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Publisher's Summary

Among the estimated 100 billion solar systems in the known universe, evolving life is surely abundant. That evolution is a process of "becoming" in each case. Since Newton, we have turned to physics to assess reality. But physics alone cannot tell us where we came from, how we arrived, and why our world has evolved past the point of unicellular organisms to an extremely complex biosphere.

Building on concepts from his work at the Santa Fe Institute, Kauffman focuses in particular on the idea of cells constructing themselves and introduces concepts such as "constraint closure". Living systems are defined by the concept of "organization" which has not been focused on in enough in previous works. Cells are autopoetic systems that build themselves: They literally construct their own constraints on the release of energy into a few degrees of freedom that constitutes the very thermodynamic work by which they build their own self creating constraints. Living cells are "machines" that construct and assemble their own working parts. The emergence of such systems - the origin-of-life problem - was probably a spontaneous phase transition to self-reproduction in complex enough prebiotic systems. The resulting protocells were capable of Darwin's heritable variation, hence open-ended evolution by natural selection.

©2019 Oxford University Press (P)2019 Tantor

What listeners say about A World Beyond Physics

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  • 11-22-19

Bleh!!

I found this audiobook a hodgepodge of exciting, some rejected and mostly speculative ideas, neither here nor there. It is short and hence sorely inadequate in covering the rich, complex and diverse topic of origins in any sense. It failed to provide me with any measure of digestible information about how life may have actually originated. Unnecessary repetition of phrases encoding simple straightforward concepts such as 'ergodic universe above the level of atoms' just comes off as pretentious rather than as a sincere attempt to educate the listener. Anthropomorphization of dna molecules would have been fun if the preceding and following passages had conveyed any actual scientifically-grounded information rather than fantasies. On more than one occasion, I felt that the author was striving to sound informed about the topic rather than truly understanding the depth of the problem. I would have been more interested in lectures that detailed his own work, or devoted more time to constraint closure concepts with accompanying diagrams. In the end, the audiobook just left me frustrated with a growing sense that I was listening to nonsense after the first hour.

5 people found this helpful

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Science at the edge

Books like this take the readers to the edge of science. It seems that Nature does play dices after all.

2 people found this helpful

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This book and on being you are the two books AI workers should read this year

Kaufman Summarizes and synthesizes ideas on how life started in the nature of the biosphere. Each book advances his understanding a little bit, and this is a culmination although probably hard to fully understand unless you’ve been through some of his earlier stuff. However his writing style seems to improve from Book to Book and this one is very clear and fairly short. In my opinion he’s summarizes some of the most important things to know in science and buy extrapolation for artificial intelligence today.

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New ideas are everywhere

Great book with new ideas, told clearly and a bit poetic. Useful for those who study complex systems.