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Possible merge: Biophysical economics to Thermoeconomics?[edit]

It might be reasonable to merge biophysical economics into thermoeconomics in that “biophysical economics” may be a subset of general “thermoeconomics” based on the following notes:

(taken from the 25 May 2006 version of Biophysical economics):

Although work has been done which supports some of the basic hypotheses of biophysical economics, no overarching text book is yet to appear. Researchers in the field are therefore eagerly awaiting the publication of a new book by Charles A.S. Hall and economist Kent Klitgaard called Biophysical economics: a basic textbook in economics for the second half of the age of oil. It should be ready early 2007.

This contrasts with thermoeconomics which has numerous books published.

Second, according to the following article, they seem approximately to be the same subject:

  • Cleveland, Cutler J. 1999. Biophysical Economics - from Physiocracy to Ecological Economics and Industrial Ecology. In Bioeconomics and Sustainability: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Gerogescu-Roegen, J. Gowdy and K. Mayumi, Eds. (Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, England), pp. 125-154.

Please comment if you have an opinion. Thanks: --Sadi Carnot 14:33, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

I really like the idea on applying thermodynamic knowledge on economics and adapting economical models [1]. Alas, neither thermoeconomics nor ecophysics sounds suitable for my German ears. As thermodynamics talks about the process of heat transfer, energy forms and a system's ability to perform work, I'd prefer the term economical dynamics (or shorter ecodynamics) to describe the processes of money flow, trade, and production to analyse the substitution potential of production factors. --Gunnar.Kaestle 15:10, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Wrong! You fools! Thermoeconomics is not biophysical economics! This is classic wikipedia ignorance.

Accuracy question[edit]

The intro seems to be saying that there are two definitions:

  • One: Study of real thermal energy in the economy
  • Two: Combination of real thermal and economic concerns in industrial design.

Later in the article, a third meaning is described: the application of the mathematics of thermodynamic theory to economics, not necessarily involving economic activity that has anything to do with real thermal energy. Is this merely a better version of the first definition, or are there really three meanings to the term? -- Beland 17:34, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

I really don't know why you would have to go so far as to question "factual accuracy"? I sourced five historical books, three founding figures in this field, one new author view, and added two external link articles, as well as added data concerning its use in engineering plant design textbooks. Subsequently, you might mention that the article is confusing or needs more clarification, etc., but why question factual accuracy, it's such a derogatory term every so subtly directed at the person who started the article. Certainly the article needs work, and I am no expert in this field; so the idea is, I got the article going and we all now help to build and clean it. I will know go to source and clarify the article further. I hope this helps. Thanks: --Sadi Carnot 13:35, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

Hi, I am suprised to see this article on "thermoeconomics," a word that I read for the first time. I mean, "thermoeconomics" is surely a word, and it surely has a meaning, but it is surely not a field. A scientific field would need practitioners in academia, and yet when I search for "thermoeconomics" in the database of major academic journals (J-Stor), I get no hit for the period (1860-2000). My own readings in the field of history of economics never showed up this term. I understand that it can be meant to define a subset of economic theories (those which get inspiration from thermodynamics, or what not), but to the best of my knowledge this term has never been used historically by the actors included in this article as practionners of thermoeconomics. Therefore, I delete mentions to thermodynamics as a "field." Seinecle 16:34, 15 August 2007 (UTC) In fact I give up, this article is a mess and should be deleted entirely. You just can't pick up an obscure term and then reconstruct a theory / invent a field / pick scientists and name them as participants to the field / just to fill an article. The pity is that people reading this and quoting this will be horribly confused.Seinecle 16:48, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

