John E.J. SchmitzJohn E.J. Schmitz holds currently a senior management position in semiconductor technology research. He was awarded his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1984 from the Catholic University of Nijmegen (Netherlands). He holds six patents in the semiconductor field and has published over 45 scientific articles and one technical book in the field of integrated circuit technology. Before, Schmitz was the Chief Operating Officer Manufacturing Technology of SEMATECH (Austin, Texas) a consortium that develops semiconductor manufacturing technology, materials, and equipment for their member chip maker companies. Schmitz has dealt with thermodynamics and entropy for 25 years on a professional level, and brings this fascinating science to everyone with an elegant, yet simple writing style that has garnered rave reviews. His passion for the subject matter is apparent from the very first page of the book. He currently lives in a small town in Belgium with his wife, Pieternel, and his children; Lucas, Juliette, Emmeline, and Jasper.

18 Responses to “About The Author”

  1. scott lucas Says:


    i have been reading up on the boltzmann transport equation for modeling semiconductors, holes and electrons. I am reading brennan’s book but would like to know if you know of a better one

    ps does your book discuss origin’s of life, whether open or closed systems I do not see how life could have started without a non-equilibrium machine, I guess Prigogine tried his whole life and gave up on that

  2. John Says:

    Dear Scott,

    Thanks for the comment.
    Books that give a good treatment about the Boltzmann transport equation are: J.M. Ziman (Principles of the theory of solids) or M. Lundstrom (Fundamentals of carrier transport) both by Cambridge University Press.
    The book does indeed look to the thermodynamic aspects of life and how life is sustained. Another nice book to read about this topic is What’s life from Ernst Schrodinger.
    Indeed earth is a totally non-equilibrium system fueled by the influx of sun radiation.

  3. Jeff Robbins Says:

    Hi John:

    I’ve read most of your excellent book, “The Second Law of Life” a copy of which I found in the Rutgers University Library where I teach. I’m currently teaching a non-technical, research writing course on “Biosphere Politics and Planning” and will bring in the 2nd Law as one of the conceptual frames that can help interpret what’s really going on beneath all the opposing views.

    Your mentioning Rudolph Arnheim’s book “Entropy and Art” especially drew my attention as his little book was an inspiration for the book on the impact of technology in our lives I’m currently in the process of finishing.

    You may want to take a look at a chapter in the 1995 book, “What is Life: The Next Fifty Years” edited by Michael P. Murphy and Luke S.J. O’Neill. The chapter’s authors are Eric D. Schneider and the late James J. Kay. The title is “Order from Disorder: the thermodynamics of complexity in biology.” The authors contend that life came about not as a means of making good use of the order in solar energy but as an ordered means of maximizing entropy. Though it’s not a living entity, the Benard Cell phenomenon illustrates. A thin layer of liquid heated from below self-organizes into hexagonal convection cells when the temperature difference reaches a critical value. The convection cells radically increase the heat flux and thus entropy production in whatever is producing the heat. “Thus we have order emerging from disorder in the service of causing even more disorder.” This is further discussed in “Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics and Life” by Dorion Sagan (Carl’s son) and Eric Schneider.

    Jeff Robbins

    P.S. There is one contention by Lambert I have some doubts about, namely that shuffling cards does not change entropy. If you’re interested I can explain my reasoning.

  4. John Says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your good suggestions. Indeed the Bernard cells create order as long as an energy flux through the system is maintained (as is the case for biological life). You are right that this leads to an even larger entropy increase than in the case the cells would not have been present.
    With respect to your remark about shuffling the cards and the entropy change, yes please share your thoughts.
    Best regards, John

  5. Libb Thims Says:

    I have been skimming your book recently and ordered a copy today to add to my collection:

    Seeing that you have interest in the social and economic aspects of thermodynamics, I am writing, to ask if you would like join a new growing wiki Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics ( and contribute here and there as you please. Currently, there are four thermodynamic authors that have joined (including myself):

    ● Libb Thims, author of the 2007 Human Chemistry and 2008 Human Molecule
    ● Georgi Gladyshev, author of the 1997 Thermodynamic Theory of the Evolution of Living Beings
    ● Jing Chen, author of the 2005 the Physical Foundations of Economics – an Analytical Thermodynamic Theory
    ● Ingo Muller, author of the 2007 A History of Thermodynamics – the Doctrine of Energy and Entropy.
    ● Ted Erikson is a chemical engineer who did his master’s thesis on Thesis: “Steady State Thermodynamics”.

