Difference between some energetic or material level existing between a system and its environment or within subsystems of the same system.
Such differences normally produce flows which may disappear progressively through a diffusion process.
Gradients are at the same time a condition and a manifestation of a system's heterogeneity (or organization) and a condition of the existence of the system within its environment.
Their decrease implies an increase of entropy.
Every gradient is linked with a corresponding flow, which is termed "conjugated flow".
R. THOM observes that, while gradients are quantitative, they offer also various qualitative aspects (1991, p.107). These result partly from their interactions.
An example can be the "conflict between horizontal polarity and vertical direction, which are dual in our space" (p.112).
Thom also explains that attractors correspond to maxima in gradients (p.161).
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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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