Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Second Scientific Lecture-Course:
Warmth Course
GA 321

Lecture VIII

8 March 1920, Stuttgart

My dear friends,

Yesterday we carried out an experiment which brought to your attention the fact that mechanical work exerted by friction of a rotating paddle in a mass of water has changed into heat. You were shown that the water in which the paddle turned became warmer.

Today we will do just the opposite. We showed yesterday that we must in some ways seek an explanation for the coming of heat into existence upon the expenditure of work. Now let us follow the reverse process. We will first of all heat this air (see Figures at end of Chapter) using a flame, raise the pressure of the vapor, and thus bring about a mechanical effect by means of heat, in a way similar to that by which all steam engines are moved. Heat is turned into work through pressure change. By letting the pressure come through from one side we raise the bell up and by letting the vapor cool, the pressure is lessened, the bell goes down again and we have performed mechanical work, consistive in this up and down movement. We can see the condensation water which reappears when we cool, and runs into this flask. After we have let the entire process take place, after the heat that we have produced here has transformed itself into work, let us determine whether this heat has been entirely transformed into the up and down movement of the bell or whether some of it has been lost. The heat not changed into work must appear as such in the water. In case of a complete transformation the condensation water would not show any rise in temperature. If there is a rise in temperature which we can determine by noting whether the thermometer shows a temperature above the ordinary, then this temperature rise comes from the heat we have supplied. In this case, we could not say that the heat has been completely changed over into work; there would be portion remaining over. Thus we can ascertain whether the whole of the heat has gone over into work or whether some of it appears as heat in the condensate. The water is 20° and we can see whether the condensate is 20° or shows a higher temperature indicating a loss of heat to this condensate. Now we condense the vapor; the condensate water drops in the flask. A machine can be run in this way. If the experiment succeeds fully, you may determine for yourselves that the condensate shows a considerable increase in temperature. In this way we can demonstrate, when we carry out the reverse of yesterday's experiment, that it is not possible to get back as mechanical work in the form of up and down movement of the bell all the heat left over. The heat used in producing work does not change completely, but a portion always remains.

We wish first to grasp this phenomenon. Now let us consider how ordinary physics and those who use ordinary physical principles handle these things.

We have at the beginning to deal with the fact that we in fact do change heat into work and work into heat just as it is said we do. As previously stated an extension of this idea has been made. It is supposed that every form of so-called energy—heat energy, mechanical energy, and the experiment may be made with other forms—that all such energies are mutually changeable the one into the other. We will for the moment neglect the quantitative aspect of the transformation and consider only the fact. Now, the modern physicist says: It is therefore impossible for energy to arise anywhere except from energy of another sort already present. If I have a closed system of energy, let us say of a certain form, and another energy appears, then this must be considered as transformation of the energy already present in the closed system. In a closed system, energy can never appear except as a transformation product. Eduard von Hartmann, who, as I have said, expressed current physical views in the form of philosophical concepts, states the so-called first law of the mechanical theory of heat as follows: “A perpetuum mobile of the first kind is impossible.”

Now we come to the second series of phenomena illustrated for us by today's experiment. This is that in an energy system apparently closed, we have one form of energy changing over to another form. In this transformation however, it is apparent that a certain law underlies the process and this law is related to the quality of the energy. In this case of heat energy, the relation is such that it cannot go over completely to mechanical energy, but there is always a certain amount unchanged. Thus it is impossible in a closed system to transform completely all the heat energy into its mechanical equivalent. If this were possible the reverse transformation of mechanical energy completely into heat energy would also be possible. We would then have in a closed energy system one type of energy transformed into another. This law is stated, again by Eduard von Hartmann, as follows: A closed energy system in which for instance, the entire amount of heat could be changed into work, or where work could be completely changed into heat, when a cycle of complete transformation could exist, this would be a perpetuum mobile of the second type. But, says he, a perpetuum mobile of the second type is impossible. Fundamentally, these two are the principle laws of the mechanical theory of heat as this theory is understood by thinkers in the realm of physics in the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century.

“A perpetuum mobile of the first type is an impossibility.” This concept is intimately connected with the history of physics in the 19th century. The first person to call attention to this change of heat into other forms of energy or vice-versa was Julius Robert Mayer. He had observed, as a physician, that the venous blood showed a different behavior in the tropics and in the colder regions, and from this concluded that there was a different sort of physiological work involved in the human organism in the two cases. Using principally these experiences, he later presented a somewhat confused theory which as he worked it out meant little more than this, that it was possible to transform one type of energy into another. The matter was then taken up by various people, Helmholtz among others, and further developed. In the case of Helmholtz a characteristic form of physical-mechanical thinking was taken as the starting point for these things.

