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The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos and the New Laws of Nature [Hardcover]

Ilya Prigogine
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Aug 1997
Time, the fundamental dimension of our existence, has fascinated artists, philosophers, and scientists of every culture and every century. All of us can remember a moment as a child when time became a personal reality, when we realized what a "year" was, or asked ourselves when "now" happened. Common sense says time moves forward, never backward, from cradle to grave. Nevertheless, Einstein said that time is an illusion. Nature's laws, as he and Newton defined them, describe a timeless, deterministic universe within which we can make predictions with complete certainty. In effect, these great physicists contended that time is reversible and thus meaningless.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: The Free Press; Free Press ed edition (4 Aug 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684837056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684837055
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.4 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Oliver Sacks "Prigogine is a pioneer of chaos and self-organization theory, and his vision is as revolutionary and fundamental as Darwin's. With a fascinating blend of the conceptual, historical, and personal, he gives us a rare and privileged glimpse into one of the most adventurous scientific imaginations of our time."

About the Author

Viscount Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, is the Director of the Ilya Prigogine Center of Statistical Mechanics, THermodynamics and Complex Systems in Austin, Texas, and the Director of the Solvay Institutes of Physics and Chemistry in Brussels. The recipient of honorary degrees from more than forty universities around the world, Prigogine has had five institutes devoted to the study of complex systems named for him. He lives in Brussels and Austin.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
In a direct extension of his Nobel-prize-winning work on thermodynamics,Prigogine explains that almost all natural systems are non-determinsitic, even if all their components are subject to deterministic laws. This is because such systems have enormous numbers of Poincare resonances which lead to fundamentally non-deterministic solutions. This provides a solution to 3 of the most important problems in science: 1. Time's arrow 2. The Measurement Problem in QM 3. The existence of Freewill.
Everyone who is seriously interested in these questions should read this book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time does have an arrow 17 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Nobel Laureate Prigogine describes how the lack of infinitely precise measurements and non-linear behavior in the laws of nature give rise to the arrow of time experienced by all of us. His results seem completely natural in everyday experience where you never see a broken glass on the floor jump back on the table and reassemble itself. Prigogine shows that the current laws of physics, when used in a mathematical framework that excludes perfect measurements, gives rise to laws of nature where an uncertain future must follow the past. An excellent, but technical, book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new formulation of the laws of physics 18 May 2010
In this iconoclastic book, Ilya Prigogine argues for a concept of total indeterminacy by incorporating time in the current deterministic scientific laws.

Time in modern physics
Ilya Prigogine observes that the time dimension incorporated in the basic laws of physics, the classical Newtonian dynamics, relativity or quantum physics, does not make a distinction between the past and the future. There is no arrow of time, as in chemistry, geology, biology or the humanities. However, we should incorporate an evolutionary aspect (indeterminacy) in our physical laws, by revising the concept of time.

Revision of the concept of time in physics
The physics of non-equilibrium processes study dissipative systems, which are characterized by a one-dimensional, irreversible time (e.g. eddies, laser radiation, oscillations). This irreversibility is an essential condition for consistent behaviors in populations of trillions of trillions of molecules.

Revision of the deterministic physical laws
It becomes possible to overcome the contradictions between the reversible laws of dynamics and the evolutionary description associated with entropy, by extending dynamics to unstable and chaotic systems.
At and around the equilibrium, the laws of nature maintain their universality. Far from the equilibrium, they depend on the type of unstable irreversible processes. This instability can be incorporated into the basic laws with the introduction of statistics. Thus, the laws of nature become pure possibilities. There are no certainties any more. The laws describe a `becoming' not a `being'.
Irreversibility may lead to the formation of molecules which could not be synthesized in conditions close to equilibrium. In this case, she becomes a part of matter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird science 21 Sep 2009
This book is a fusion of science and philosophy. Ilya Prigogine is a legend in the field of thermodynamics, where he showed that chaotic or oscillating processes come about sometimes when a chemical system lies in a far-from-equilibrium state in relation to the environment. Prigogine discovered that ordered, complex structures can be produced from this state of chaos. He called these dissipative structures. There are many philosophical implications that flow from his theory, e.g. that time can only go in one direction. The theory contravenes the very idea of determinism in that it is impossible to predict the outcome of chaotic processes.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Oh well, I loved this book and think Prigogine's work is of fundamental importance. The math's not bad if you're from an engineering or science background, otherwise skip the math -- the text in the first 3 and ending chapters makes the point.
One of the other reviewers got it all wrong. Just like we all seem to accept that there are no infinite velocities -- they do not exist -- so too, there is no infinitely precise location -- it does not exist either, independent of whether there's an observer or not. Without infinite precision, you get time, creativity and with a little intelligence, meaning (my claim, not Ilya's. Well at least science doesn't preclude it anymore...sort of a multi-century "D'oh!").
Probability is now the fundamental unit of understanding and dynamics, not trajectories. What's neat is how well this dovetails into the Process Philosophers and theologians like Whitehead and Rav Abrahan Cook as well as Bhaskara way back in the 10th century.
The section on cosmology is well in line with recent findings. I recommend the book.
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