The final state of an isolated system, in which no internal gradient does anymore exist and any coherent flow of energy has disappeared.
I. PRIGOGINE writes: "At thermodynamic equilibrium, complete disorder is reached and the probability is maximum" (1984, p. 436).
A curious consequence is that an isolated system would be completely devoid of any structure or function and, therefore not be anymore a system.
P. COVENEY states: "… equilibrium thermodynamics cannot… describe change, which is the very means by which we are aware of time…
"It is only by virtue of irreversible non-equilibrium processes that a system reaches a state of equilibrium. Life itself is a non-equilibrium process: ageing is irreversible. Equilibrium is reached only at death, when a decayed corpse crumbles into dust" (1990, p.50).
However, "near equilibrium" should be carefully distinguished from final static equilibrium. A system in near equilibrium is still a dynamic one: it is able to maintain its dynamic stability or homeostasis, by using some steady energy source from its environment.
Appearent paradoxes are due to the purely abstract and unrealistic character of the "isolated system" concept, and motivated PRIGOGINE's efforts to develop a more satisfactory thermodynamics of open systems, either close to equilibrium or far away from it.
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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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