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A World Beyond Physics: The Emergence and Evolution of Life

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  34 ratings  ·  8 reviews
How did life start? Is the evolution of life describable by any physics-like laws? Stuart Kauffman's latest book offers an explanation-beyond what the laws of physics can explain-of the progression from a complex chemical environment to molecular reproduction, metabolism and to early protocells, and further evolution to what we recognize as life. Among the estimated one ...more
Hardcover, 168 pages
Published May 1st 2019 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2019)
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Peter Mcloughlin
Kaufman has written some interesting books on complexity and self-organization. I enjoy his writings on the development of complex systems be they molecular networks, chemical metabolisms, and early cellular life, to ecologies, to technologies and economies. I think his biological metaphors for economies might have been better suited to the political environment of the 1980s and 1990s when one could argue that the economy had some of its dynamism leftover from the postwar era. Now it is ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm very conflicted on how to rate this book. On the one hand, the content is extremely interesting. Some (foundational) parts of it are very recent (~2015). On the other hand, while the substance is good, the form makes it rough to read. I felt it was it a lot more messy than some of the other books written by academics for a large audience I have read. The author writing could also clearly use a little more modesty. There are several "he is wrong and I'm right" that I found could have been ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
It is quick, concise, with an interesting style to it. It makes difficult concepts more intuitive and elegant. This would normally lead me to give 4 to 5 stars.

Intellectually, I find that the book could use some nuance, be more precise and be a bit more balanced in the representation of the work of authors (e.g. Hume and Dawkins). Most importantly, there are some glaring problems with the discussions on thermodynamics.

The field of nonequilibrium thermodynamics and stochastic thermodynamics has
Peter Gelfan
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Is the universe deterministic? Does everything that happens, from the orbits of planets to what you had for breakfast today, stem inevitably from the laws of physics acting on the universe’s initial conditions in invariable lockstep to the end of time? Yes, many would say. It’s a perennial debate. Often this question provokes another: does nothing exist except energy and matter? Materialists say, Right, that’s all. Dualists argue there’s a nonmaterial side to existence, the realm of mind, ideas, ...more
Vivek Patil
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
It seems that there are two schools of (scientific) thought when it comes to exploring the origin of life on the earth. One school dominated by theoretical physicists insists that there is no special force that aids the transformation of non-living entities into living species. Everything can be explained by random events with this school of thoughts. The other school of thought, which is less explored than the former one, is dominated by biologists such as Kauffman. They insist that the 'random ...more
Jerry Pogan
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are several mysteries in science that fascinate me and one of them is the question "what is life?". What makes something alive? When an organism dies what is the difference that occurs that makes it dead because it is still composed of exactly the same molecules that were present when it was alive. Kauffman's book doesn't really answer these questions but he does bring up several fascinating findings that seem to show that science is coming closer to answers. One of the points that ...more
Denis Romanovsky
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably, a good book, because of some of the interesting concepts: complexity against 2nd law of thermodynamics, constraint closure, three closers, preadaptations, self-amplifying niche creation and some more. The author tries to explain how life could emerge from molecules with a network of reactions, create repeating self-recreation and evolve into more complexity then again and again...

On the bad side, the book still feels a bit shallow and a work of a quick hand. Conclusions are just too
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Stuart Alan Kauffman (28 September 1939) is an American theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher concerning the origin of life on Earth. He is best known for arguing that the complexity of biological systems and organisms might result as much from self-organization and far-from-equilibrium dynamics as from Darwinian natural selection, as well as for applying models of Boolean networks ...more
“We will talk of these things, for there is more to know than we know and more to say than we can say.” 0 likes
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