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The End of Certainty by Ilya Prigogine

The End of Certainty (original 1996; edition 1997)

by Ilya Prigogine

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Prigogine presents to the general reader his profound break with the classical description of nature, examining the Western approach to time and showing that as we follow the probabilistic processes of the real world, we travel far beyond the dead mechanics of determinism. In expounding his argument, he leads us on a marvelous intellectual adventure beginning with the Greeks, through Newtonian trajectory and deterministic chaos, and onward to the heights of a unified formulation of quantum theory and "free lunch" cosmology. His dramatic findings include that quantum mechanics can be extended to demonstrate time's natural irreversibility, and further, he argues that time actually preceded the Big Bang.Prigogine deconstructs the deterministic world view, but does not champion the idea of an arbitrary universe of pure chance. Instead, he argues, we live in a world of definable probabilities where life and matter evolve continuously in the direction of time, and certainty itself is the illusion. Notions such as "self-organization" that Prigogine introduced in previous work now take their place within a rigorous and consistent scientific world view. As this watershed book shows, the end of certainty is the birth of a whole new formulation of the natural laws of both science and culture.… (more)
Title:The End of Certainty
Authors:Ilya Prigogine
Info:Free Press (1997), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:popsci, pb

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The End of Certainty by Ilya Prigogine (1996)



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Contrary to what the book description says, this text is not entirely suited for the general reader. A good half of the book is incomprehensible for a layman. Still, very big, world-changing ideas lie within, including those that challenge wide accepted views such as determinism, the Big Bang, and fundamental blocks of quantum mechanics and relativity. Alas, understanding the proof given by Prigogine to these claims is directly proportional to your expertise with mathematics. ( )
1 vote JorgeCarvajal | Feb 13, 2015 |
At the heart of this book is a challenge to the bedrock of our current scientific thinking. Newton's science, and indeed that of quantum physics contains no arrow of time. Whilst it may be true that knowing the current movement of balls on a pool table not only reveals where they will go, but also where they have come from, in contrast all around us we see a world that is deeply time irreversible. Smoke and embers do not spontaneously form into pieces of wood and fragments of glass do not leap onto tables to form the shape of a vase.

As Prigigone points out, all of our time reversible equations describe a simplification of what actually occurs in nature. We live our lives with eyes blinkered, dismissing reality as the exception to our neatly formed approximations.

Nobel laureate Prigigone does his best to avoid the mathematics as he describes ground breaking ideas that challenge and redefine science and through it the way we comprehend our world. In doing so it shakes the foundations of our knowledge and points not just to new understanding but new ways of understanding a universe governed by probabilities.

In my case at least, Prigigone did not fully succeed and there are parts of the book in which my lack of mathematical knowledge left me floundering. However don't be put off and feel free to skip the middle chapters. The key ideas all shine through even without the maths and will feed the open mind of those seeking a real understanding of the natural world. ( )
1 vote Steve55 | Sep 4, 2011 |
Mostly nonsense.
  chrisadami | Mar 30, 2007 |
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Dopo aver imparato che le certezze della fisica newtoniana sono illusorie e dipendono da semplificazioni artificiose della realtà, l'universo non ci appare più come un meccanismo perfetto e il mondo si è rivelato per quello che è: fluttuante, rumoroso e caotico. Ilya Prigogine è stato il primo a formulare una nuova scienza che propone di affrontare lo studio del mondo reale in tutta la sua complessità, oltre la meccanica classica e quantistica: una nuova scienza che si fonda su concetti nuovi come quelli di strutture dissipative, di instabilità dei sistemi dinamici, di sensibilità alle condizioni iniziali, di distribuzioni di probabilità, nel tentativo di restituire al tempo tutta la sua sostanza. Quella che Prigogine ci indica in questo libro è una stretta via tra un mondo deterministico governato da leggi ferree e un mondo assurdo in preda all'arbitrio del caso: le leggi della fisica assumono un senso nuovo, esprimendo ormai solo delle probabilità.
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