Cooling without energy consumption – A Spiritual Insight


This is a fascinating topic because of what the heading of this article suggests is something that runs counter to the laws of thermodynamics on heat transfer. There are three basic ways in which heat is transferred. Before we discuss the scientific findings, we need to define a few terms. In fluids, heat is often transferred by convection, in which the motion of the fluid itself carries heat from one place to another. The idea is that heat can be carried and taken to another place and then utilized in many ways. This is the basic concept for power generation and how the combustion engine works, etc. Another way to transfer heat is by conduction, which does not involve any motion of a substance, but rather is a transfer of energy within a substance (or between substances in contact with one another). The third way to transfer energy is by radiation, which involves absorbing or giving off electromagnetic waves. (See the article on the movement of light) The concepts of convection, conduction, and radiation are defined as follows:

Heat transfer in fluids generally takes place via convection. (A fluid may be defined as a liquid or a gas.) Convection currents occur as a fluid heats up where the hotter part of the fluid is not as dense as the cooler part. As a result, there is an upward buoyant force on the hotter fluid (less dense), making it rise while the cooler (more dense) fluid sinks. Birds and gliders make use of upward convection currents to rise, and we also rely on convection to remove ground-level pollution. The idea of forced convection is where the fluid does not flow of its own accord but is pushed. This is often used in the applied sciences, for example, for heating (e.g., forced-air furnaces) or cooling (e.g., fans, automobile cooling systems).

When heat is transferred via conduction, the substance itself does not flow; rather, heat is transferred internally, by vibrations of atoms and molecules. Electrons can also carry heat, which is the reason metals are generally very good conductors of heat. Metals have many free electrons, which move around randomly; these can transfer heat from one part of the metal to another. (See the article on superconductivity and electron energy losses creating heat.)

The third way to transfer heat, in addition to convection and conduction, is by radiation, in which energy is transferred in the form of electromagnetic waves. An electromagnetic wave is basically an oscillating electric and magnetic field traveling through space at the speed of light. Examples of the kinds of electromagnetic waves are radio waves, microwaves, visible light, X-rays, and ultraviolet rays from the sun. The differences between these different kinds of radiation is the frequency and wavelength of the wave. Note also that the radiation we’re talking about here, in regard to heat transfer, is not the same thing as the dangerous radiation associated with nuclear bombs. Nuclear radiation comes in the form of very high energy electromagnetic waves, as well as nuclear particles (neutron, alpha, beta). The radiation associated with heat transfer is entirely electromagnetic waves, with a relatively low (and relatively safe) energy.

Based upon our knowledge of thermodynamics, everything around us takes in energy from radiation, and gives it off in the form of radiation. When everything is at the same temperature, the amount of energy received is equal to the amount given off. Because there is no net change in energy, no temperature changes occur. When things are at different temperatures, however, the hotter objects give off more energy in the form of radiation than they take in; the reverse is true for the colder objects. This is an important concept per the topic of this article where scientists developed a device that enables cooling without energy consumption.

The First Law of Thermodynamics
The first law of thermodynamics deals with the total amount of energy in the universe. This law states that the total amount of energy in the universe is constant. In other words, there has always been, and always will be, exactly the same amount of energy in the universe. In addition, energy can be transferred from place to place or transformed into different forms, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The law of conservation of energy, for thermodynamic systems, states that the energy of an isolated system is constant and can neither be created nor destroyed. Work is defined as the measure of energy expended by moving an object, usually considered to be force times distance (W = F*d). No work is done if the object does not move. Energy exists in many different forms. The transfer and transformations of energy take place around us all the time. For instance, light bulbs transform electrical energy into light energy, and gas stoves transform chemical energy from natural gas into heat energy. Plants perform one of the most biologically useful transformations of energy on Earth, they convert the energy of sunlight and CO2 into the chemical energy stored within organic molecules.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics
The The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time. The total entropy of a system and its surroundings can remain constant in ideal cases where the system is in thermodynamic equilibrium. In all processes that occur, including spontaneous processes, the total entropy of the system and its surroundings increases and the process is irreversible in the thermodynamic sense. The increase in entropy accounts for the irreversibility of natural processes, and the asymmetry between future and past.

