133 internautes sur 141 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Peter V. Giansante
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Many people presume that the integration of various domains of science into a single unified "superscience" will ultimately show that everything reduces to physics. In fact, one earlier reviewer of "The End of Certainty" closed his review saying, "Biology is, in the end, physics."
There is a way in which biology could be "reduced" to physics, but only if we learn to define "physics" very differently than we do today. Prigogine shows why biology CANNOT be reduced to context-independent, deterministic contemporary physics. (Read Robert Rosen's "Essays on Life Itself" for the most profound and fundamental explanation, based on non-integrable, complex, "impredicative loops of efficient causation".)
"The End of Certainty" is an important work because it points toward a revolutionary realignment of fundamental physical principles, theoretical perspectives, and even scientific methodology. In fact, it draws together many of the crucial elements that ultimately will result in the inevitable emergence of a fundamentally transformed model of scientific epistemology. It's an important snapshot of a pivotal stage in the evolution of scientific knowledge.
There has not been a coherent major shift in the foundational paradigms of physical science since the emergence of relativity and quantum physics in the early 20th century. The pioneers of those physical models, if not the models themselves, behaved as feuding brothers from the start. That disputatious relationship is perhaps best typified by Einstein's famous rebuke of the indeterminacy of quantum physics: "God does not play dice with the universe."
As usual, the enhanced perspective offered by an additional century of scientific enterprise shows us that neither side in the quantum dispute had an exclusive lock on the truth. If nothing else, Prigogine's work is a masterfully conceived reminder that we are fortunate to live in a time when a vastly larger shift in scientific world-view is imminent.
This book's importance derives from its elegant (though highly technical) presentation of so many of the founding elements of what Erwin Schrödinger predicted would constitute a "new type of physical law". In fact, the controversy between Einstein's perspective and the views of quantum physicists like Schrödinger-a controversy that once commanded so much attention-has faded into an historical amusement. Instead, our advantage in standing on their shoulders is that, with the benefit of teachers like Ilya Prigogine, we can see beyond their semantic squabbles. It turns out that their views were congruent in at least one significant respect: both Einstein and Schrödinger knew that contemporary physics is inadequate to explain more complex phenomena...like biological life.
That congruence is obvious in comparing Schrödinger's statement-"We must be prepared to find a new type of physical law prevailing in (the structure of living matter)."-with Einstein's equivalent assertion-"One can best feel in dealing with living things how primitive physics still is." Their scientific integrity and humbling lack of intellectual arrogance put all of contemporary physics on notice to expect the revolution whose epistemological lineage runs straight through Prigogine, who drops the other shoe in "The End of Certainty" when he irrevocably shatters the myth of time-reversible real-world processes. In doing so, he permanently exorcises "Laplace's demon", Pierre-Simon de Laplace's mythical entity that would be able, if physical processes were reversible and the precise position and momentum of every particle in the universe were known at any instant in time, to calculate the entire past history and future evolutionary state of the universe.
You'll sense the evolution of physics itself when Prigogine delivers some founding concepts of the new physics: time-irreversibility, far-from-equilibrium metastability, and the self-organizing nature of complex systems. He writes, "Once we include these concepts, we come to a new formulation of the laws of nature, one that is no longer built on certitudes, as is the case for deterministic laws, but rather on possibilities."
"The End of Certainty" is somewhat easier to assimilate than Prigogine's earlier works. Nevertheless, if you don't have a formal background in physics, you might find some parts of this book to be fairly rough going. Don't let that discourage you; focus on Chapter 1, Sections I through III. You'll find phenomenal insights there, like Prigogine's explanation of Henri Poincaré's proof that contemporary physics' belief in reversible, closed-system, deterministic modeling actually precludes the arrow of time, obviates self-organization, and prohibits the existence of life itself. In short, Prigogine shows that Poincaré proved that biology CANNOT be reduced to contemporary physics, and he even proved why (the existence of Poincaré resonances). It's an exquisitely beautiful insight.
"The End of Certainty" is not a deeply controversial book, at least not among credible scientific minds. Prigogine's work is revolutionary in many ways, but it is neither disputatious nor provocatively unorthodox. It's too rigorously tied to mainstream science to suffer the kind of rejection that a less credible or less elegantly constructed work would invite. Even if it is not fully understood by contemporary physicists, neither is it seriously challenged or disputed. His work is so overwhelmingly supported by empirical underpinnings as to be incontestable. The Nobel Prize committee concurred; as a Nobel Laureate for his work in dissipative systems, Prigogine is well respected in the world of cutting edge physics. He's the E.F. Hutton of the new physics; when he talks, serious scientists listen.
