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Feedback Loops

Feedback Loops

In science, feedback loops are a basic concept to understand how systems maintain stability or go through different changes over time. A feedback loop is a process in which the outputs of the system are fed back and used as inputs, leading to a change in the system’s behavior. Feedback loops can be categorized as positive feedback and negative feedback. Feedback loops play a fundamental role in all aspects of life. In this article, we will explore what are feedback loops, the types of feedback loops, examples, and the importance of feedback loops.

Feedback Loops 
Feedback loops are a circular process where an output of a system is routed back and used as inputs for further operations. Feedback loops can buffer changes that occur in a system. The feedback loop can be observed in the process of erosion in geology.

Fig.1 Feedback loop is a circular process in which output is fed back and used as input

For instance, when rocks are exposed to weather change and erosion, they break down into smaller particles. These particles are carried away by wind, ice, or with the flow of water, leading to the formation of sedimentary rocks, which are again exposed to weathering and erosion. This cyclic process demonstrates how landscapes are formed. !

Fig.2 Rocks break down into smaller particles and form sedimentary rocks

Types of Feedback Loops
Two types of feedback loops are explained below.

Positive Feedback
A positive feedback loop in a system amplifies the effect of the minor disturbance, which becomes self-reinforcing and the system responds. In other words, a positive feedback loop is a closed loop in which the outputs accelerate the process, leading to more significant changes in the system. This type of feedback loop can lead to instability, making it a little bit challenging to predict the behavior of a system.

Positive feedback loop examples play a major role in climate change, where the phenomenon of ice melting speeds up the process of global warming and causes climate change. For instance, the heat from the atmosphere melts ice, exposing dark-colored earth and reflecting less sunlight. This process leads to absorb more heat, which in turn melts neighboring ice and amplifies the warming cycle.

Fig.3 The heat from atmosphere melts Ice melting, it boosts the process of global warming and causes climate change

Negative Feedback 
The negative feedback loop is based on decreasing the functionating of the source that causes the product. This feedback is known for being stable, where the output of the system decreases the input, leading to a reduction in the system’s change.

The simplest example of a negative feedback loop is the thermoregulation of the body, such as sweating when you feel hot. The sweating reduces your body’s temperature and will keep reducing until you are back to achieving an acceptable body temperature.

The thermostat of a building’s heating and cooling system is another real-world example of how a negative feedback loop operates in a system. Thermostats are devices that maintain the temperature in the building. When intense hot weather outside rises the internal temperature of the building, the thermostat turns on the AC to keep it cool. Similarly, when cold weather outside drops the internal temperature of the building, the thermostat turns the heater on, keeping the building warm.

Fig.4 Thermostat building’s heating and cooling system

Importance of Feedback Loops in Engineering and Technology 
Feedback loops play a crucial role in engineering to control and stabilize systems. For example, feedback loops are used to control the movement of robots. In this process, the input serves as desired motion and the output is the actual motion. The difference between both motions is used to adjust the movement of the robot until it matches the desired motion.

  • A Feedback loop is a fundamental concept to understanding how systems behave in the physical sciences. 
  • A Feedback loop is a process in which the outputs of the system are circled back and used as input to a prompt new cycle.
  • Positive feedback loops are used to cause instability in the system, while negative feedback loops slow down a process to preserve a stable state.
  • Both types of loops play a vital role in climate changes, geology, engineering, technology, and many other systems.

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