Stuart A Kauffman pdf A World Beyond Physics

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A World Beyond Physics by Stuart A Kauffman pdf free

Stuart A Kauffman pdf

Classical physics, our gift from Newton, is our world written in the passivevoice: rivers flow, rocks fall, planets orbit, stars arc in the space-time deformedby their masses. There are no doings, only happenings: myriad, miraculous, butbrute.I broach 78 years as I sit to write, having angled to the kitchen to pick out anectarine to eat. Yesterday, I clambered aboard the “Poised Realm,” my 22-footboat, to skiff across to the Crane Dock on Orcas Island to drive to Eastsound,Washington, to buy the nectarine I just retrieved as an afternoon snack. My heartthumps a bit, my own human heart. Most of my readers have a human heart aswell.Just where did my human heart, the nectarine, my kitchen, the boat, andEastsound come from since the brute happening of the Big Bang 13.7 billionyears ago?Since Newton, we have turned to physics to assess reality: what is REAL. Butphysics will not tell us whence we come, how arrived, why the human heartexists, nor why I can buy nectarines in Eastsound, let alone what “buying” is.We will talk of these things, for there is more to know than we know and moreto say than we can say.We are in a world beyond physics.We are in a world of living creatures that construct themselves. Yet we lackthe concepts to say it. A tree, from a seed, builds itself, launches itself upwardtoward the sun. We see it and do not yet know what to say. A forest builds itself,rooted, branched, quiet, as if longing. Our biosphere too grows in diversity intowhat it can become and has done so for some 3.7 billion years. A giraffe? Whoknew three billion years ago? None could have known. And nectarines: Whocould then have said?We estimate that 50 to 90 percent of the 10 to the power of 22 (1022) stars inthe known universe have planets cycling them. If, as I believe and will say, life isabundant, the universe is rife with becoming, based on physics but beyond any
physics we know.The concept of perhaps 1022 biospheres staggers me. Yes, we thrill atHubble’s image of billions of galaxies, some 1011 of them. But are there 1022biospheres, ebullient like ours? Not “a world beyond physics,” but “worldsbeyond physics,” as vast as the vastness of the physics we know, almostunknowable.We miss in our science the idea of a system that constructs itself. I willintroduce the requisite concept due to Maël Montévil and Mateo Mossio (2015)called “Constraint Closure”. These young scientists have found a, or maybe“the,” missing concept of biological organization. We will grow to understand itclearly and build on it. The ideas are a tiny bit complex, but not very. We will getto them. But for now we can think of constraint closure like this: it is a set ofboth constraints on the release of energy in non-equilibrium processes, and thoseprocesses, such that the system constructs its own constraints. This is an amazingidea. Cells do this, automobiles do not.Living systems achieve this constraint closure and do what are called“thermodynamic work cycles” by which they can reproduce themselves. Livingsystems also exhibit Darwin’s heritable variation, so can undergo his naturalselection, hence evolve. I’ve written about that in some of my earlier books. ButI was nagged by a feeling that there was something missing. With constraintclosure a crucial puzzle piece is put into place.But what evolves cannot be said ahead of time: what evolves emergesunprestatably—I know of no better word—and builds our biosphere ofincreasing complexity. We are its children: as are giraffes, nectarines, and seacucumber.Some years ago, at his 70th birthday fest, a physicist friend of mine smiled atthe way biologists see the world. Were biologists with Galileo on the tower ofPisa, they would have dropped red stones, orange stones, pink stones, bluestones, green stones, and so on.My physicist colleagues chuckled knowingly. Physicists seek to simplify tofind laws, biologists to study how life became complex. So of course, the redstones were giraffes; the orange stones nectarines; the blue stones seacucumbers; and the green stones, well, just us. The question is not whether thesea cucumber, giraffe, us, or the nectarine falls faster, but where did they comefrom in the very first place?Physics won’t say. No one knows.There is a world beyond physics.Darwin taught that new species drive wedges into the crowded floor of nature
to make room for their own existence: yes, but no. Creatures, by existing, createthe very conditions for other creatures to come into existence. Species constitutethe very cracks in the floor of nature that constitute the niches for yet newspecies to come into existence, creating yet more cracks for still more species tospring forth.The blossoming biosphere creates its own ever-new possibilities of becoming,yet more diverse and abundant.The same holds, almost unnoted, for the exploding global economy. Newgoods create niches for yet further new goods: the invention of the World WideWeb created niches for selling on the Web, hence eBay and Amazon; which inturn created content on the Web, hence niches for search engines like Google;and for businesses that try to game, the search algorithms to sell more stuff. Orthink of all the iPhone apps: and apps upon apps, like the ad blockers thatremove the sales pitches from what Safari shows.We stumble into the world we make possible as we lumber forward, with noor little insight or foreknowledge. I can go to Eastsound to buy nectarines.We think that in physics—Special and General Relativity, QuantumMechanics and Quantum Field Theory with the Standard Model—we will findthe foundations from which we can derive the world, the ultimate becoming. Wecannot. The ultimate may rest on the foundations, but it is not derivable fromthem. This ultimate, an unknowable unfolding, slips its foundational mooringsand floats free. As Heraclitus said, the World Bubbles Forth.

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