A final word: Don't sweat it if you're intimidated by some of the mathematics and graphics in "The End of Certainty". Don't worry about what you might be missing if you don't assimilate every bit of it. I didn't have to get it all on the first reading, and neither do you. In fact, you don't need to understand any of the mathematics or geometry to get value out of the non-technical portions of the text, which constitute the majority of the book. The only prerequisites for getting value from this book are literacy, an open mind, moderate intelligence, and a burn to understand the natural world. If you qualify, you're in for an illuminating perspective when you read it.
42 internautes sur 45 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Juan R. Gonzalez-Alvarez
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I did buy this book some time ago and then I was fascinated. I studied the basis of his theory, but unfortunately, Prigogine passed away recently, before I can discuss with he some topics in more detail.
The greater part of the book is written in a natural style, but some sections are highly mathematical even for the majority of scientists! This mathematical presentation has a curious explaining. There are several version of Prigogine's theory, but the first versions had been "abandoned", and then Prigogine details the new approach: "Star-unitary theory for LPS outside of Hilbert space".
An earlier reviewer said that the book provides a solution to three of the most important problems in science: (1) Time's arrow. (2) The measurement problem in QM. (3) The existence of freewill. Precisely, I am working in those and other questions, and I do not believe that claim was completely correct (and perhaps Prigogine believed the same, because in his last communication, said me "The questions that you ask are very difficult."). In my opinion, the novel theory is conflictive both in mathematical and physical details, but I consider that, at least, the aim of the School is correct one. Irreversibility and uncertainty are two fundamental features of our universe. I see that orthodox physics (including particle physics and the so-called String-M theory) is incorrect and/or inapplicable. I believe that, whereas other "popular" books (The Quark and The Jaguar, The Elegant Universe, etc.) should be "relics" in 21st century physics, Prigogine's book will be then a basic work.
The contributions of Prigogine's physics to the understanding in other disciplines, as chemistry, are not clear. In fact, I believe that the impact of recent Prigogine's ideas into fundamental chemistry has been "insignificant", because his revolutionaries ideas in physics are an outcome of their previous chemical investigations (Nobel Prize for Chemistry). For example, in his complex spectral theory, energy is an imaginary quantity, and this is in direct conflict with standard quantum theory postulates. However, in theoretical chemistry, one always defines a transition state by means of an imaginary frequency. As said Prigogine in a recent Solvay conference, "all of Chemistry deals with irreversible processes". I cannot say the same of physics.
The book is very good one, but I disagree in one point. When one writes a scientific paper for publication in a specialized journal (as Physical Review), one can write about everything. Referees and other scientist can either accept or reject your work in scientific grounds. When one writes a popular book for non-expertises, one must be the most "neutral" possible. If this is not possible, one must to "alert" to the reader. This book is not neutral and, in some restricted sense, shows several theories and ideas as been of broad acceptance or current use in science. Of course, this overemphasizes the scientific status of the so-called Brussels School and minimizes the importance of other interesting points of view. In my opinion, this is not a correct attitude. For example, the "diagrammatic" method developed by Brussels School in the 60's (and illustrated in the book) is broadly not used by scientific community. See, for example, "Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics" by Robert Zwanzig for a view in more standard formalisms. In addition, I also must say that some previous Prigogine's ideas in dissipative structures, kinetic potentials, etc. are not standard, and other, as the "universal" criterion of evolution (following production of entropy), was experimentally shown to be false. Of course, other contributions of called Brussels School are simply impressive, for example the extension of scattering theory of particle physics to more general situations of chemical kinetics. Effectively, you have read fine, orthodox S-matrix of "fundamental" physics can be derived as an idealized asymptotic version valid for typical accelerator experiments! I am sorry, but I must said that Chemistry is not applied QED.
Conclusion: The book describes an excellent philosophical view in a "new" physics, and for this reason it may be a central piece on your collection. Nevertheless, I consider that the scientific way proposed is a little conflictive and some mathematics may be modified!
43 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Julio C. S. Barros
- Publié sur Amazon.com
In a world gone crazy with Bohr's "observer-driven collapse of the wave function", Everett's surreal "many-worlds theory", and Einstein's discomforting "reversibility of time-flow direction", Prigogine stands as possibly the sole (or last?) defender of commonsensical notions of time in physics (which equals to say, of sanity!). He is the Champion of Time, bow, arrow, and all! His weapon: a "bow" of decades of successes (including a Noble Prize) in nonequilibrium thermodynamics. His ammunition, a quite peculiar arrow: the arrow of time. But just as happens with many literary characters, not only his virtue but also his vice may spring out of the very same source; in his case, his "sane" notions about Nature...