If we consider the most important treatise by which Helmholtz sought to support the mechanical theory of heat in the forties of the 19th century, we see that such ideas as expressed by Hartmann are really postulated as their foundation. A perpetuum mobile of the first type is impossible. Since it is impossible the various forms of energy must be transformations of each other. No form of energy can arise from nothing. The axiom from which we proceed—“a perpetuum mobile of the first type is impossible”—can be changed into another: the sum of the energy in the universe is constant. Energy never is created, never disappears, it is only transformed. The sum of the energy in the universe is constant.

These two principles fundamentally, then, mean precisely the same thing. “There is no perpetuum mobile of the first type.” “The sum of all the energy in the cosmos is constant.” Now applying the method of thinking that we have used before in all our observations, let us throw a little light on this whole point of view.

Note now, when we make an experiment with the object of transforming heat into what we call work, that some of the heat is lost so far as the transformation is concerned. Heat reappears as such and only a portion of it can be turned into the other energy form, the mechanical form. What we learn from this experiment we may apply to the cosmos. This is what the 19th century investigators did. They reasoned somewhat as follows: “In the world about us work is present and heat is present. Processes are continually going on by which heat is transformed into work. We see that heat must be present if we would produce work. Only recollect how great a part of our technical achievements rest on the fact that we produce work by the use of heat. But it always comes out that we cannot completely transform heat into work, a portion remains as heat. And since this is so, these remainders not capable of yielding work, accumulate. These non-transformable residues accumulate. And the universe approaches a condition in which all mechanical work will have been turned into heat.”

It has even been said that the universe in which we live is approaching what has been learnedly called its “warmth-death.” We will speak in coming lectures of the so-called entropy concept. For the present our interest lies in the fact that certain ideas have been drawn from experiment bearing on the fate of the universe in which we find ourselves.

Eduard von Hartmann has presented the matter very neatly. He says: physical observation shows that the world-process in the midst of which we live, exhibits two sorts of phenomena. In the end, however, all mechanical work can be produced, and the universe will have to come to an end. Thus says Eduard von Hartmann; physical phenomena shows that the world process is running down. This is the way he expresses himself about the conditions within which we live. We live in a universe whose processes preserve us, but which has a tendency to become more and more sluggish and finally to lapse into a state of complete inaction. I am merely repeating Eduard von Hartmann's own words.

Now we must make clear to ourselves the following point. Is there ever really the possibility of calling forth a series of processes in a closed system? Note well what I am saying. If I consider the totality of my experimental implements, I certainly am not myself in a vacuum, in empty space. And even when I believe myself to be standing in empty space, I am still not entirely certain but that this empty space is empty only because I am unable to perceive what is really in it. Do I therefore ever really carry out my experiments in a closed system? Is it not so that what I carry out in the simplest experiment has to be thought of as dovetailed into the world process immediately around me? Can I conceive of the matter otherwise than in this fashion, that when I do all these things it is as though I took a small needle and pricked myself here? When I prick myself here I experience pain which prevents me from having an idea that I would otherwise have had. It is quite certain indeed, that I cannot consider merely the prick of the needle and the reaction of the skin and muscles as the whole of the process. In such a case I would not be placing the whole process before my eyes. The process is not entirely contained in these factors. Imagine for a moment that I am so clumsy as to pick up a needle, prick myself and experience the pain. I will pull the needle away. What appears thus as an effect is very definitely not comprehended when I hold in mind only what goes on in the skin. The drawing back of the needle is in reality nothing other than a continuation of what I apprehend when I hold before my mind the first part of the process. If I wish to describe the whole process, I must take into account that I have not stuck the needle into my clothes, but into my organism. This organism must be considered as a regulating whole, calling forth the consequences of the needle prick.

Is it legitimate for me to speak of an experiment such as we have before our eyes in the following way: “I have produced heat, and caused mechanical work. The heat not transformed remains over in the condensation water as heat.” It is not in this way that I stand in relation to the whole thing. The production or retention of heat, the passage of it into the condensation water are related to the reaction of the whole great system as the reaction of my whole organism is to the small activity of being pricked with the needle. What must be taken into account especially is: That it is never valid for me to consider an experimental procedure as a closed system. I must keep in mind that this whole experimental procedure falls under the influence of energies that work out of this environment.

