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Rainbow And The Worm, The: The Physics Of Organisms (3Rd Edition) [Anglais] [Broché]

Mae-Wan Ho

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Description de l'ouvrage

6 août 2008
This highly unusual book began as a serious inquiry into Schrödinger,s question, "What is life? ", and as a celebration of life itself. It takes the reader on a voyage of discovery through many areas of contemporary physics, from non-equilibrium thermodynamics and quantum optics to liquid crystals and fractals, all necessary for illuminating the problem of life. In the process, the reader is treated to a rare and exquisite view of the organism, gaining novel insights not only into the physics, but also into "the poetry and meaning of being alive." This much-enlarged third edition includes new findings on the central role of biological water in organizing living processes; it also completes the author's novel theory of the organism and its applications in ecology, physiology and brain science.

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.1 étoiles sur 5  15 commentaires
52 internautes sur 54 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A new look at life from an untraditional scientist 3 septembre 2002
Par "parmavet" - Publié sur
First of all, Mae-Wan Ho is a woman. The rest of these posts describe the author using "him" and "he," which demonstrates an unfortunate gender stereotype about scientists.
Mae-Wan Ho examines the question, "What is life?" using insights from physics, biology, and chemistry. The author is a professor and research scientist who works outside of the maintream, to say the least. She is best known for her activism against genetic engineering. Her writings take a "holistic" perspective on science; she tries to acheive understanding of the big questions (life, free will, etc) by combining ideas from many different fields.
The book is not flaky or meta-physics. It won't tell you about life energies or world consciousness. It is also not a layman's introduction to any particular established field, as many science books are. Rather, it is a new look at "life," somewhat scientifically rigorous (she is a professional researcher) but presented so that it's accessible to non-scientists. She has a chapter describing how life operates far from the theormodynamic equilibrium, which was very interesting. On the other hand, the final chapter about optics is somewhat far-fetched in my opinion. The book's ideas are generally outside of the mainstream.
All in all, it is a refreshing change from the 10023675th book about superstrings and selfish genes, for those of you who like science books. It's a short book, and worth the few hours it takes to read it. I would highly recommend it as pleasure reading for amateur science fans, or as a book that actual scientists with some time on their hands can read for a new perspective. (I myself am getting my Ph.D. at a top engineering school.) I think it will not appeal to most conservative professional scientists, who tend to reserve their respect for researchers who are experts in a small and established field.
Finally, don't worry about the equations; you can skip them and get the general idea.
38 internautes sur 40 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Tough Hike Over Worthy Terrain 23 juillet 2000
Par Daniel Murphy - Publié sur
This book is not for the faint of heart. While I made it through A Brief History of Time, and The Elegant Universe with only a few major hiccups, The Rainbow and the Worm was tough going. I'm a physician, not a physicist, and my college level calculus is very rusty. Staring down pages of equations was not easy.
That being said, this book repeatedly caused me to gaze off into space, absorbed in a totally new way of looking at an old phenomenon. I can't look at living organisms the way that I did before, and I'm indebted to Mae-Wan for this. Scientists are zeroing in on life, and while they strip away myth and mystery, they are replacing them with levels of awe at the complexity and wonder of the living world around us. Despite Ho's failure as a writer that is able to popularize difficult concepts, she is good enough to repeatedly inspire "Ah hah!" in anyone that takes the time.
Finally, I find it interesting that the first two reviewers on referred to Mae-Wan as a male. It robs the book of a bit of its flavor to work all the way through it not realizing that such intense and creative thought is female in origin.
23 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 How a living cell overcomes constraints of the Second law of thermodynamics. 17 mai 2007
Par Rama Rao - Publié sur
This book is not for the faint hearted! It requires an undergraduate level of thermodynamics, and some working knowledge of biology, and laws of relativity and quantum physics. The author has done her best to write this book to a general reader about physics and biology of life; a monotonous and tedious job to describe in a book of 250 pages. She is influenced by the work of celebrated physicist Erwin Schrodinger and his passion for understanding life. The reader can see Schrodinger's influence throughout this book. Chapter 2 to 6 deals with Schrödinger's concept in explaining how a living cell exports entropy in order to maintain its own entropy at a low level or near zero there by circumventing the constraints of Second law of thermodynamics.

In the second half of the book the author explores various physical and chemical concepts to show how nature keeps cellular entropy production to a minimum. First, the author discusses how the energy transductions in living cells occur, and she determines that heat transfer is not the major form of energy transduction. The biomacromolecules are setup within the cell to near solid state or liquid crystalline like state such that it promotes synchronicity and coherence through electric, electromagnetic and electro mechanical interactions, which are primary source for energy. Coupled electron transfer reactions and other cyclic process that occur in a nested space - time organization within the cell helps minimize entropy since, for a coupled molecular process the entropy production is zero.