I agree that there are several completely different meanings of 'thermoeconomics' mentioned in this page. Linking them all as if they were the same thing confuses the reader. And then immediately thereafter citing certain well known economists who have done research that is (correctly) related to these topics makes it sound as if they endorse the idea that these different meanings of 'thermoeconomics' are related, when those economists would probably dispute that. So the page needs massive cleanup, and a more neutral point of view. --Rinconsoleao 07:53, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
A more appropriate page would: (1) cite some authors who claim that it is helpful to define a field called thermoeconomics; (2) state what they think the field means; (3) state some support and criticisms of that idea. Samuelson is definitely not one of the authors to be included in (1). But the fact that Samuelson used some methods from thermodynamics could serve point (3), as could the fact that a number of articles are being published nowadays that apply statistical physics methods to economics. But again, whether Samuelson or those other authors would agree with the definition of thermoeconomics offered by those who coined the term is unclear. --Rinconsoleao 07:53, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
Another way of constructing an appropriate page would simply be to write one about the influence of physics on economics. A great deal could be written on that, because many prominent physicists and economists have deliberately applied physical models to economic questions. Such an article could include comments on proposed fields that relate physics and economics, such as 'thermoeconomics' and 'econophysics'. There could then be a section on arguments supporting or criticizing the usefulness of that summarizing relation. By the way, the econophysics page does a much better job of maintaining NPOV than this page does. It mentions who coined the word 'econophysics', but scrupulously avoids claiming that all interactions between physics and economics are necessarily best described as 'econophysics'. --Rinconsoleao 09:02, 23 August 2007 (UTC)


Since Thermoeconomics is not widely recognized and doesnt appear to have any proven (statistically convincing) succes as a predictive tool then it seems there must be some criticisms. If it has no criticims, it is probably a lack of notability. I think someone needs to produce either some published criticisms or show some strong empirical predictive success - or consider merging it with something else as a subarticle.BillGosset 12:50, 16 June 2007 (UTC)

  • Comment fringe theories tend to attract no attention (for instance see Time Cube). Bigdaddy1981 03:02, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Comment Same remarks as Bigdaddy, and see my comments in the previous section of the talk page. Seinecle 16:48, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

An anology[edit]

It is quite possible to have two computer programs for the same purpose - say, weather forecasting - that create the same amount of system heat but produce different results. In other words, they are thermodynamically identical, even though the answers are different. Then we can imagine that one of these programs always produces less accuarate forecasts than the other. So how do thermodynamic limits even matter? There are computing problems where thermodynamic limits are relevant but not for most problems. I suspect that whatever the thermodynamic limits are, the economy is so far below them that they have no predictive power at all. Various economies are like different computer programs with the same thermodynamic properties but very different outcomes.

In short, until someone can show me Thermoeconomics predicts inflation, interest rates, unemployment figures, etc. more accurately than other methods, I have to seriously doubt the validity of it.BillGosset 12:59, 16 June 2007 (UTC) Hubbardaie

Bogus Claims to Samuelson[edit]

I have deleted totally made up claims about Paul Samuelson. Samuelson never conducted any research that could be described as akin to this totally fringe theory. Bigdaddy1981 07:17, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

It's true that Samuelson's book Foundations of Economic Analysis used some methods from physics. So if this page wants to claim that physics methods influenced Samuelson, that's fine. But it's completely false to say that Samuelson is a "dominant researcher" in thermoeconomics. He never ever claimed that societies could be considered thermodynamic systems, etc. --Rinconsoleao 08:16, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

"used some methods from physics" this much is true. As do many other mathematical economists. For example, option pricing (due to Black and Scholes) applies the well-known heat diffusion equations. If the author wants to say that many economists have in the past and continue to borrow the methods of physics (and engineering) that's okay --- but, as you say, none of them can be said to consider an economy as an open thermodynamic system. Bigdaddy1981 16:59, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes, and option pricing also uses Newtonian physics as do several other formulas in finance, economics and statistics. Specifically, Force=mass*acceleration. Many of these other formulas also multiply two numbers together to get a third number just like this Newtonian law. For example, price*quantity sold=revenue. See? Newtonian physics. Seriously, people make too much of some mathematical similarities. Multiplying two numbers together to get a third is not the same "using Newtonian physics" and the use of some probability density functions with a natural log in it does not mean options theory has some deep underlying connection with heat diffusion formulas. I also hear a formula from information theory (the entropy calculation) is the same formula as a similar thermodynamic equation. There is no similarity other than they both use simple log functions.Hubbardaie 03:43, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

