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The Physics of Life: The Evolution of Everything Hardcover – May 24, 2016
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"Bejan isn’t the first person to study behavior as physics, or to use physics to describe wider systems. But his new book, The Physics of Life: The Evolution of Everything, may be the broadest consideration yet. Harking back to the original definition of the discipline―'knowledge of nature' in Greek―he ultimately concludes that 'life and evolution are physics.'" ―National Geographic
"Riveting and poetic...Renowned energy scientist Bejan...elegantly argues that evolution transcends the boundaries of the biological and governs the flow of all phenomena...Unique and entirely fascinating, this book will linger in your consciousness and prompt you to look at the world with fresh eyes." ―Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
"In this quirky, occasionally ingenious work, Bejan explores evolution as a phenomenon not of biology but of physics." ―Publisher's Weekly
"Bejan’s book and the theory that it expounds, I believe, would soon establish a new paradigm for biology, sociology, and human and cultural studies. Just as the laws of physics created a unifying vision of the universe and lead to a continuous development of technology, so will this breakthrough concept for these fields. With its depth and breadth, this book seized my attention, took hold of my imagination and resolved many design questions my field faces. Finally, 'design' can be grounded in theory, not simply observation and intuitive groping for answers; a theory that has explanatory and predictive power. In this sense, absorbing the book’s message becomes a liberating experience; it removes doubt and uncertainty from routine practical efforts. And with this certainty, comes a hopeful message amidst voices of gloom: the future is constructive, open-ended and full of promise. This book transcends The Origin of Species and complements Principia Mathematica" ―Fanis Grammenos, author of Remaking the City Street Grid – a new model for urban and suburban development.
"Anyone interested in wealth, happiness, freedom, sports, politics, cities, market, physics, biology―in life itself will find this book magnificently illuminating. You can turn to any page and find riveting insights into important fields of knowledge that will leave you better off." ―Victor Niederhoffer, chairman of Manchester trading and author of Education of a Speculator
"A revolutionary new way to understand the world around us―from the natural sphere to the human body to political and cultural institutions―based on author Bejan’s unique insights into the science of physics. Written with a deft touch for both experts and (myself among them) lay people, this book is a must-read; you won’t look at, well, birth, death and everything in between the same. If you enjoyed Jared Diamond’s writings on biology and Stephen Hawking’s on cosmology, you love The Physics of Life." ―New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver
About the Author
- Publisher : St. Martin's Press (May 24, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250078822
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250078827
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.42 x 0.96 x 9.6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #550,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Most of the book involves detailed discussions about the application of the constructal law in subhuman contexts. Since I am not a natural scientist, I am not competent to address those issues. Nor am I an expert on the physics of traffic flows, sports, academic competition, and similar subjects addressed by Bejan. I am, however, qualified to address Bejan's remarks about ethical and political matters, and the present review is limited to those questions.
How does Bejan jump from a physics "law" to ethical and political philosophy? In one word: "analogy." On page 65, he explains:
"Nature speaks to us in the language that she has taught us already. The human mind has the natural urge to understand, which means to rationalize, to explain and to simplify what it needs to retrieve, i.e., to remember more easily. It stores the imagined and the unseen in the imagery that nature has already taught us. This is where the observed and the touched first land on our mental movie screen. This urge is why 'analogy' occurs in the mind, and why analogy is appealing and useful. This is the urge that empowered humans with speech, cave paintings, superstitions, religion and science."
"The Physics of Life" is all about analogy, with Bejan explicitly eschewing empirical data (231). Bejan even reduces ethics to his constructal metaphor. Without engaging in any philosophical or historical study of ethics, he elucidates the concept of "goodness" as follows:
"[The] feeling of familiarity is a comment on the goodness of an idea. I hear comments of this kind every time I lecture on the constructal law. This law is innate in all of us. We invoke it when we say:
"Go with the flow.
"Find the shortest path.
"The end justifies the means.
"Carpe diem (seize the day).
"When in Rome do as the Romans do.
"All roads lead to Rome.
"If you can’t beat them, join them.
"Everybody loves a winner. . . .
"The rich get richer."
Bejan does not pause to reflect on the ethical implications of the foregoing statements, because the universal constructal law reduces morality to physics. "Good is the feature of the new organization (design) that we select after every change. Good and organization (design) are concepts that belong in science. They are placed firmly in physics as the constructal law" (224). "Go with the flow" and "anything goes" reflect his fundamental theme that everything is about flow (rivers are his favorite topic). Apart from the implicit amorality of his position (the "end justifies the means"?), his commandments imply that we are to acquiesce in and conform to whatever the successful powers dictate. Although he elsewhere in the book expresses disapproval of dictators (they interfere with the flow, don’t you know), he suggests their periods of power are necessarily short-lived. However, history (those inconvenient empirical facts again!) is replete with examples of authoritarian or totalitarian rule lasting for generations. I guess in such situations one is well-advised, following constructal law scripture, that "if you can't beat them, join them," because, after all, "everybody loves a winner." Moreover, "all roads lead to Rome," and "when in Rome do as the Romans do." This is a recipe for servile submission. And it is consistent with Bejan's constantly repeated themes throughout this book—that hierarchy, winners, big people, big animals, the wealthy, and the like are good because they are evolutionary specimens of the natural flow, whereas the poor, the unlucky, and others who lack political or economic power are inferior. One may be forgiven if one immediately thinks of another famous analogy: Social Darwinism.
