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A crash course on Gibbs Free Energy (ΔG)
The Gibbs Free Energy is the measure of disorder in the universe after a reaction takes place.
There are some fun generalizations to be garnered from the idea of Gibbs Free Energy, represented as ΔG in thermodynamics, which is how I’ll refer to it for the rest of this crash explainer.
Without getting into the nitty gritty, we’ve learned through observation that systems will change spontaneously towards the state that has the greatest probability. The state that is the result of spontaneous reactions is also deemed the more ‘disordered’ state.
A common example is a box of 100 coins placed heads up. If you sweep them off the table, the most probable outcome is a 50/50 heads & tails arrangement. There is only 1 possible arrangement in which all coins fall heads up, which would be extremely unlikely and is therefore considered ordered.
How does order get created in the universe at all?
A reaction is described as energetically favorable if there is no energy input required for the reaction to take place.
Energetically favorable reactions have negative ΔG.
Energetically unfavorable reactions have positive ΔG, but these kinds of reactions can only take place when coupled with a second reaction with - ΔG so large that the overall ΔG is negative for the pair.
Here’s another example to better explain that idea:
You are holding a spring coil in your hands. You compress it by exerting force and the compressed state of that spring coil then stores potential energy in it’s more ordered state until it is released. The two reactions of your hand compressing the spring and the spring being compressed in this example have been coupled. You could say that the ΔG of the spring coil in it’s compressed state is positive, but only because it was coupled with your body, which could be said to have -ΔG after exerting the energy required to compress the spring coil.
These kinds of processes are happening 24/7 inside your body. From organ to organ to cell to cell to peptide bond to peptide bond between amino acids and presumably so on.
Could the same be said for the macro?
The Main Ideas —
The more disordered outcome is the most probable one.
Order can only be created as it’s coupled with a greater release of disorder.
This musing has been inspired by a book I’m currently chugging through, The Molecular Biology of the Cell.
Next Week, I’m going to ask you if you see what I see and offer some examples of inflation in my corner of the world.