Consider along with this another fact. Suppose you have to begin with a vessel containing a liquid with its liquid surface which implies an action of forces at right angles to this surface. Suppose now that through cooling, this liquid goes over into a solid state. It is impossible for you to think of the matter otherwise than that the forces in the liquid are short through by another set of forces. For the liquid forces are such as to make it imperative that I hold this liquid, say water, in a vessel. The only form assumed by the water on its own account is the upper surface. When by solidification a definite form arises it is absolutely necessary to assume that forces are added to those formerly present. More observation convinces us of it. And it is quite absurd to think that the forces creating the form are present in some way or other in the water itself. For if they were there they would create the form in the water. They are thus added to the system, but must have come into it from the outside. If we simply take the phenomenon as it is presented to us we are obliged to say: when a form appears, it represents as a matter of fact a new creation. If we simply consider what we can determine from observation we have to think of the form as a new creation. It is simply a matter of observation that we bring about the solid state from the fluid. We see that the form arises as a new creation. And this form disappears when we change the solid back into a liquid. One simply rests on that which is given as an observable fact. What follows now from this whole process when one makes it over into a concept? It follows that the solid seeks to make itself an independent unit, that it tends to build a closed system, that it enters into a struggle with its surroundings in order to become a closed system.

I might put the matter in this way, that here in the solidification of a liquid we can actually lay our hands on nature's attempt to attain a perpetuum mobile. But the perpetuum mobile does not arise because the system is not left to itself but is worked upon by its whole environment. The view may therefore be advanced: in space as given us, there is always present the tendency for a perpetuum mobile to arise. But a counter tendency appears at once. We can therefore say that wherever the tendency arises to form a perpetuum mobile, the opposite tendency arises in the environment to prevent this. If you will orient your thinking in this way you will see that you have altered the abstract method of modern 19th century physics through and through. The latter starts from the proposition: a perpetuum mobile is impossible, therefore etc. etc. If one stands by the facts the matter has to be stated thus: a perpetuum mobile is always striving to arise. Only the constitution of the cosmos prevents it.

And the form of the solid, what is it? It is the impress of the struggle. This structure that forms itself in the solid is the impress of the struggle between the substance as individuality which strives to form a perpetuum mobile and the hindrance to its formation by the great whole in which the perpetuum mobile seeks to arise. The form of a body is the result of opposition to this striving to form a perpetuum mobile. It might be better understood in some quarters if, instead of perpetuum mobile, I spoke of a self-contained unit, carrying its own forces within itself and its own form-creating power.

Thus we arrive at a point where we have to reverse completely the entire point of view, the manner of thinking of 19th century physics. Physics itself, insofar as it rests on experiment, which deals with facts, we do not have to modify. The physical way of thinking works with concepts that are not valid and it cannot realize that nature strives universally for that which it holds as impossible. For this manner of thinking it is quite easy to consider the perpetuum mobile as impossible, but it is not impossible because of the abstract reasons advanced by the physicists. It is impossible because the instant the perpetuum mobile strives to establish itself in any given body, at that instant the environment becomes jealous, if I may borrow an expression from the realm of morals, and does not let the perpetuum mobile arise. It is impossible because of facts and not because of logic. You can appreciate how twisted a theory is that departs from reality in its very foundation postulate. If the facts are adhered to, it is not possible to get around what I presented to you yesterday in a preliminary sketchy way. We will elaborate this sketchy presentation in the next few days.

I said to you: we have, to begin with, the realm of solids. Solids are the bodies which manifest in definite forms. We have, touching on the realm of the solids as it were, the realm of fluids. Form is dissolved, disappears, when solids become liquids. In the gaseous bodies we have a striving in all directions, a complete formlessness—negative form. Now how does this negative form manifest itself? If we look in an unbiased manner on gaseous or aeriform bodies we can see in these that which may be considered as corresponding to the entity elsewhere manifested as form. Yesterday I called your attention to the realm of acoustics, the tone world. In the gas, as you know, the manifestation of tone arises through condensations and rarefactions. But when we change the temperature we also have to do with condensation and rarefaction in the body of the gas as a whole. Thus if we pass over the liquid state and seek to find in the gas what corresponds to form in the solid, we must look for it in condensation and rarefaction. In the solid we have a definite form; in the gas, condensation and rarefaction.

