Scale, by Geoffrey West, is a thought provoking book about coarse grained quantitative network theories which concern the entire human species and its interaction with the environment. Although verbose — as I think the intended audience is upper high school and entry-level college — it is clear in its depictions and explanations. This book is an important summary of really profound work and research performed at the Santa Fe Institute. And it is a great introduction to understanding power laws and scaling in biology and network topologies.
Category: physics (Page 1 of 12)
A little bit of quantum physics, chemistry, biology and philosophy all rolled up into one important book. Order Out of Chaos (La Nouvelle Alliance as originally published in French) by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers is a paradigm changing book. The first parts of the book are an excellent overview on the historical development of science – the evolution of dynamics and the discovery of thermodynamics and their relationship is particularly fascinating.
Once the reader gets to the later parts, it becomes somewhat abstract and the reader may not be able to get through it without a background in chemistry and physics. Chapter Nine, when the phrase “Order Out of Chaos” is developed, is difficult. Despite this, it is much more accessible than a scientific paper on the subject. It may take two or three reads to fully absorb the ideas presented. Overall it is one of my favorite reads.
Some important conclusions from the book:
- The arrow of time objectively exists and it arises from non-equilibrium and irreversibility at the microscopic level.
- The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics can be understood as a selection principal. It operates as a negative on allowable initial conditions, in other words it restricts systems with certain initial conditions from existing.
- Time travel to the past is not allowed by thermodynamics because time reversal requires infinite information concerning the initial conditions of the system, an impossibility to an observer in the universe. This implies that information is closely connected to irreversibility and time.
- Thermodynamics can be expressed from dynamics through the idea of correlations and internal-time operators. Thus, dynamics has been extended once again (general relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos theory).
- The universe as a whole is in a non-equilibrium state and it is an irreversible process with pockets of reversible dynamics.
- In general, one of the goals of the authors is to make dynamics and thermodynamics consistent with each other.
Gary Zukav’s book, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, simply describes (without math) quantum physics and relativity since their inception at the beginning of the 20th century. Zukav skillfully presents the paradoxes and questions posed and asked by some of the smartest people in history including Einstein, Bohr, Born, Heisenberg, von Neumann, Feynman, etc… He carefully elucidates the evolution of the answers to these paradoxes and questions.
There are numerous analogies with eastern cosmologies which may help readers understand the wild results and conclusions of modern physics. The book is perfect for those without a strong background in the quantitative sciences who wish to understand what quantum physics reveals about the universe. Although dated, (1979) it is inspirational and should get readers excited about reading more up to date books.
Compilation of various ideas on mysticism and science.
The collection of papers composing the book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order by David Bohm, provides an introduction to the idea of holomovement and the implicate order of the universe. In other words, the entire known and un-known universe exists as a single inseparable flow. All parts are contained in any specified part, just as in a hologram. And all that humans observe with their biological and technological sensory apparatus are sub-regions of explicate order which form from within this whole.
As a metaphor, Bohm takes the experiment introduced by John Heller, shown below, and explains that the original oval shape drops of dye can be thought of as an explicate ordering of color and structure in time and space. After the experiment proceeds, this explicate order mixes into the glycerin system. Now, imagine the implicate order as consisting of the glycerin and dye system modified via the rotation. The system contains the original explicate ordering of the drops, in other words the existence of the dye as drops of individual colors is encoded by the glycerin system.
BUT, up to now the metaphor has been like a “time-reversal.” The real point of Bohm is that if the system is now rotated in the opposite direction, the dye will condense out of the system as an explicate order of color and shape identical to the original. This is how he suggests that the universe, i.e. the implicate order of the holomovement forms all explicate orders, including consciousness, observed by humans.