Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature

Rate this book

Belgian philosopher Isabelle Stengers and Ilya Prigogine, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1977 for his work on the thermodynamics of non-equilibrium systems, make their ideas accessible to a wide audience in this book, which has engendered massive debate in Europe and America. Stengers and Prigogine show how the two great themes of classic science, order and chaos, which coexisted uneasily for centuries, are being reconciled in a new and unexpected synthesis.

349 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
216 (38%)
4 stars
185 (33%)
3 stars
114 (20%)
2 stars
35 (6%)
1 star
5 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,294 reviews21.7k followers
December 12, 2020
I don’t think anyone would confuse this with an easy read. Alvin Toffler’s Forward ends by saying that while this book is challenging, it rewards the attentive reader. I’m not convinced attention is the only thing required here. The physics discussed requires more than the standard basic overview knowledge that books for a lay audience expect. Parts of this were simply too hard for me. That said, this is an incredibly interesting book – it sits (and quite consciously too) where philosophy meets physics.

You could almost get away with reading the introduction and the conclusion to this one – I’ve re-read both to write this review. In fact, if you don’t want to feel overcome with examples from physics, and that giddy feeling of acrophobia that comes from reading paragraphs like this (chosen at random from the middle of the book):

“Up to now it has been assumed that the “control substances” (A, B, D, and E) are uniformly distributed throughout the reaction system. If this simplification is abandoned, additional phenomena can occur. For example, the system takes on a “natural size,” which is a function of the parameters describing it. In this way the system determines its own intrinsic size—that is, it determines the region that is spatially structured or crossed by periodic concentration waves.”

My suggestion is that you would acquire the main ideas of this book that are most relevant to ‘the rest of us’ from reading the introduction and conclusion. All the same, here’s the McCandless version of what I got out of this book.

For Plato, there was something deeply wrong with the world. Everything is change and decay – but clearly no god worthy of the name would make such a world. The world ought to reflect the highest realisation of pure reason, since, surely, pure reason is as close to the best definition of ‘godly nature’ as we can think of. And so, Plato decided that the world we see around us can’t be the really real world – but rather a poor copy of god’s perfect ‘world of forms’. In the world of forms everything is eternal, perfect, change is impossible, laws are laws (not to be broken) and everything remains the same for all eternity.

Much of science has been looking for something approximating this world of forms ever since. Something that has been particularly true of mathematics and physics. And with Newton, people thought that they had come pretty close to finding just such a world. In Newton’s world, if you knew the initial conditions of all of the atoms in the universe (their initial positions and their velocities) then, the story went, in a mechanical universe you could know every damn thing would happen from that moment forward. It would just require a big enough computer; all the rest would be solving differential equations. What looks to us like accidents and free will, would be, to this all-seeing eye, necessity. It would all be a matter of us just not having enough precision in measuring the initial conditions ad computing power to run the universe backwards and forwards.

For Einstein, the universe was a little different. It had four dimensions, one of which was time, but time was much the same as the other three. We might not be able to move backwards and forwards in time in the way we clearly can in space, but there was nothing in the equations to make time any different to moving forwards and backwards or up and down in space. The fact we don’t see time in that way is just one of those strange prejudices of humanity, a myth we can’t seem to think outside of, but also one that stops us from seeing the true nature of the universe. They quote Einstein himself on this, “For us convinced physicists the distinction between past, present and future is an illusion, although a persistent one.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m 57, I would love it if Einstein could be proven right on this one. If there was ever a time when moving seamlessly backward in time at will would be a rather pleasant way to spend a weekend, this would be it. A lot of this book takes seriously the fact that moving backwards in time simply isn’t possible.

A long time ago I read A Brief History of Time. I was working as an archivist at the time and a guy I didn’t really know asked me what I thought of it. I said I felt Hawking had placed a bit too much emphasis on Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. There was a pause, and then he changed the subject. It was only years later that I found out most people who had bought the book hadn’t actually read it.

