W. KOHLER writes: "Life has sometimes been compared to a flame (e.g. ROUX, 1914, p.17,p.79). This is more than a poetical metaphor, since, from the point of view of function and energetics, life and flame have actually much in common. The flame, say a candle, is a steady state. The continued existence of this state involves a continual supply of potential energy which the flame receives as "food" through the wick and as oxygen from the air…
"We light a candle with a match. On the wick there appears at first a tiny flame. This flame grows spontaneously until it attains a maximum size and at the same time a certain shape, which then remains unaltered.
"(When) the flame begins to grow… gradients are set up both for the food and the oxygen. The flame begins to grow, and these gradients increase correspondingly… But there is a limit to this process. When a certain size and a certain maximum of combustion have been reached, any further growth of the flame would lead to a higher demand than is compatible with the possible speed of oxygen diffusion from the surrounding air and with that of the food-stream which passes through the wick" (1969, p.34).
The energy consumption thus settles at the maximum compatible with the system's nature (in this case physical) in relation to the environmental conditions. In an atmosphere of pure oxygen, this maximum would be higher, but if we place the flame within some enclosure, it burns up the oxygen and dies out. Dynamic stability is thus a transformation mode of energy and is not specific to living systems only.
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To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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