The System and Surroundings
Thermodynamics often divides the universe into two categories: the system and its surroundings. In chemistry, the system almost always refers to a given chemical reaction and the container in which it takes place. The first law of thermodynamics tells us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so we know that the energy that is absorbed in an endothermic chemical reaction (a reaction or process accompanied by or requiring the absorption of heat) must have been lost from the surroundings. Conversely, in an exothermic reaction (a reaction or process accompanied by the release of heat), the heat that is released in the reaction is given off and absorbed by the surroundings. This is stated mathematically as:

ΔE = ΔEsys + ΔEsurr = 0

Heat and Work
According to the applied sciences, we know that chemical systems can either absorb heat from their surroundings, if the reaction is endothermic, or release heat to their surroundings, if the reaction is exothermic. However, chemical reactions are often used to do work instead of just exchanging heat. (i.e. the combustion engine) For Example, when rocket fuel burns and causes a space shuttle to lift off from the ground, the chemical reaction of combustion sends the products out the bottom doing the work by applying a force over a distance. This kind of combustion reaction releases tremendous amounts of heat and light.

Definition of Heat
When energy is exchanged between thermodynamic systems by thermal interaction, the transfer of energy is called heat. The units of heat are therefore the units of energy, or joules (J). Heat is transferred by conduction, convection, and/or radiation, mentioned previously. The basic concept is when a high temperature body is brought into contact with a low temperature body, the temperatures equilibrate. This means that there is heat flow from higher to lower temperature, like water flowing downhill, until the temperatures of the bodies are equivalent. The high temperature body loses thermal energy, and the low temperature body acquires this same amount of thermal energy. The system is then said to be at thermal equilibrium. This is what makes the scientific discovery so interesting. The claim is “Physicists have developed an amazingly simple device that allows heat to flow temporarily from a cold to a warm object without an external power supply.”

The Scientific Discovery
A. Schilling, X. Zhang and O. Bossen. Heat flowing from cold to hot without external intervention by using a “thermal inductor”. Science Advances, 2019 DOI:

The basic idea is if one places a boiling pot of water on the table, it will gradually cool down. However, its temperature will not fall below that of the table upon which it sits. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a closed system must increase over time. This means, “Heat can flow by itself only from a warmer to a colder object, and not the other way round.” The results of a recent experiment carried out by the research group of Prof. Andreas Schilling in the Department of Physics at the University of Zurich (UZH) appear at first sight to challenge the second law of thermodynamics. The researchers managed to cool a nine-gram piece of copper from over 100°C to significantly below room temperature without an external power supply. The researchers state “Theoretically, this experimental device could turn boiling water to ice, without using any energy.” To make this experiment work, these scientists used a Peltier element, a common electrical component using electricity for cooling. The researchers used this device to create an oscillating heat current in which the flow of heat between two bodies perpetually change direction. In this scenario, heat also temporarily flows from a colder to a warmer object so that the colder object is cooled down further. This “thermal oscillating circuit” in effect is a “thermal inductor.” It functions in the same way as an electrical oscillating circuit, in which the voltage oscillates with a constantly changing sign.

Using this technology, the laws of physics remain intact. This research demonstrates for the first time this kind of thermal oscillating circuit can be operated “passively,” by not applying an external power supply. The researchers demonstrate thermal oscillations still occur and, after a while, heat flowed directly from the colder copper to a warmer heat bath with a temperature of 22°C, without being temporarily transformed into another form of energy. To prove this does not violate the laws of thermodynamics, the researchers considered the change in entropy of the whole system and showed that it increased with time fully in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. In this study, the scientists recorded a difference of only about 2°C compared to the ambient temperature in the experiment. This was mainly due to the performance limitations of the commercial Peltier element used. Theoretically, with a more ideal device, it would be possible to achieve cooling of up to -47°C under the same conditions. This type of peltier device has not been invented yet, but, when and if it is developed, one could take large amounts of hot solid, liquid or gaseous materials and cool them to well below room temperature without any energy consumption. This was a proof of principle study which challenges the traditional perceptions of heat flow in chemical thermodynamics.

The Spiritual Insight
The Spiritual insight that we receive from this idea on heat transfer occurring in the opposite direction, is found in the idea of having an encounter with the Lord God of Israel that defies the physical laws of this universe! This reminds us of what we read in 1 Kings 18:17-24.

1 Kings 18:17-24
18:17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is this you, you troubler of Israel?’ 18:18 He said, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals. 18:19 ‘Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.’ 18:20 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word. 18:22 Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 18:23 ‘Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 18:24 ‘Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’ And all the people said, ‘That is a good idea.’ (NASB)

