What Is Life?: with "Mind and Matter" and "Autobiographical Sketches"
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|Paperback, January 31, 1992||
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"...delightful...Schrödinger writes in a naturally relaxed and pleasant tone that leads us through the difficulties of his subject...It is well worth the trouble. For the serious student of origin-of-life theories, it is the obvious place to start." The Boston Book Review
- Item Weight : 8.5 ounces
- Paperback : 194 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0521427088
- ISBN-13 : 978-0521427081
- Dimensions : 5.39 x 0.63 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : Cambridge University Press (January 31, 1992)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,218,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Yes, this is Erwin Schrodinger, 1933 winner of the Nobel prize in Physics, for quantum mechanics. I didn't expect his discussions of the Upanishads, among others.
Schrodinger is a physicist when discussing the meaning of life - but becomes a philosopher to explore the meaning of consciousness.
This book changed my life, and the way that I look at it. I can't recommend it too strongly.
but it's hard for a lay person to understand. It seems like they violate the rules of chance but I'm not sure. It almost seems like he isn't sure either. I will have to go back and read it again because often my mind and eyes just glaze over.
It's a hard read but worth it to get a physicists perspective on a deeply philosophical subject.
Schrodinger's cat in Wikipedia is a good read about his mind.
Published in 1944, nine years before the discovery of the structure of DNA, this book was written after a series of lectures given by Erwin Schrödinger. It is intended to the general reader, as it offers detailed explanation of the topics, however, it must be read carefully because of the complexity of the issues. Schrödinger answers the question of how can physics and chemistry explain the events that take place in living organisms. As a physicist's he is very humble, given that he is approaching a topic outside of his expertise area, however his insight is brilliant. He makes a theoretical prediction and based on sound arguments he proposes an "aperiodic crystal" that contains genetic information.
This reprint edition is completed with a nice preface by physicist Roger Penrose, but the highlight is the accompanying text Mind and Matter, also by Schrödinger. This offers a great finale, with a philosophical discourse dealing with consciousness, free will and determinism.
The physicist's most dreaded weapon, the mathematical deduction can not be used for life because it is too complex to be accessible to equations. The orderliness required for the preservation of life does not come by the random heat motions of atoms and molecules, but statistical averages that provide order. Schrodinger asks a simple question; why is life made of so many atoms and not just a few. He offers three examples; higher magnetic fields, increase in molecular population and the error introduced into a reaction rate constant or any other physical parameter would be far too great if only few molecules are involved to form life. Hence orderliness, and of course evolution and diversity of life, requires very large population of molecules.
The world is a construct of our sensations, perceptions, memories; all existing objectively and all scientific knowledge is based on sense of perception and nonetheless the scientific views of material processes formed in this way lack all sensual qualities and can not account for the latter. Theories that are developed from scientific observations of experiments never account for sensual qualities. The sentient, percipient and thinking ego does not figure anywhere in our world picture, because it is itself the world picture. It is identified with the whole and not part of it. The physical world lacks all the sensual qualities that go to make the subject of cognizance. It is colorless, soundless, and impalpable. The world is deprived of everything that makes sense in its in relation to the consciously contemplating, perceiving, and feeling the subject; no personal god can form part of world model that has only became accessible at the cost of removing everything personal from it. God is missing from spacetime picture like sense of perception or ones own personality. Upanisads (Hindu Scripture) states that Atman = Brahman, the personal self equal the all comprehending eternal self. Consciousness never experienced in plural only in the singular, and plurality is merely a series of different aspect of one soul and one conscious produced by a deception (Maya). There is no multiplicity of minds; in reality and truth there is only one mind.
Before and after is not a quality of the world we perceive but pertains to the perceiving mind and don't imply the notion of space and time. After relativity, the notion of before and after reside on the cause and effect relationship. The general directedness of all happenings is explained by the mechanical or statistical theory of heat. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that order changes to disorder but not disorder to order, and time travels in one direction from past to future, but not future to past. The statistical theory of time has a stronger bearing on the philosophy of time than theory of relativity. The latter presupposes unidirectional flow of time while statistical theory constructs from order of events.
My body functions according to laws of nature, but I direct body motions. The word "I" means to state that I who control the motion of the atoms and molecules according to the Laws of Nature. The uncertainty principle and the lack of causal connection in nature introduce certain features into physical reality. For example, we can not make any factual statement about a physical system without interacting with it which would change the physical state of the system. This explains why no complete description of any physical object is ever possible. These laws have pushed the boundary between the subject and object. In fact subject and object are only one, and no barrier exists. It is the same element that goes to compose my mind and the world. The situation is the same for every mind and its world, in spite of the unfathomable abundance of cross references between them. The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived.
The last chapter gives brief autobiographical sketches of Schrodinger translated by his granddaughter. Schrödinger was deeply philosophical with strong family: He loved and respected his parents. His strong interest in physics and Vedanta philosophy (one of the six schools of Hindu Philosophy) is apparent, but he shy's away from writing about his complex personal life that involved many women and numerous extramarital affairs.
1. Schrödinger: Life and Thought
2. Space-Time Structure (Cambridge Science Classics)
3. A Life of Erwin Schrödinger (Canto original series)
4. Erwin Schrödinger's World View : The Dynamics of Knowledge and Reality (Theory and Decision Library A:)
5. 'Nature and the Greeks' and 'Science and Humanism' (Canto original series)
6. Schrödinger's Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science)
7. Schrodinger's Science and the Human Temerament
8. Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality: Solving the Quantum Mysteries Tag: Author of In Search of Schrod. Cat
9. Statistical Thermodynamics
10. Science and Humanism, Physics in Our Time
Top reviews from other countries
I love it in that it shows the power of reason and logic, unlike what I think of modern 'science' which relies too much on bulk studies without much thought, and doesn't seem to accomplish too much except the publication of semi-conclusive journal papers that no one actually reads.