Panpsychism and Thermodynamics, Explored


T.A. Erikson,

R/E Unltd, (SdogV), Chicago, IL. (E-mail

Received: 24 August 2009; Published: December 2009





Roger Penrose's The Road to Reality1 has a final sentence, "Perhaps what we mainly need is some subtle change in perspective-- something that we all have missed….". This is motivation for revisiting panpsychism, an ancient theory that suggests all things have awareness, sense, and/or consciousness. With recent papers reporting increased attention to this subject, can a physicalist approach be fruitful? . Light requires mass to validate its existence. Mass requires time to prove likewise. Do these requirements suggest a basic "need" for such creatures? This article explores concepts that may exist between light and mass, life and gravity.


As a work in progress, this paper suggests a different way to look at the three variables; mass (as kg), distance (as m) and time (as sec). There may be a difference in the treatment of energy, as it pertains to elements of "force" that (1) causes mass movement through a distance in time, i.e. "acceleration" and (2) involves (evolves?) a distance growth of mass that exists in time, i.e. "stimulation*". Certainly, the surface area becomes significant as the boundary that exists between the surface of mass and its surroundings reaches the particle size of a molecule, an atom, an electron, a proton, or in combinations as a neutron. We also have the "massless" photon that also appears as a wave or particle. If panpsychism exists it must reside in the blurry region of tiny particles where area is influential.


* "Stimulation", kg/sec2 , viz.units of surface tension, coined by Diane Richards in 1998, (deceased on 2/13/04)


Panpsychism is a murky business. Encyclopedic overviews2, 3 suggest that, with no identifiable or measurable property, it is a subject of interest only to philosophers. Yet all matter responds accordingly to an environmental influence. For example, upon contacting a hot surface, a liquid may simply physically change to vapor whereas life forms have the physical response to move away (e.g., one's finger). The former is considered inanimate having an intrinsic programmed response, whereas the latter, being animate, develops from extrinsic factors of its environment. Consciousness, as opposed to a simple system response, emerges from exposures that lead to learning, control, and intelligence. Although life is claimed4 defunct, it would seem that motion and growth could require a closer look.

Processes of anabolism for growth and catabolism for motion maintain metabolic equilibrium in life forms. Plant to animal cycles of energy production to energy utilization is a good natural example of synergy. Photons of sunlight with no mass, electrons with mass and charge, and carbon dioxide interact in plants to produce anabolic growth and oxygen, while animals use this oxygen (and food) to produce catabolic motion and carbon dioxide. This and other such notions5 were presented at several Chicago Section AAPT meetings and explored in the Physics Forum on the Internet.

Thermodynamic Modeling

Nearly 50 years ago I was introduced to some new thermodynamic concepts6 by my adviser, Ralph J. Tykodi, now Professor Emeritus at Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (SMTI). He has authored two books7, 8 plus many technical publications to introduce new, as yet not accepted, ideas (He is better known for chess publications). In the preface 7, his words, "...This book does for the class of non-equilibrium situations involving stationary states and steady-rate processes what any good book on ordinary thermodynamics does for equilibrium situations:..." sums his view. Here, he applies "...only the concepts of heat, work, energy, and concepts derived therefrom", to various steady-rate processes, something seen as akin to life and a way to ultimately define panpsychism.

On page 12 7 Dr. Tykodi introduces Eq. (2.12), a "thermodynamic resistance" as an "entropy production term" divided by the square of a "suitably chosen rate parameter with respect to time." Whereas Newton's "acceleration" for motion defines a force to mass ratio, "stimulation" defines a force to distance ratio. With energy as a force times a distance, then by analogy and/or symmetry, "something?" involves a squared mass term, which is a parallel to gravity. Where light velocity limits motion to c, growth and decay may be governed by a mass per unit time term.

Motion force, or F (nt), that displaces mass, M (kg), some distance, d (m), causes acceleration, (m /sec2 ), and requires energy, E, as F x d, i.e. kg-m2/sec2 or joules. A growth or decay force, F* (Nt?), that replaces a distance in space, d* (m) with some mass, M* (kg) causes stimulation, (kg/sec2), i.e. units of surface tension, g , and evolves a similar "energy", E* , that should be equal to E, as F* x d*.

However, by symmetry with F x d, what can be F* x M*, i.e., (m-kg/sec2 )(kg)? Might this property identify a need or basis for mass growth, decay, and or lifetime, a k a panpsychistic controls? Note that its reciprocal times the 4th power of c times M* has the units of the gravity constant.


