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Correction published on 2 June 2016, see Entropy 2016, 18(6), 219.

Open AccessArticle
Entropy 2016, 18(4), 138; doi:10.3390/e18040138

The Free Energy Requirements of Biological Organisms; Implications for Evolution

Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
Academic Editors: John Baez, John Harte and Marc Harper
Received: 8 February 2016 / Revised: 24 March 2016 / Accepted: 8 April 2016 / Published: 13 April 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Information and Entropy in Biological Systems)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [331 KB, uploaded 2 June 2016]


Recent advances in nonequilibrium statistical physics have provided unprecedented insight into the thermodynamics of dynamic processes. The author recently used these advances to extend Landauer’s semi-formal reasoning concerning the thermodynamics of bit erasure, to derive the minimal free energy required to implement an arbitrary computation. Here, I extend this analysis, deriving the minimal free energy required by an organism to run a given (stochastic) map π from its sensor inputs to its actuator outputs. I use this result to calculate the input-output map π of an organism that optimally trades off the free energy needed to run π with the phenotypic fitness that results from implementing π. I end with a general discussion of the limits imposed on the rate of the terrestrial biosphere’s information processing by the flux of sunlight on the Earth. View Full-Text
Keywords: thermodynamics of computation; Landauer bound; information processing rate of the biosphere thermodynamics of computation; Landauer bound; information processing rate of the biosphere
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Wolpert, D.H. The Free Energy Requirements of Biological Organisms; Implications for Evolution. Entropy 2016, 18, 138.

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