What is Life?: With Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches (Anglais) Broché – 26 mars 2012
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'Erwin Schrödinger, iconoclastic physicist, stood at the pivotal point of history when physics was the midwife of the new science of molecular biology. In these little books he set down, clearly and concisely, most of the great conceptual issues that confront the scientist who would attempt to unravel the mysteries of life. This combined volume should be compulsory reading for all students who are seriously concerned with truly deep issues of science.' Paul Davies
'… this remains a classic, written with great insight and modesty …' Human Nature Review --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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This edition of 'What is Life?' by Cambridge University Press also contains Schrodinger's essay entitled 'Mind and Matter,' along with some autobiographical notes. What is Life? is a well paced 1944 version of molecular genetics that is still valid today. Crick and Watson didn't discover the structure of DNA til 1953, so Schrodinger didn't know of replisomes and error correcting polymerase III, but this essay shows how well developed molecular biology was by this time. Crick and Watson were certainly in the right place at the right time by clearing up a minor bottleneck in the broader science of molecular genetics. Mainly what Schrodinger, the formulator of the quantum mechanical wave equation of atoms, wants to accomplish is to reconcile quantum effects with biology. What is Life? makes an excellent synthesis of quantum physics and biology. Where modern scientists like physicist Roger Penrose and chemist Graham Cairns-Smith fail at this correlation Schrodinger is eminently successful. Although this essay is somewhat dated it is stimulating and rewarding to read.
The second essay entitled 'Mind and Matter' written in 1956 is very similar to modern efforts in describing abstract neuro and cognitive science. It tackles many of the same topics as moderns Daniel Dennett, Gerald Edelman, and Antonio Damasio do. Schrodinger artfully blends the idealism of Schopenhauer with his own personal physicist's point of view and crafts a perfectly enjoyable, reflective discussion on the concept of mind. I actually enjoyed Mind and Matter more than What is Life? as it showed the intellectual range of Schrodinger better. His discussion of what he calls objectivation, or how the subjective and objective dynamics of the scientific observer influence one another was great.
Lastly, a brief selection of Schrodinger's writing about his own life rounds out this brief, thoughtful collection of essays by a world class scientist. This relaxing little book still exhibits the ability to invoke serious thought about the nature of life and the implications of consciousness.
This book is the compilation of a series of lectures by a Nobel Luareate in quantum physics and attempts to reconcile the biological requirements of living cells to the probabalistic nature of the atom as defined by quantum mechanics. These lectures were originally give in the 1940's and 50's prior to the discovery of DNA, RNA, gene mapping, and other techniques taken for granted by today's biologists.
The basic tenant of quantum physics is that all atomic structure can be described only by the mathematics of probability. The exact orbit of an electron or its velocity cannot be determined. One can only state the probability of the location or velocity. Protons and neutrons are thought to change back and forth into one another in a random fashion. The very process of physical measurement introduces errors which preclude accurate measurements. This is modern physics - random events governed by probabilities.
Compare this to the biology of living cells. Genetics reproduce specific inherited characteristic for generations. Why does the random atomic behavior not interrupt or change genetic traits? How does humanity think logically using randomly behaving atoms and hence molecules and compounds?
This little book attempts and succeeds in theoretically reconciling these two worlds. The author predicts the structure of DNA. He anticipates current studies in how small numbers of randomly acting atoms are constrained to be deterministic. In the latter lectures, he enters the world of metaphysics to discuss "Mind and Matter, Determinism and Free Will, Ethics, and Science and Religion."
This book is less than 300 pages long, but encylopic in scope. Be warned that it must be savored to be understood. It cannot be speed read nor can it be read only once to be understood.
Finally, two much later in time companion books are "The Quantum Self" and "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" expand the concepts presented by this book. Both are available from Amazon.
Joseph I. Schwartz,
April 23, 1997
The first of these considers the possibility of science, as it stands at Schrodinger's time, answering the question of the title. Naturally such a question can now be asked since the universe has gradually become a mechanical one with life a great mystery since mechanical descriptions cannot describe life as we experience it. This was not always the case, certainly not before the 15th Century or so when the mystery had to do with the mechanical rather than the living aspects of the world.
So Schrodinger is able to ask this, the most fundamental of all the major questions in his and our time. Throughout the first essay he attempts to answer this not directly but rather through what science can tell us about the process that a living creature must undergo as part of its life cycle ie how is the being able to reproduce itself, where does this information reside etc. He discusses inheritance and the Darwinian explanation available in his time, which of course did not yet know of the DNA molecule. It appears at first that this is no more than a standard approach to these questions and lacks any new insights but this is a mistaken assumption and an in depth reading leaves no doubt that Schrodinger thinks science does not and cannot describe life truly using its current approach. I leave the potential reader to discover this for him/herself.
The second of these essays is far more metaphysical in character although schrodinger, a hardnosed scientist, does not waffle or procrastinate, he looks at things without sentimentality or any of the fantasies now current in the more "out there" new age mysticism. Schrodinger leaves no doubt that science again is not able to really discover what the mind is or how perception truly arises from any form of mechanism.
In the last of his essays he talks about his own life and a wonderful adventure it is. Schrodinger rather than being the epitome of the rational scientist lacking in feeling, as the commonly held assumption tells, writes with great joy and style.
Something to really look forward to, enjoy.
Perhaps the most impressive achievement of the book is that it can be readily understood by persons relatively untrained in science or mathematics.