The first and second law of thermodynamics involves intensive and extensive variables, respectively temperature/pressure and volume/entropy. These define state functions. Rossini's idea of 1971, referred to by Thims 10 (p. 681), suggests that "freedom" and "security" determine equilibrium, as represented by enthalpy, temperature, and entropy values. To me, light has this freedom with unlimited time at maximum velocity, while mass seeks security by it's intrinsic growth/decay and metabolism for a limited time. Electromagnetic forces govern photons of light. Mass movement is governed by Newton's mechanical force. But the surface boundary between mass and light, where all kinds of unknown forces may act, is difficult to discern. This is particularly true for electrons of point-like character and photons with a mass of zero.


Pippard's treatment of vapor droplets 11 (p. 153) shows that available free energy maximizes at a critical radius, rc, defined by the ratio of twice surface tension,g , to the product of density, r , and an energy density difference, D E (as c 2 );

rc = 2 g / (r D E), (I)

having units (kg/sec2)/{(kg/m3 )( m2 /sec2 )} X meters

Therein lies a source of panpsychism, a critical radius of any mass where a maximum positive available free energy exists. There, the radius may increase or decrease, for a process such as evolution to proceed. Laser studies indicate extremely short times for atomic and molecular bond activity.

Such significance may to be associated with the seconds of "lifetimes" reported5 for electrons (~10-44), protons (~10-41), and Planck mass (~10 0, i.e. "1") with the function, K M2 c2. "K" is the inverse of a reported9 metabolic rate range of 0.3 to 9 watts/kg (i.e. ~"1") for 1648 species of life, shown in Figure 1. The range of mass is nearly 20 orders of magnitude. Do electrons have stability? , Do photons desire recognition?

"Force" is considered here as an unusual combination of the products of motion, m/sec, and growth, kg/sec., ignoring "charge" as far as possible. Momentum, is considered as products of mass and velocity while acceleration of motion is m/sec2 and "stimulation" of growth is kg/sec2. Now Planck's constant is usually considered as an energy-time product. Can it also represent a growth-area product (kg/sec) m2? For the surface areas of assumed "point" particles such as electrons (and photons?), stimulation as " kg/sec2 " would be enormous. Radiation expressed by the Stefan-Boltzman law as kg/sec3 multiplied by time then implies a source for stimulation.

Young's "Essays" 12 on "jerk" and a chart, Figure 2 on degrees of freedom, are of influence here. Recently, this work-in-progress includes; Thomas's What is Reality?13, Kelly's Technium14 , Kafatos's The Conscious Universe15 , and others16-19, with over 100 collected sources on computer files still under consideration. Rucker, an admitted panpsychist/hylozoist, in his presentation20, Everything is Life, uses "gnarly" to describe the needs of energy as mass, light, life, and/or gravity in Physics. In short, the photon-time-surface involvement of small particles, where Planck's quanta prevail might be a source for panpsychism.











Note added in proof:

As a work in progress to introduce present status, emphasis is on dimensional units; kg, m, and sec, But kg/ sec as growth and kg/sec2 as stimulation are not usual in Physics. Mass and time are ubiquitous. Biophysics will require "something missed"!
Rigden's book on Hydrogen21 lists six experimental measurements that identify a dimensionless fine structure constant, a , as 0.00729735308, with no theory or model to calculate it. He quotes Purcell's "With respect to a we are in the rather humiliating position of people who have to wrap a string around a cylinder to determine p ." Geometrical considerations22 show surface-to-volume (S/V) as (S3/V2) to be dimensionless, which for a sphere is 113 and for a regular tetrahedron is 374. At least four non-collinear points are required to define the "space" occupied by mass, therefore in Euclidean geometry the sphere and the regular tetrahedron represent the least-to-most surface activity per unit volume (ignoring the more complicated irregular tetrahedron). The fact that the ratio (113/374), equal to 0.302, when raised to the 4th power gives 0.00802 (of same order as a ) seems more than coincidental.
Pursuing this idea, a simple experiment using a constant chosen clay volume of 43.8 cm3 was performed. Molded as a sphere, (S/V)Sp , and as ~oblate by pressing to a flat disc (S/V)Ob , and ~prolate by rolling into a long rod, (S/V)Pr spheroids it resulted in more than 2 orders of magnitude for the dimensionless series, spheres to oblate to prolate spheroidal shapes. Further, the ratio of minor to major axiis of particular spheroid approximations can be shown, relative to a sphere, to produce 0.2923, which raised to the 4th power is 0.007297, a 4-significant figure determination of a .
A simple hierarchy of mass is; particles-atoms-molecules-smallclusters-bigclusters. Without charge or photons in the mix at the atomic level, protons and electrons involve mass ratios of ~2000. Energy-volume ratio, E/V, is pressure, P, while energy-mass ratio, E/M, is c2. These, as a ratio, produce density, r , such that P=r c2. Imposing a liquid-vapor model23 requires equilibrium of pressures, such that nucleus to electron densities are of order 1016 to 1 A proton of ~2000 electron masses might be initially held together by gravity at the critical radius of Eq. ( I ). There would be tremendous pressure and energy potential to eject 1/2000th of it's mass. Are the proton and electron within the hydrogen atom always the same ones or do they resonate? In reference to an electron's mass and charge in the absence of measured mass and charge, Rigden21 (p. 168) asks, "In the words of the trade, what are the bare mass and bare charge?"
Being independent of time, light has freedom, while mass has a time dependent security that is governed by a surface boundary with it's environment. The need of mass for more time requires "growth" and involves light, charge, and gravity. Returning to the subject of panpsychism and thermodynamics, the dimensionless ratio, (S/V)Sp , (for the sphere), represents a state of least interaction with it's surrounding environment, thus the most stable geometrical structure. Using this as a reference state, any departure to another structural state incurs instability. The ratio of these "states" represents a compromise between mass and time. "Consciousness" may be presumed to be the recognition of a physical need for growth to larger, and more irregular structures, for longer duration of existence. For those wishing clarification, more detail, or wish to comment on the several aspects of this work-in-progress, you may e-mail the author at






FIGURE 1- Courtesy of reference (9)


FIGURE 2- Courtesy of reference (12)




(1) Penrose, P. The Road to Reality, Knopf, New York,NY (2005)

(2) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (cites (a) 63 references dated from 1889 to 2005, (b) 3 Internet resources by Chalmers, More, and Skrbina, and (c) 19 related entries at Stanford's site.

(3) More, T., Panpsychism, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI, New York, Robert Appelton, (1911) (

(4) Thims, L.,"Life, a Defunct Scientific Theory",

(5) Erikson, T. (notions of geometry, allometry, growth, panpsychism) Chicago Section AAPT, 2/13/04, 11/10/07, 3/15/08, and 4/18/09 and on the Internet,

(6) Erikson, T.,M.S. Thesis, Thermodynamics of Steady States, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1959

(7) Tykodi, R.J. Thermodynamics of Steady States, Macmillan (1967)

(8) Tykodi,R.J. Thermodynamics of Systems (In Non-equilibrium States), Thinkers Press, Davenport IA (2002)

(9) Pacala, P., Princeton University, July 24,2008 "Evidence for Life's Metabolic Optimum"

(10) Thims, L., Human Chemistry VII, Vol. II, LuLu Press, Morrisville, NC (2007)

(11) Pippard, A.B. Elements of Chemical Thermodynamics, Cambridge University Press, 1964

(12) Young, A. , "Essays",

(13) Thomas, A. "What is Reality?", Arrow of Time,

(14) Kelly, K., "Thoughts-in-Progress on the Technium", Extropy

(15) Kafatos, M. and Nadeau, R. The Conscious Universe, Springer-Verlag, New York (1990)

(16) Halliday, D. and Resnick, R. , PHYSICS , 3rd Printing, John Wiley, New York (1963)

(17) Shimojo, M. V and VI Growth Jerk and Solutions to Simple Differential Equations, J. Fac. Agri., Kyoshu Univ., 52, (1) (2007)

(18) Cline, J. The Origin of Matter, American Scientist, 92, 148-184 (2004)

(19) Srinizasan, G. Secrets of Sankhya; Acme of Scientific Unification

(20) Rucker, R., Proceedings of Kyoto Conference, What is Life? October 2007.

(21 Rigden, J., HYDROGEN, The Essential Element, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA (2002)

(22) Erikson, T., "The Geometry of Structure", AAS/APT Mtg. San Francisco Jan. 17. (1989)

(23) Erikson, T. "Mass Accommodation Coefficients at Liquid-Vapor Boundary", J. Phys. Chem. 64, (1969)