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Posted by Michael Levine on July 21, 2003 17:48:46 UTC

one must admit that the universe is not in equilibrium, it is forever changing: "evolving" as it were.

Well, the universe is too big and complex a thing for anyone to be sure of anything about it. I'd rather stick with math and logic, if only because I'm not able to handle much more.

This observation is key to understanding how the "evolution" of the our universe and its embedded structures will proceed. The century old hypothesis of "heat death" of the universe, based on the second law of thermodynamics is no longer the most reasonable scenario because it appears that the universe is a non-equilibrium structure [Smolin97]. It is not clear, what the universe is "dissipating" but in some sense you can imagine it "dissipating" time.

I'm not really in a position to evaluate that as I have no idea what "dissipating time" could possibly mean.

Although biology is more "historical" (this is, dependent on properties of earth's evolution) than physics (dependent on the properties of the universe's evolution) and some of the "laws" of evolution may have different "parameters" in some other "life" supporting planet; nevertheless, there are still "laws" of evolution that are not currently understood, and the general form of the "laws" are most likely to be applicable for all life in the universe. But Gould's main point is valid: that biology is not just complex physics. That is, the concepts, methods, and techniques of physics cannot be directly applied without very judicious understanding of the process structure of biology.

Again, I'm not sure what's being talked about here. If biology is not just complex physics, what is it then? Are they implying that biology contradicts physics? That would be foolish. Are they saying they haven't found a way to reduce biological processes to physical processes? That used to be true of chemistry not long ago. I think the statement holds little value for physicists, but it may have some value for biologists. It makes no sense to tell a painter that painting is about putting the right amount of the right color on the right spot on the canvas, even if that is what it really is. Different problems require different ways of thinking, but the underlying truths remain the same.

Rosen's detailed analysis elucidates the theoretical limits of the current physical theories such as current cosmological theories and computational approaches, typified by fractals, artificial life, and chaos theory. He points out physics can benefit from metaphors in living systems just as well as biology as has used metaphors from physics and chemistry.

It's really hard to find use for metaphors in modern physics. Everything that relates to the world of our perceptions, which could be understood through metaphors, has already been understood. The real challenges today are to understand the world of the very small and fast, and the very large and slow. And it's not because we don't have metaphors, it's just that the metaphors make no sense in these contexts. For instance, the concept of waves helps one learn quantum mechanics, but eventually one must understand that sound waves and ocean waves are made of atoms, not the other way around. The question "what are electromagnetic fields waving", a.k.a. the search for the ether, has created more trouble than it would be reasonable.

That was cute about the "eight year old" messsage. It happens I often rebut ideas of reincarnation with the idea that I don't feel I'm quite the same person I was when I was eight years old in this life.

It's too bad the kid died, for he seemed quite bright. Hopefully he carried little karma to his next life?

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