    Among others…(12 total thus far). It’s basically a fun hobby, but I thought you might be interested. To note, we will likely publish the first edition of the EoHT as a hardcover casewrap textbook in 2008 or 2009 so that the knowledge will be stored safely future generations. We’re at close to 200-articles so far (I’ve written about 98% of them). In any event, come and join the group, its free, and you will receive a automated weekly-wiki newsletter showing the new posts and articles and other news. I’ll probably write an encyclopedia article on you after I get your book and find your basic theory.

  6. Dear John,
    Your interpretation of the second law is connected with the ideal (e.g., a perfect gas} systems only. This interpretation can not be used for many real systems. It was the non-correction Boltzmann’s interpretation of life! The systems where the interactions take place are complex systems!
    Look at my article (for example) “The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Evolution of Living Systems”
    (“The above formulations of the second law of thermodynamics are, in a sense, somewhat outside the realm of the chemistry of molecular and supramolecular systems. These formulations may seem to be even farther from biology, sociology, and other sciences that are mainly based on chemistry, both molecular chemistry per se and the chemistry of supramolecular structures, which we perceive as “chemistry around us”. Therefore, it is not unexpected that a purely physical, rather than a physicochemical, approach to the origin of life, biological evolution, and the aging of living organisms has lead to numerous misunderstandings—one might say, even to tragic errors—in life science. It should suffice to mention L. Boltzmann’s, E. Schrödinger’s, I. Prigogine’s [29–31], and other researchers’ fallacies accounted for by neglecting to some or another extent, Gibbs’s works and underestimating the possibilities offered by thermodynamics. The following publications emphasized the substantial misunderstandings in this field [11, 20, 22, 23] that the founders of classical thermodynamics noted long ago [1, 2, 10–13].” ).
    Georgi Gladyshev

  7. Jeff Robbins Says:


    You never got back to me regarding card shuffling and the second law.

    Here’s what I wrote on Feb. 3, 2008.


    Thanks so much for getting back to me and for putting my comments on your
    blog. I have been fascinated with the 2nd Law for a long time (my
    undergrad degree is in Mechanical Engineering and grad degree is in
    Physics). The sheer absence of understanding of this, for me, most
    fundamental law in the universe, outside of the technical fields where
    it’s included in the curriculum, is a huge blot on America’s systems of
    education (perhaps the same is true in Europe). The on going war of words
    on global warming is a case in point. Rarely, if ever, do you hear the 2nd
    Law mentioned on either side of the debate, not even in Al Gore’s film “An
    Inconvenient Truth,” or the even better film “The Eleventh Hour.”

    Regarding my contention about entropy change and card shuffling. While
    it’s certainly true that the symbols on cards only have meaning for people
    and that for a cat one configuration would be as good as another, to
    detect possible entropy changes on shuffling I believe you have to include
    human card players and card makers in the system. If it made shuffling
    made no difference to the entropic state of the universe, manufacturers of
    playing cards might just as well place 52 cards in any order in the box
    and ship. This would save them the money, time, effort, and machinery
    needed to create what you called “a neatly ordered deck of cards” in
    Appendix IV. There is a reason why you used the words “neatly ordered.” If
    players opened card boxes assorted randomly it would be much harder to
    tell if it was a full deck, no repetitions, no cards missing etc. Insuring
    honest decks would require far more effort and that effort demands entropy
    producing energy transformation. If libraries randomly put books on
    shelves, they would be useless. It takes effort and attention and a
    cataloging system to create the order needed for libraries to work. My own
    take on this is that the universe is in a lower state of entropy,
    including the people in it, when books in libraries or cards in decks
    manufactured neatly ordered.