This book will very likely prove readable by most general readers, like myself, provided the technical parts are carefully skipped, and the central ideas are correctly spotted. It truly presents essential insights to issues like: the emergence of complexity; self-organization; the nature of matter; determinism vs probability; and the validity of time symmetry in both quantum mechanics and classical mechanics equations. As to issues like the actual existance of a flow and arrow (direction) of time (which, by the way, is the very subject of the book) and the existence of free will, the book may be too far from conclusive...
It seemed to me (only top experts could really tell for sure) that Prigogine showed compelling evidence supporting the idea that, contrary to the prevailing notions in the field of physics, there is time asymmetry both in quantum mechanics and in classical mechanics. And also, that reality at both these levels is not deterministic, but truly probabilistic. He further showed that determinism should be replaced by a probabilistic account of events both in situations where we have finite knowledge about the initial conditions and in situations where we have infinite knowledge (we are done with Laplace's Demon at last!). This alone is already a breakthrough, even though probably not news to well-informed members of the physical sciences community.
I found Prigogine a little bit contradictory (it might be that Nature itself is contradictory in this regard) when talking about determinism/time-reversibility. Sometimes, I got the impression that it only exists in idealized (non-real) situations, and sometimes I understood it as if it does exist in certain specific (real) situations.
I also found his rejection of Gödel's time-reversible interpretation of Einstein's equations far too emotional, instead of being based on experimental-mathematical grounds. As far as I know, this viewpoint, too, has experienced considerable growth over the last 10 years or so (the studies about CTC - closed timelike curves), and it seems to be a quite respectable field of inquiry. Time-flow reversibility does not seem less crazy to me than the fact that we have to use imaginary numbers (that is, numbers that do not exist at all!) in theories that deal with some very basic properties and behaviors of matter, like quantum mechanics and chaos.
Even though physicists usually equal time symmetry (in physical equations) to time-flow reversibility, and asymmetry to irreversibility, I don't see why this has to be so. Nor does this book clarifies this issue any further to the layman (it is interesting to point out in this regard that even the probabilistic collapse of the wave function is considered by the prevailing views of physicists to be symmetrical/reversible, according to Penrose in The Empreror's New Mind). Our suspicions and complaints about the mysterious nature of time are very much justified: space gives us 3 dimensions, bidirectional and with no compulsory flow. Time, on the other hand, gives us just 1 dimension, unidirectional and with compulsory flow. At best, we can slow it down, by traveling close to the speed of light (quite comforting, isn't it?).Time alone is responsible for most of our losses in life (unless you get exiled or something...). I think that, interpreting "time symmetry" as "time reversibility", scientists have actually tried to solve the unsolvable.
In our quest to understand the Universe, we often find three kinds of questions: first, those that can be proved or disproved, like the old statements "The Sun revolves around the Earth" (disproved), and "The Moon revolves around the Earth" (proved). Second, questions that can be proved, but not disproved, like the existance of God or of life after death. Third, questions that cannot be either proved or disproved, like the existance of consciousness in other human beings than ourselves (or in dogs) and (to me) the actual existance of time flow.
Prigogine says that in this book he tried to follow (or discover?) a "narrow path" between utter determinism and total randomicity, probably hoping to find room for free will in between. Although I think he did a brilliant work, I feel that he got stuck in this Narrow Path. His work refutes determinism, but instead of presenting phenomena or advancing mechanisms to support free will, it only casts us into the depths of utter chance. In spite of that, when talking about self-organization in dissipative structures, Prigogine passes on the idea of "choice", even saying (more than once) that "matter begins to see" and that "the system chooses". This might ascribe to nature at its most basic structure the properties of "life" and maybe even of "consciousness", which might mean that we are at the verge of a revigorated return to the ancient ideas of hilozoism and panpsychism. Furthermore, this blurs the limits between emergence and reductionism, for it is very difficult to take a sound reductionist stand (or emergencionist stand) if we don't know what to expect of the world around us (we can't tell if something is emerging or just "arising").
Prigogine's appeal for sanity is both his virtue and his weakness, in a Universe that pays little heed to human's logic and causality. A Universe in which, regardless of being dictated by an authoritarian God or determined by blind and cold laws of nature, the only theory that may account for all that there is is the familiar and provincial B.I.S.O. theory. Namely: Because I Say So!