This question from Elijah the prophet to Ahab, asking, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?” is meant for us today. We are being called to teshuvah (repentance) and to turn (shuv) back to the Lord, from unrighteousness to righteousness. This process of returning to the way of God means that a person will either love God or hate God, either being hot or cold. The Lord will not allow you to be half hearted toward Him (Revelation 3:16). This is something that Yeshua always focused upon, either being for God or against Him. Either being willing to submit our lives to God’s word or being unwilling to do so. (Note how this is what the Author of the Book of Hebrews 4 is stating concerning the word of God discerning the intentions of the heart.) The result, often, people were offended by Yeshua’s teaching. The message of the Torah in the call to holiness and righteousness before God is offensive to those who make life about themselves. Accepting the cross of Yeshua means abandoning selfishness in the sense of “doing what I want to do” as opposed to “doing what God wants me to do.” The Apostle James warned that a “double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8) where the word translated as “double minded” is dipsuchos (δίψυχος) meaning “wavering, uncertain, doubting” which refers to having two wills. A double minded man is full of inner conflict and indecision. He is like the divided house Yeshua spoke of that cannot stand. When Peter asked to get out of the boat and walk in the sea, Yeshua told him saying “you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (διστάζω literally, “to think twice”). The Lord God is not interested in half heartedness and so we are to be deliberate and passionate about seeking the Lord. We are not to be passive onlookers but in love with God. The Lord wants all of our heart without reservation (Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:5). James wrote in James 4:8 saying, 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (NASB) The point is the Lord God responds to those who are sincere (Tehillim / Psalms 145:18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. NASB) Paul wrote that salvation is as close to your mouth and heart (see Romans 10:8-13). In the Talmud Bavli Shabbat 153a we read the following:

Talmud Bavli shabbat 153a
תנן התם רבי אליעזר אומר שוב יום אחד לפני מיתתך שאלו תלמידיו את רבי אליעזר וכי אדם יודע איזהו יום ימות אמר להן וכל שכן ישוב היום שמא ימות למחר ונמצא כל ימיו בתשובה ואף שלמה אמר בחכמתו בכל עת יהיו בגדיך לבנים ושמן על ראשך אל יחסר

We learned there in a mishna that Rabbi Eliezer says: Repent one day before your death. Rabbi Eliezer’s students asked him: But does a person know the day on which he will die? He said to them: All the more so this is a good piece of advice, and one should repent today lest he die tomorrow; and by following this advice one will spend his entire life in a state of repentance. And King Solomon also said in his wisdom: “At all times your clothes should be white, and oil shall not be absent from upon your head” (Ecclesiastes 9:8), meaning that a person always needs to be prepared.

The conclusion is, live each day as if it were to be your last and seek the Lord God to help you to make the wholehearted decision to “seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) These things speak of the power of God working in our lives that is in terms of “opposites.” When we have an encounter with the Lord God in heaven, our lives change and take us in opposition to the way of the world. This is the parallel on the spiritual insight that we receive from this idea of heat transfer occurring in the opposite direction (cold to hot) through the process of thermal oscillations. Now something to think about, we are not to be involved or caught up in “sinful oscillations” in the sense of swinging between sinning one day and not sinning the next in a repetitive cycle. This comes back to the Scripture that speaks of being double minded. We are to seek the Lord God in the Messiah Yeshua to have victory over sin and not returning to practice sin, but to put God’s word into practice in righteousness and truth. Seek the Lord for His help because He is the One who causes us to take a new path, one that is new and old, the ancient path, to walk in His ways of righteousness, justice, and truth. We need God’s power to over come and to be over-comers in this life. Without the power of God in our lives, where the Lord God is actively working in our lives, this is impossible. The functional way to have the power of God in our lives is (i) through faith, and (ii) through repentance daily just as we read in the Talmud Bavli Shabbat 153a. The rabbis describe this by citing King Solomon’s words saying at all times our clothes should be white and oil should be upon our head.  This means that we are to always be prepared to meet our maker.  White clothes are analogous to righteousness, and oil to a preservation of faith.  The way we do this again is by the power of God through His Messiah! But we also must not neglect the study of God’s Word. The reason being, when we pray to the Lord we speak to Him, and when we study God’s Word, He speaks to us! In worship, one is making an effort to connect with God. Judaism affirms that we don’t have to do all the work ourselves. The Lord God Almighty is prepared to meet us halfway. This is why the rabbis speak so often about immersing ourselves in Torah, because by doing so we transport ourselves back to Sinai and into the presence of God. Another reason for the emphasis on the study of the Scriptures is the unique position that God has created us “after His image” being able to understand and perceive the spiritual realm. Our physical bodies are the part of us that we share with the animals. Our mind and conscience are the dimension we understand the nature of God and communicate with Him, and hear Him speaking to us. When we exercise our minds and consciences by studying God’s word on how a person should live, when we occupy our thoughts with questions of how to carry out God’s will rather than with matters of finance or sports, we are developing the unique feature of mankind having been created in His image and being called to live according to His ways of righteousness, justice, truth, mercy, compassion, and love.