    Another example I’ve been mulling over. It’s better to consider sand here.
    Suppose you have two piles of sand, one black and one white. You carefully
    put the white sand into a bottle then put an equal or so amount of black
    sand on top of the white. Put the bottle in the sun. What’s going to
    happen? The black sand will absorb radiation and get hot. The white sand
    will reflect the radiation and stay cool. Although it’s not practical what
    you have here is the makings of an engine, a distinct hot cool temperature
    difference that could theoretically be used to produce work. Now do this.
    Shake up the bottle real hard until the two different colored sands mix
    thoroughly. This to me is fundamentally no different that shuffling a deck
    of cards, which could also be colored black and white. Put the bottle back
    in the sun. Everything is lukewarm. No engine, no work is possible. By
    mixing the sands, even though it’s on a macroscopic scale. you’ve
    eliminated the possibility of doing work and I think this suggests the
    universe has increased in entropy. The fact that you would have to do
    considerable work to restore the black white “order” for me adds weight to
    the contention.

    Your thoughts.


    Jeff Robbins

  8. John Says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Please find below my comments in three parts:

    1) Entropy as the most fundamental law.
    Indeed I agree that the impact that this law has on every change in the universe and thus also earth is insufficiently recognized in curriculums. That was one of the reasons that I wrote the book as I wanted to fill up this gap. I also agree that the entropy law can provide a direction where to look for solutions to solve the global warming issues. As a matter of fact I have reacted in the past to blogs of others dealing with global warming and pointed out what the role of entropy.
    2) Card shuffling and entropy.
    Your statement that the universe will be in a lower entropy state when books or cards are neatly ordered is interesting. I have given that some thoughts and tend not to agree with you. Entropy is all about the exchange of energy between different atoms and molecules and how the available energy is distributed across the available energy levels in the system under consideration. But books and card will not exchange energy and it is therefore that I believe that whether they are ordered will not change the entropy directly. Indirectly the entropy will change since it will take energy transformations when we order the deck of cards or the books in the library.. In that process, however, I think that the energy dissipation during the ordering process will lead to an increase in entropy. Consequently the universe will drift towards higher entropy. Perhaps the article by Frank Lambert in J. Chem. Educ., 76, 1385 (1999) on card shuffling and entropy will help here.
    3) Black and white sand.
    I believe this is a very creative mind twister, good food for thinking! Your statement that by mixing the black and white sand there is no way anymore to use the temperature gradient to perform work. I agree that the entropy will indeed increase because of the energy required to fuel the shaking. But, I wonder, even after the shaking, the black grains will have a higher temperature than the white ones and in this way we could perhaps by thermal diffusion create a concentration gradient and that way create a macroscopic gradient again?

    Best regards, John

  9. Jeff Robbins Says:


    When I reviewed what I said re card shuffling and the organizing of books in libraries, what I meant to say was the neatly ordered deck, or well ordered arrangement of books, both of which require human effort to create (indirectly, perhaps, if card decks are ordered by machines) represent a state of lower entropy with respect to the brains of the card players and library users. These macro-scale arrangements, both of which require sustained attention to come about, will demand the burning of food energy, and as a result, universal entropy will rise, as you say.

    I do propose, however, that the concept of entropy needs to be extended to indirect, as you put it, linked transformations. It is these indirect transformations, ones that tie in with chemical interactions in our brains and bodies, that need to be considered in the card ordering/shuffling and library book arranging examples.

    My own take is that if it takes effort to rearrange the world, including the effort of mental and physical exercise, local reductions of entropy are taking place and those transformations must and will be compensated by always greater increases in entropy as dissipation of potential elsewhere as per the 2nd Law. This is Atkins’ two weights wrapped around pulleys metaphor.

    As for the B & W sand, yes, the black grains will be hotter than the white after mixing, but there will be no macro-scale temperature gradient that could ever run an engine. The mixture will quickly become lukewarm. To restore the macro order of black sand separated from white will require effort and the burning of food energy to produce that effort. The restored “order” that could in principle run an engine, once the sands were re-exposed to the sun, for me, at least, represents a lower state of entropy. It is compensated by the always greater increase in entropy produced by the consuming of food energy needed to enable the attention and manipulation.

