In command of non-equilibrium†
The second law of thermodynamics is well known for determining the direction of spontaneous processes in the laboratory, life and the universe. It is therefore often called the arrow of time. Less often discussed but just as important is the effect of kinetic barriers which intercept equilibration and preserve highly ordered, high energy non-equilibrium states. Examples of such states are many modern materials produced intentionally for technological applications. Furthermore, all living organisms fuelled directly by photosynthesis and those fuelled indirectly by living on high energy nutrition represent preserved non-equilibrium states. The formation of these states represents the local reversal of the arrow of time which only seemingly violates the second law. It has been known since the seminal work of Prigogine that the stabilisation of these states inevitably requires the dissipation of energy in the form of waste heat. It is this feature of waste heat dissipation following the input of energy that drives all processes occurring at a non-zero rate. Photosynthesis, replication of living organisms, self-assembly, crystal shape engineering and distillation have this principle in common with the well-known Carnot cycle in the heat engine. Drawing on this analogy, we subsume these essential and often sophisticated driven processes under the term machinery of life.