)Fourth law

No one, as history has shown, however, has ever seemed to heed this warning as to the impossibility of the forth law, as discussed below.

In 1952, Norwegian-born American physical chemist Lars Onsager's 1929 reciprocal relations began to be referred to as the fourth law of thermodynamics.

In 1972, American physicist Peter Landsberg began to refer to the far from equilibrium theories of Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine, specifically applied to living systems, as a fourth law of thermodynamics. [5]

In economic thermodynamics, Romanian-born American mathematical economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's 1977 statement that in a closed system, such as a human society, “material entropy must ultimately reach a maximum,” has popularly (or rather infamously) become known as the Georgescu's fourth law of thermodynamics [2] This statement has been paraphrased as “in a closed system it is impossible to completely recover the matter involved in the production of work.” [3]

Between 1992 and 2000, Sven Jorgensen has been aiming to promote the following statement “ecosystems attempt to develop toward a higher level of exergy” as a tentative fourth law. [7]

In 2000, American biochemist Stuart Kauffman posited a new fourth law, based on the logic of thermodynamic work cycles, to justify a view that in Darwinian evolution there exist chemical systems that act to better their own interest. [4]

Since about 2006, Romanian-born American mechanical engineer Adrian Bejan has been moving to position his 1996 constructal theory to position of a 'new principle of thermodynamics'. In 2009, he has begun to allude to the proposition that his theory is the fourth law of thermodynamics: [10]

“This body of empirical evidence forms the basis for a new law of nature that can be summarized as the constructal law. This ‘fourth law’ brings life and time explicitly into thermodynamics and creates a bridge between physics and biology.”

In 2010, Norwegian geneticist Bjorn Sponberg began promoting a religious thermodynamics themed fourth law.

Other uncited humorous versions of so-called forth laws include:

“If you can disprove the first three ... no funding for you!”
—Anon (Ѻ)

1. 15+ Variations of the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics - Institute of Human Thermodynamics
2. Corning, Peter A. (2005). Holistic Darwinism: Synergy, Cybernetics, and the Bioeconomics of Evolution. (pg. 337). University of Chicago Press.
3. Asafu-Adjaye, John. (2005). Environmental Economics for Non-economists (pg. 24). World Scientific.
4. Kauffman, Stuart. (2000). Investigations (pgs x-xi, 4-5). Oxford University Press.
5. (a)
Landsberg, Peter. (1972). “The Fourth Law of Thermodynamics (book review)”, Nature, 238: 229-31.
(b) Jorgensen, Sven E. (2001). Thermodynamics and Ecological Modeling (pg. 165). CRC Press.
6. Landsberg, Peter. (1990). Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (pg. 10). Dover.
7. Jorgensen, Sven and Muller, Felix. (2000). Handbook of Ecosystem Theories and Management (tentative fourth law of thermodynamics, pgs. 161-). CRC Press.
8. (a) Laidler, Keith. (1993). The World of Physical Chemistry (pg. 223). Oxford University Press.
(b) Wayne, Randy. (2009). Plant Cell Biology (pg. 216). Academic Press.
9. Fourth law of thermodynamics (sharing machine comics, 2005, Oct) –
10. Began, Adrian. (2009). “Science and Technology as Evolving Flow Architectures”, International Journal of Energy Research, 33: 112-25.

Further reading
● Morel, Richard E. and Fleck, George M. (2006). “A Fourth Law of Thermodynamics”, Chemistry, 15: 305-311.

External links
Fourth law of thermodynamics – Encyclopedia Britannica.

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