    The Atkins’ 2nd Law metaphor of two weights wrapped around pulleys (one or two, it doesn’t matter) is powerful. I think it’s an excellent way to introduce the 2nd Law in a non-technical way to students and the general public.


    Jeff Robbins

  10. Dear Jeff,

    Robert Bryce thought you might be interested in an article that he’s written for our new online magazine, Yale Environment 360, on why it’s so hard to stop the corn ethanol juggernaut. Here’s the link:

    Please feel free to link to or reprint the story.

    Best regards,

    Fen Montaigne

    1. Jeff Robbins Says:

      Dear Fen:

      It’s been awhile since your September 15, 2008 posting. I haven’t been checking John Schmitz’ website. I’ve just bookmarked Robert Bryce’s article and look forward to reading it. I will also alert a couple of professors at Rutgers who would be interested.

      Meanwhile, in 2008, one of my papers was published by the International Society for the Systems Sciences. In it I try to weave the 2nd Law into what I see as the corporate exploitation of children as engines of sales. The title is “Cannibalizing Childhood’s Future as Rising to Falling Rope”. Any comments / thoughts most welcome.

  11. M.T.SAMBANDAM Says:

    It is interesting to read your article on Energy Consumption and GDP. Presently i am working on improving end use efficiency in Indian Industries. I need your permission to use your article on the above subject as one of the reference for my future publications. Further I need more guidlines to look the end use efficiency improvement in thermodynamic point of view pertaining to industries in india.

    with best regards

    Asst. Professor
    Kalasalingam University-India

  12. Hi John,

    If you want to add Facebook or email sharing buttons to your blog posts, there’s a plugin that does it for you:

    Hope you find it helpful!


  13. Jessie Says:

    Hi John,

    This is Jessie from Austin TX. I have been trying to contact you and Pieternel but never had luck. Tonight, “The Second Law of Life” came into my sight. So I tell myself John may have set up a blog for this book. And here I found you….

    I just want to let you and Pieternel know that, I miss you and and your children; Lucas, Juliette, Emmeline, and Jasper. Every time when I go to see our dentist, pass by “lost creek bld”, I just want to drive over to your “house”.

    Please drop me a line if you can see my this comment. I am still using my “sbc” email.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Jessie and Jo

  14. C.R. Draves Says:

    I am in the middle of a working Hypothesis to involve “Entropy” and the second law of thermodynamics.

    I am looking for a chemist to collaborate my work. I see your a fan of the second law to the human body.

    I have some interesting information to share with you about “Entropy” and a possible quantum connection through energy transfers.

    It’s a different perspective on how the universe works through everything, using the second law of transfers.

    Clue: Your skin must stay at a perfect temperature to pass heat away from us, it that fails, then the body fails. Entropy the “Waste Heat” from a system is exactly where we get most of our heat, our food composting within our intestinal walls, creates that needed entropy four our bodies to work.

    C.R Draves

    You can find me on google.

  15. Sami Al-Suwailem Says:

    Dear John: I read most of your book and found it interesting and well-researched.

    I have a question on the time needed for a reversible processes. As discussed on pp. 17-18, in a reversible process, T is held constant, and both T and P are uniform across the system throughout the process.

    My question is: Can we pre-determine precisely the time needed to complete the process while T is precisely pre-determined? It seems to me that if T is pre-determined precisely, then the time needed to complete the process cannot be pre-determined equally precisely. Is there a kind of uncertainty relation here between time and energy here?



    1. John Says:

      Hi Sami, Interesting thought that you offer there. I assume you refer to the Heisenberg uncertainty? Indeed to have a reversible process one may need to do it in an infinite slow amount of time.

      1. Sami Says:

        Thank you John.

        Yes I refer to Heisenberg Uncertainty but in a classical world. I am trying to survey classical examples of such a trade-off. Do you have any suggestions for references on this kind of trade-off in thermodynamics?

        I appreciate your support.


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