And now we pass to the realm next adjacent to the gaseous. Just as the fluid realm borders on the solid, and just as we know how the solid pictures the fluid, the fluid gives the foreshadowing of the gaseous, so the gas pictures the realm which we must conceive as lying next to the gaseous, i.e. the realm of heat. The realm lying next above heat, we will have to postulate for the time being and call it the X region.

Gas—Negative FormCondensation-rarefaction

If now, I seek to advance further, at first merely through analogy, I must look in this X region for something corresponding to but beyond condensation and rarefaction (this will be verified in our subsequent considerations.) I must look for something else there in the X region, passing over heat, just as we passed over the fluid state below. If you begin with a definitely formed body, then imagine it to become gaseous and by this process to have simply changed its original form into another manifesting as rarefaction and condensation and if then you think of the condensation and rarefaction as heightened in degree, what is the result? As long as condensation and rarefaction are present, obvious matter is still there. But now, if you rarefy further and further you finally pass entirely out of the realm of the material. And this extension we have spoken of must, if we are to be consistent, be made thus: a material-becoming—a spiritual-becoming. When you pass over the heat realm into the X realm you enter a region where you are obliged to speak of the condition in a certain way. Holding in mind this passage from solid to fluid and the condensation and rarefaction in gases you pass to a region of materiality and non-materiality. You cannot do other than enter the region of materiality and non-materiality. Stated otherwise: when we pass through the heat realm we actually enter a realm which is in a sense a consistent extension of what we have observed in the realms beneath it. Solids oppose heat—it cannot come to complete expression in them. Fluids are more susceptible to its action. In gases there is a thorough-going manifestation of heat—it plays through them without hindrance. They are in their material behavior a complete picture of heat. I can state it thus: the gas is in its material behavior essentially similar to the heat entity. The degree of similarity between matter and heat becomes greater and greater as I pass from solids through fluids to gases. Or, liquefaction and evaporation of matter means a becoming similar of this matter to heat. Passage through the heat realm, however, where matter becomes, so to speak, identical with heat leads to a condition where matter ceases to be. Heat thus stands between two strongly contrasted regions, essentially different from each other, the spiritual world and the material world. Between these two stands the realm of heat. This transition zone is really somewhat difficult for us. We have on the one hand to climb to a region where things appear more and more spiritualized, and on the other side to descend into what appears more and more material. Infinite extension upwards appears on the one hand and infinite extension downward on the other. (Indicated by arrows.)

But now we use another analogy that I am bringing before you today because through a general view of individual natural facts a sound science may be developed. It will perhaps be useful to array these facts before our souls. (See below.)

If you observe the usual spectrum you have red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Infra red——————————roygrbiv——————————Ultra Violet

You have the colors following each other in a series of approximately seven nuances. But you know that the spectrum does not break off at either end. If we follow it further below the red we come to a region where there is more and more heat, and finally we arrive at a region where there is no light, but only heat, the infra red region. On the other side of the violet, also, we no longer have light. We come to the ultra violet where chemical action is manifested, or in other words effects that manifest themselves in matter. But you know also that according to the color theory of Goethe, this series of colors can be bent into a circle, and arranged in such a way that one sees not only the light from which the spectrum is formed, but also the darkness from which it is formed. In this case the color in the middle is not green but the peach-blossom color, and the other colors proceed from this. When I observe darkness I obtain the negative spectrum. And if I place the two spectra together, I have 12 colors that may be definitely arranged in a circle: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. On this side the violet becomes ever more and more similar to the peach blossom and there are two nuances between. On the other side there are two nuances between peach blossom and red. You have, if I may employ the expression, 12 color conditions in all. This shows that what is usually called the spectrum can be thought of as arising in this way: I can by any suitable means bring about this circle of color and can make it larger and larger, stretching out the upper five colors (peach blossom and the two shades on each side) until they finally disappear. The lower arc becomes practically a straight line, and I obtain the ordinary spectrum array of colors, having brought about the disappearance of the upper five colors.

I finally bring these colors to the vanishing point. May it not be that the going off into infinity is somewhat similar to this thing that I have done to the spectrum? Suppose I ask what happens if that which apparently goes off into infinity is made into a circle and returns on itself. May I not be dealing here with another kind of spectrum that comprehends for me on the one hand the condition extending from heat to matter, but that I can close up into a circle as I did the color spectrum with the peach blossom color? We will consider this train of thought further tomorrow.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4