Bejan's constructal law claims to bring "politics, history and society under the scientific tent where they and everything else belong" (66). Not only ethics but also politics and history are reduced to physics. "Physics alone is the biggest tent under which the life phenomenon fits, encompassing the animate, the inanimate and the social. This is why life is physics, why the constructal law is the physics law of life and evolution and why physics is much broader and more powerful than previously thought" (238, footnotes omitted).
Chapter 8 contains the author's thematic treatment of politics. Near the beginning of this chapter, he sets forth a bizarre model in which politicians constantly change their opinions to keep up with the latest and newest political fads with the media facilitating such flow. Of course, consistent with his aversion to empirical data, he offers none to support his theory. Nor does he consider whether such behavior is conducive to good government. Nowhere do we find anything in this book that would remind us of any deep reflections on human political life. In Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously asked, "what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?" This question does not occur to Bejan, because, to him, human nature is replaced by the constructal law of physics: human nature and human government are understood only in terms of the subhuman. There is no essential difference between human ethical and political phenomena and the flow of a river. Although Bejan does not address the subject, it would follow from the applicability of the subhuman constructal law to human government that the checks and balances and separation of powers so carefully established by James Madison and the other founders of the US republic should be eliminated as being inconsistent with good physics. If Bejan were giving the Gettysburg Address, he would praise government of the flow, by the flow, and for the flow.
So how does Bejan support his political theory that those politicians are best who constantly change their views? Let him speak for himself (158):
"Now, I know what you are thinking: it is crazy or, at best, far-fetched for a physicist to theorize about politics, what good policy is, and how it spreads. Well, think again, because what I sketched here in figure 8.1 is what happens every day with every idea that every scientist publishes. Immortality galore. The fame and longevity of the generator of ideas has the same origin (it is of the same nature) as the continued success and legacy of the good politician."
The "proof" of Bejan's political theory is an analogy to academic politics, something which (evidently unlike political philosophy and political science), Professor Bejan has actually studied and in which he obviously has ample experience.
As applied to ethics and politics, the constructal law rests solely on arguments from analogy. Since rivers must flow, so must human ethics and politics. Everything that contributes to the flow is good; everything that obstructs it is bad. This is called the fallacy of faulty analogy. Limited space does not permit me to elaborate, but the reader can find the explanation of the defects of such analogical reasoning in the following, among other, works: John Stuart Mill, "A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation," 8th ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1900), 393-97 (bk. 3, chap. 20), 553-58 (bk. 5, chap. 5, §§ 6-7); W. Ward Fearnside and William B. Holther, "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument" (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Spectrum, 1959), 22-27; Douglas Walton, "Informal Logic: A Pragmatic Approach," Kindle ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 305-15 (§§ 9.4-9.6); Michael C. LaBossiere, "76 Fallacies," Kindle ed. (Amazon Digital Services, 2012), 120-23; and Marianne Talbot, "Critical Reasoning: A Romp Through the Foothills of Logic for Complete Beginners," Kindle ed. (Metafore, 2014), Kindle loc. 2264-2307.
Alan E. Johnson
September 20, 2018
“Scientists and artists are specimens of the same species. I do not see a difference between art and science. They are both about images in motion.The inner pleasure is the same whether making a piece of art that inspires the viewer or coming up with a scientific idea that triggers explosions of images in the mind of the same viewer.” Adrian Bejan, 2016.
Professor Bejan is ahead of his time, and we all understand Albert Einstein's quote: " Great spirits encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds" Thanks, Dr. Bejan for offering me, at the end of hottest months on record, my best summer reading..
Helene Cara Chester,
Doctoral candidate; PhD Business, Specialty Entrepreneurship.
This accepted tradition is boldly challenged by the renowned physicist Adrian Bejan with his constructal law, whose sweeping predictive power, as illustrated in the book, defies this arbitrary division between the social and the natural sciences. Bejan’s ingenuity lies in his insight into the key concept of physics, namely, spatial movement which he calls flow. According to the constructal law, everything that freely moves generates a morphing flow architecture whose goal is consistently to evolve into a design that facilitates moving farther, longer and better.
From this elegant law, Bejan shrewdly re-conceptualizes everything, natural, social and whatnots, in terms of the free flow of any object at issue. Everything is united into being the same category based on their movement or the lack thereof. Because of this holistic reconceptualization of everything in physics, the arbitrary division between the social and the natural sciences is bound to collapse.
In chapter 1, life is explained as movement, whether it is of animate or inanimate objects. In chapter 10, death is illustrated as the lack of movement. Between these two ends of life and death, the reader is enlightened in other chapters by Bejan’s inspiring application of the constructal law to technology, economy, spreading, growth, athletics, snowflakes, animals, locomotion, politics and sciences. In chapter 11, the last chapter of the book, Bejan reviews the constructal law as perceived and applied by other scientists while he perceptively as a scientist highlights that this law of physics “is bound to evolve, to serve our thinking better.”
Reading the book is witnessing not only the evolving processes of everything and anything but also the history-making revolution in physics and human knowledge at large.
Top reviews from other countries
The book showed that the same physical principle used to predict in deterministic way the shape and structure in engineering and nature can be used to explain how the world systems works "as a flow system". The book brings a new viewpoint about the mechanisms (e.g., sustainability, water and food supply, fuel) that guide generation and evolution of design in the world, treating it as a large thermodynamic system and considering human beings as part of nature. The book clearly reinforces that Constructal Law can be viewed as an universal phenomenon of generation, configuration and evolution of design in any finite size flow system.
I already have my copy of this wonderful book of Prof. Bejan (check my review on amazon.com where I purchased my copy).
This is an order for two more copies as a gift for a colleague and for the library at my work place.