A referenced sentence is not a bogus claim:

You can also read about this in the 1983 book Foundations of Economic Analysis (Expanded Edition), where Samuelson gives a detailed discussion of the application of thermodynamics in economics. Thank you: --Sadi Carnot 02:15, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

  • Give me a reference to where Samuelson treats an economy as a thermodynamic system. I've read the book, and I know there isn't one. You are simply name dropping famous economists to try to make this seem a non fringe topic. Bigdaddy1981 04:33, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
The entire Foundations book is based on Gibbs' On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, according to Samuelson (read the extended edition). --Sadi Carnot 19:29, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Bogus Claim to Jevons[edit]

I have deleted another section of the article which claims Jevons as an early proponent of this approach (this time by inaccurately characterising his Coal Question as an energy-based approach - in fact it was an applied work discussing an apparent decline in UK coal output ---- nothing to do with "thermoeconomics"). I believe the authors of this article are attempting - through mis-characterisation of the target economists' work - to claim respected economists as proponents of this fringe theory. Bigdaddy1981 22:03, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

Again, the sentence you deleted is:
  • One of the first publications to discuss aspects of economic activity from an energy perspective was the 1865 book The Coal Question by Stanley Jevons, the father of modern notions of utility maximisation in neoclassical economics.
Here's one reference of many to support this trivial fact. Thank you: --Sadi Carnot 02:30, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Comment fine but your reference is orthogonal to the claims that Jevons' works "discuss(es) aspects of economic activity from an energy perspective" ... it simply says - as I said above, that Jevons' Coal Question discussed the decline of coal production and its impact on the UK .... nothing to do with "thermoeconomics". You are simply name dropping famous economists to try to make this seem a non fringe topic. Bigdaddy1981 04:32, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Instead of complaining to me, why don't you buy a book on thermoeconomics and read it? --Sadi Carnot 19:27, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

I note you do not attempt to refute my claim above. I now realise you are the type of editor who relentlessly pushes his own POV and engages in revert wars when challenged. I don't have the time for this nonsense. I will leave this article as a monument to your bizarre views. Good day. Bigdaddy1981 19:26, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

Question RE William Armstrong Fairburn[edit]

What, if anything, does William Armstrong Fairburn have to do with this article. I cannot see the connection. Bigdaddy1981 02:18, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Fairburn theorizes that people can be categorized by measures of "personal entropy", which in chemistry is thought of as both the inverse of the measure of order in the system as well as the amount of energy in a thermodynamic system unavailable to do useful work. He spent a good deal of time writing about the work output of people in factories, and how this could be studied energetically. Hence, it is in the "see also" section. --Sadi Carnot 02:56, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Perhaps then, he is a better candidate as an early proponent of this approach. Certainly much better than Jevons or Samuelson. Bigdaddy1981 04:36, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Repeated reversions of deletion of bogus claims makes this article factually inaccurate[edit]

As discussed above, many economists (perhaps most) use methods borrowed from physics and engineering. If you want to label all such economists (who include Samuelson) as "thermoeconomists" then the term is trivial and this article is pointless. If you insist on claiming that Samuelson posits that an economy is best thought of as an open thermodynamic system then put up or shut up. Let's see a real (not slyly truncated) reference to a specific portion of one of Samuelson's books or a specific paper. If you don't then I'll know you are the same as those chaps over at Time Cube. Maybe Samuelson was into that too, eh? Bigdaddy1981 04:43, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

