The Life of the Cosmos

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Oxford University Press, Mar 1, 1999 - Science - 358 pages
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Cosmologist Lee Smolin offers a startling new theory of the universe that is at once elegant, comprehensive, and radically different from anything proposed before. In The Life of the Cosmos, Smolin cuts the Gordian knot of cosmology with a simple, powerful idea: "The underlying structure of our world, " he writes, "is to be found in the logic of evolution." Today's physicists have overturned Newton's view of the universe, yet they continue to cling to an understanding of reality not unlike Newton's own - as a clock, an intricate mechanism, governed by laws which are mathematical and eternally true. Smolin argues that the laws of nature we observe may be in part the result of a process of natural selection which took place before the big bang. Smolin's ideas are based on recent developments in cosmology, quantum theory, relativity and string theory, yet they offer, at the same time, an unprecedented view of how these developments may fit together to form a new theory of cosmology. From this perspective, the lines between the simple and the complex, the fundamental and the emergent, and even between the biological and the physical are redrawn. The result is a framework that illuminates many intractable problems, from the paradoxes of quantum theory and the nature of space and time to the problem of constructing a final theory of physics. As he argues for this new view, Smolin introduces the reader to recent developments in a wide range of fields, from string theory and quantum gravity to evolutionary theory the structure of galaxies. He examines the philosophical roots of controversies in the foundations of physics, and shows how they may be transformed as science moves towardunderstanding the universe as an interrelated, self-constructed entity, within which life and complexity have a natural place, and in which "the occurrence of novelty, indeed the perpetual birth of novelty, can be understood."
 

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Contents

PrologueRevolutions
3
Introduction
11
Light and Life
23
The Logic of Atomism
30
3 The Miracle of the Stars
36
The Dream of Unification
47
The Lessons of String Theory
58
An Ecology of Space and Time
73
Beyond the Anthropic Principle
202
Space and Time in the New Cosmology
213
17 The Road from Newton to Einstein
222
The Meaning of Einsteins
233
The Meaning of the Quantum
240
Einsteins Revenge
255
21 A Pluralistic Universe
267
The World as a Network of Relations
276

Detective Work
107
The Ecology of the Galaxy
116
Games and Galaxies
129
The Organization of
139
The Cosmology of an Interesting Universe
161
The Flower and the Dodecahedron
177
Philosophy Religion and Cosmology
192
The Evolution of Time
285
Testing Cosmological
301
Notes and Acknowledgments
324
Selected Bibliography
337
Index
347
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Page 338 - Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (London: New Left Books, 1975).

References to this book

Investigations
Stuart A. Kauffman
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About the author (1999)


Lee Smolin is Professor of Physics at the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at the Pennsylvania State University. As a theoretical physicist, he has contributed several key ideas to the search for a unification of quantum theory, cosmology, and relativity.

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