Intermolecular dipolar interactions among membrane bound proteins/enzymes, and nucleic acids which act as biological semiconductor devices; and quantum tunneling operate in many electron and proton transfer proteins. DNA and RNA are large dielectric molecules that can sustain coherent excited sates. In chapter 8 - 10 the importance of coherent process that removes biochemical processes away from thermodynamic equilibrium by energy flow have been discussed. The operation of quantum coherence, a coherent state that maximizes both global cohesion and local freedom such that micro domains and nested compartments within the cytosol or nucleus or membrane right down to a single biomacromolecules all functioning autonomously doing different things and at different rates generating flow patterns yet all coupled together in supporting the cellular process. A high degree of coherence, coordination, compartmentalization and regulation of multiple biochemical reactions involving numerous proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and lipids is proposed as a compensating mechanism to minimize entropy. While the author does her best to bring everything in literature together to support a reasonable hypothesis, but the experimental evidences in support of these concepts operating in a cell is not very strong and hence it is some way to go for universal acceptance.

One important feature devised by nature in electron transfer reactions is a metal mediated reaction that has never been addressed in this book. These transfers are facile quantum chemical reactions where nature has used transition metals (with vacant 3d orbitals) to promote electron transfers between low molecular weight biomolecules that otherwise would be thermodynamically disallowed. Iron, copper and manganese perform key cellular reactions. Alkali metals such as sodium, potassium and calcium also participate in many ionic reactions that offer thermodynamic advantages to a living cell.

I found this author to be enigmatic since the book is heavily regionalized in its assertions. She refers to the scientific thought conveyed in this work as Western science throughout this book. Chapter 14 offers a very interesting discussion of entropy, and chapter 15 reminisces about the philosophy of life.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Coherent Organism 25 avril 2008
Par DCCHEF - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I've been reading more on efforts to invoke quantum physics in explaining life, so on a recommendation I picked up this book.

I found this to be is an engaging and thought-provoking book, extremely dense with information and ideas running from accepted science through increasingly speculative extrapolations and concluding with some free-form philosophizing. This book was published in 1993, with the second edition I read coming in 1998.

The early sections of Ho's book discuss life in thermodynamic terms. I was broadly familiar with the idea that life utilizes energy flow to build and maintain high levels of structural organization far from equilibrium. In several steps, and citing work of other scientists, she builds a case that explaining life in detail strains the traditional thermodynamic picture (which assumes microscopic homogeneity). She says intricately organized living things utilize molecular systems which transfer energy without thermalization (zero entropy growth). Energy is stored and used at the electronic level, not the thermal level. But how can these micro-level energy exchanges operate across the macroscopic dimensions of the organism? Ho says stored energy can amplify weak signals across larger distances.

Throughout these early chapters, Ho uses the word "coherent" to describe the (non-thermal) energy storage and transfer within the organism (she says stored energy is by definition coherent energy). She will come back to this idea later in the book and explicitly argue that it must involve quantum coherence specifically.

The energy we're talking about is electromagnetic. We know electrons move quickly and in organized fashion through crystals and super-cooled materials (superconductors). Could something like that be happening in the organism (despite the high temperature)? Ho uses the example of a solid state laser where energy flow induces a quantum phase transition which can take place very rapidly. She sketches how this might occur in living tissue and discusses the idea that cells could be solid state systems.

In a later chapter Ho leaves aside the solid state system model of the organism in favor of specifically identifying it as a liquid crystal system. She became convinced of this in part by examining fruit fly larva under a polarizing microscope. The title of the book comes from the colorful organized patterns she detected. She believes the type of organization seen is evidence that organisms are essentially (coherently organized) liquid crystals.

Ho has a chapter toward the end of the book on quantum physics. She summarizes the familiar phenomena of quantum entanglement and coherence (2 slit experiment, EPR, etc.). Then she tries to convey why the ideas and arguments of the preceding chapters lead her to conclude it is indeed quantum coherence (superposition of states, non-local entanglement) which prevails in the organism. But has she made the case? In a key passage she admits the evidence is circumstantial. For the mainstream scientific community to get on board, we'll need more.

Likely, we'll need secure experimental results which demonstrates a biological system clearly exploiting non-trivial quantum effects. I note There was a recent study on photosynthesis than may fit into this category.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 what is conscious life 26 novembre 2008
Par laurens van den muyzenberg - Publié sur
In a way I am not competent to hold a view on this book. I only understand the first three and the last chapter. The chapters in between require more scientific knowledge than I have. Still, I strongly recommend reading this book; even if is only to read the final chapter. The book is written by a prominent scientist to find the answer to: what is life? especially life of human beings.
The last chapter "time and free will" is an eye opener. For example: we have two selves, an internal one and an external one. The external one consists of all the relationships we have with others. Obvious once you realize this. The self is not doomed to fight others for survival as some people interpret Darwinism. On the contrary sustaining others makes the inner self stronger. The self and others are completely intertwined.
Another example. The final summary: What is reality? "Reality is thus a shimmering presence of infinite planes, a luminous labyrinth of the active now connecting "past" and "future", "real" with "ideal", where potential unfolds into actual and actual enfolds further potential through the free action and intention of the organism". The conclusions are remarkably similar to Buddhist concepts. You could even say it is a profound interpretation.
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