The real question is how many times do I have to put up before you shut up? Samuelson was taught by Edwin Bidwell Wilson who was the sole protegé of Yale's great physicist Willard Gibbs (the founder of chemical thermodynamics) and was mentor to Harvard economist Paul Samuelson.[1] Samuelson's graduate dissertation Foundations of Economic Analysis (equilibrium of dynamic economic systems) is based on Willard Gibbs 1876 On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances.[2][3] Samuelson acknowledges this as fact and calls his thermodynamic economics "mathematical isomorphisms".[4] As I’ve said, in the extended edition, Samuelson himself gives a full account of the use of thermodynamics in economics.[5] Here's another reference: "Attempts at neo-classical equilibrium economics analogies with thermodynamics go back to Guilluame and Samuelson."[6] Thank you: --Sadi Carnot 19:07, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
Okay, I'm done arguing with you - I'm not interested in references from proponents of "thermoeconomics" who purport that Samuelson is one of them. I would like to see *specific* references from Samuelson's own work that show he treats an economic system explicitly as as an open thermodynamic system. Again - as other editors have noted - it is not sufficient to say he uses mathematical techniques borrowed from thermodynamics nor that he trained under an eminent thermodynamicist. For the reasons for this, see the arguments made earlier. You are obviously a partisan of this approach and as such are enraged (and claimed trolling) when anyone questions your advertisement article. As such, I am done with you. Bigdaddy1981 19:24, 24 July 2007 (UTC)


  1. ^ How I Became an Economist by Paul A. Samuelson, 1970 Laureate in Economics, 5 September 2003
  2. ^ K R Jolls, Gibbs and the art of thermodynamics, Gibbs in economics, Proceedings of the Gibbs Symposium (Providence, R.I., 1990), 293-321.
  3. ^ Samuelson, Paul, A. (1970). "Maximum Principles in Analytical Economics", Nobel Memorial Lecture, Dec. 11.
  4. ^ P A Samuelson, Gibbs in economics, Proceedings of the Gibbs Symposium (Providence, R.I., 1990), 255-267.
  5. ^ Bryant, John. (2007). “A thermodynamic theory of economics”, International Journal of Exergy (IJEX), Vol. 4, No. 3.
  6. ^ McCauley Joseph. l. (2004). “Thermodynamic analogies in economics and finance: instability of markets” Published in: Physica A.329 (2003): pp. 199-212.

Book reference[edit]

You can also read more about this in the following book (pg. 222):

  • Mirowski, Philip (1989). More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature's Economics. Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 0521426898. 

Thank you: --Sadi Carnot 15:51, 23 July 2007 (UTC)


Please take your trolling somewhere else. People have been applying thermodynamics to economics since 1850. This is what this article is about (as well as the engineering aspect). I happen today to be reading the new 2007 book A History of Thermodynamics by Ingo Muller and here’s a quote from page 73: “economists use entropy (developed in 1850 by Rudolf Clausius) for estimating the distribution of goods”. In sum, do not revert "referenced" sections. I am guessing that you don't understand thermodynamics and the idea of thermodynamics used in economics irritates you? In any event, everything in this article is referenced and it is a legitimate and published topic. Thank you. --Sadi Carnot 19:13, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Whatever pal, I see your pathetic attempt to claim Samuelson to your ludicrous fringe theory got short shrift over at the Samuelson page. Nevermind, add him to timecube - I'm sure they'd welcome your addition. Bigdaddy1981
I added 16 references to this article to appease your lack of education, and you are still talking trash? Whatever to you. --Sadi Carnot 00:01, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

added a reference link[edit]

Added this one Environmental Decision making, Science and Technology ---- in regard to the mechanics of energy accounting... whether in a traditional system or an alternative Non-market economics it works... and also a reference to another wiki article Energy Accounting. skip sievert (talk) 23:51, 3 July 2008 (UTC)


I can't find any evidence that Georgescu-Roegen ever used the term "thermoeconomics". It seems more likely that his work has been claimed, retrospectively, as a foundation for thermoeconomics. JQ (talk) 07:47, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

I have just done a google scholar search, and I would agree with your assessment. The advent of 'thermoeconomics' as defined in this article, seems to have come after Georgescu-Roegen's work, therefore, he could not have been a supporter of 'thermoeconomics'. LK (talk) 05:48, 27 October 2009 (UTC)
Additionally, the use of the term 'thermoeconomics' in scholarly articles appears mainly in relation to 'exergy analysis' a 'thermodynamic technique for assessing and improving the efficiency of processes, devices and systems'. The main use of this is in improving the efficiency and lowering the costs of production processes that use energy intensive production technologies (manufacturing of steel, aluminum, plastics, petroleum refineries). This is not how the term is being presented in the article. I suggest either a major rewrite of this article, or a renaming and two new articles set up, with appropriate redirects to each other, as they are obviously different concepts. LK (talk) 06:13, 27 October 2009 (UTC)
Problem. Someone named things wrong originally. Fact... Thermoeconomics, Biophysical economics, and bioeconomics are pretty much the same thing. The redirect here biophysical economics comes here so that part is working. Read this for clarity as you both seem uninformed, about these issues. skip sievert (talk) 19:13, 27 October 2009 (UTC)

Proposal for splitting into two articles Biophysical economics and Thermoeconomics[edit]

I am not ease with this merge as biophysical economics is quite different and wider than the term thermoeconomics so I would suggest a new article for biophysical economics. What do you think? Ledjazz (talk) 10:07, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Why does this article exist?[edit]

It appears that both of the vociferous advocates for this article, Sadi Carnot and skip sievert have been blocked. I read through the comments, and I am in agreement with the consensus opinion of many others over the past SEVEN years, e.g.

  • "This article is a mess and should be deleted entirely. You just can't pick up an obscure term and then reconstruct a theory / invent a field / pick scientists and name them as participants to the field / just to fill an article. The pity is that people reading this and quoting this will be horribly confused."Seinecle
  • "it's completely false to say that Samuelson is a "dominant researcher" in thermoeconomics. He never ever claimed that societies could be considered thermodynamic systems, etc." Rinconsoleao

Also, the Carnegie-Mellon University link has no relevance here, the one that Skip Sievert added. It is a fine web page, explaining basic measurements of time and energy associated with electric power generation, and associated costs. The title of the webpage is "Energy Accounting", and it mentions nothing, nowhere, the word or concept of "Thermoeconomics".

Next, Georgescu-Roegen's work was "back fitted" to support this article:

  • "I can't find any evidence that Georgescu-Roegen ever used the term "thermoeconomics". It seems more likely that his work has been claimed, retrospectively, as a foundation for thermoeconomics." per JQ and
  • "I have just done a google scholar search, and I would agree with your assessment. The advent of 'thermoeconomics' as defined in this article, seems to have come after Georgescu-Roegen's work, therefore, he could not have been a supporter of 'thermoeconomics'. per User:Lawrencekhoo

Both BillGosset and Hubbardaie raise legitimate and as yet, un-addressed concerns about the suitability of this topic for a Wikipedia article, citing lack of notability.

I removed the designation for the Wiki Physics project, as it is embarrassing to include it, and is unarguably misleading.

Any thoughts, suggestion, about this article? --FeralOink (talk) 02:42, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

This is a necessary page, and hope it is not deleted. Whether a topic is accepted by academia is not always relevant, as has been shown many times in the past. Many (maybe even most) of the great advances in science and technology were done outside of, or in spite of, academia. This topic is particularly important now that we are approaching the end of the petroleum age, when we don't even know yet if it is thermodynamically feasible to create a substitute energy source like it on the same global scale, although many keep trying with batteries, synthetic fuels, bio-fuels, and the like. A better understanding of the potential futility of that would be great for focusing the world on cutting energy consumption while maintaining or improving the standard of living, instead (another thermodynamic challenge, actually).

What I am driving at is petroleum was created as a relatively low entropy (high availability) substance chock full of portable energy, over millions of years, while the accompanying increase in entropy required by the 2nd Law to create it was also spread out over the same period of time, a lot of which is manifested in folded and crushed geologic formations, the source of the pressure that was part of the creation process. What's the physical effect of the entropy increase (presumably all on the surface of the earth now) if we try to replace petroleum with batteries, biofuels and windmills on a global scale over 1 year, 10 years, or even 1,000 years, orders of magnitude shorter periods of time? If the answer to that isn't directly pertinent to the field of economics, I don't know what is. Please, let's keep the page, and let's expand on it, too. --Old engineer 2 (talk) 15:39, 16 September 2013 (UTC)