There is no nice or kind way to say this. This book is harder to read than Hawking’s. But I think it is more valuable too. Both of them explain the idea of the arrow of time and how it is based on the fact that overcoming the second law of thermodynamics really isn’t an option. The second law of thermodynamics is the law of entropy, the idea that things fall apart.

Let’s say you drop a glass and it smashes on the ground. This isn’t an insanely difficult thing to do and requires remarkably little energy. But let’s say we then want to move backwards in time – then the glass will have to spring back up onto the table reforming as it does so. While the energy needed to smash the glass in the first place is hardly any at all – the energy needed for it to spring back together again is infinite. That is, not a lot of energy, but infinite energy. Dropping a glass simply isn’t a reversible experiment. Entropy, the march of the universe towards increasing states of disorder, is impossible to reverse. And this is the most confirmed law in science because proving it wrong would prove such a boon for us humans. The second law is the only thing standing between us and immortality. It is the only thing standing between us and perpetual motion machines. Finding reasons why we would want to figure out how to break the second law isn’t the thing that is lacking – the second law is (in the words of Billy Bragg about the law of gravity) ‘very, very strict’.

But our world doesn’t merely fall apart – even if WE increasingly do with time. Systems not only become more disordered, but when they are pushed beyond equilibrium they often display emergent order. This is chaos theory – that while it becomes impossible to predict the precise future state of a system, particularly in systems that are pushed into chaos and so are highly dependent upon the tiniest of fluctuations (the fabled ‘butterfly effect’) – order also spontaneously emerges in such systems. Such systems evolve. Evolution becomes for our time what the clockwork universe was for Newton’s. Like the breaking of a wine glass, evolution is non-reversible and non-repeatable in exactly the same way as before. We get a complex world, one that is constantly on a knife’s edge. But just because such a world cannot be replayed so as to produce the exact same result this no way means that we live in a world without laws.

The difference is that order comes at a price. And that price is the determinism that seemed so tantalisingly close with Newtonian dynamics.

There are benefits to this as well as costs, however. In the case of society (a complex system if there ever was one) it means that individual actions are never truly without consequence – and this becomes increasingly the case as the system is pushed further and further out of equilibrium.

There are a few myths about science that this book plays with in particular. One is the idea that we essentially know all there is to know about the physics of ‘our scale’ of the universe – but that the physics of the very big or the very small is what still eludes us. And to counter this idea, all of their examples of non-reversible physical processes in this book are from our scale.

The other myth is that science is somehow more objective and less socially determined than the arts. The standard story we tell ourselves is that while someone would have eventually come up with Newton’s three laws of motion if Newton hadn’t ever gotten around to it, if Bach had never lived, then so much for the Goldberg Variations. The authors point out that this isn’t nearly as obvious as is often claimed. Not that we definitely would have ended up with the Goldberg Variations, but rather that discoveries in science aren’t nearly as objectively necessary as we like to think them, that they too share something of the creativity of Bach. Sometimes scientific discoveries can feel like a missing piece that simply demands to be discovered, but often scientific discoveries emerge out of their time. The authors speak of many ideas that never quite took off because society simply wasn’t ready for them, and the opposite is clearly also the case – where scientists haven’t started looking for answers until the question began to made sense to ask. And that is generally due to other social motivations. As the authors say of their own research interests, “how can we consider as accidental that the rediscovery of time in physics is occurring at a time of extreme acceleration in human history?”

This really is a stunningly interesting book – but some of it is so hard that really, no amount of concentration is enough. The authors do their best, but what they are talking about is damn hard and perhaps can’t really be made any easier. Still, the implications of their ideas are well worth thinking over, and through, and then over again.
Profile Image for Chris Fellows.
190 reviews29 followers
January 23, 2013
I was disappointed with this book. The first few chapters, on the history of science, were most enjoyable, and I appreciated the clarity Prigogine and Stengers brought to the distinction between traditional physics as the science of reversible processes and chemistry as the science of irreversible processes. (I should declare my bias here at the outset: I am a physical chemist, and by training and inclination I regard reversible processes as no more than useful mathematical fictions. All real processes are irreversible. Hier steh ich.)

I began to have serious misgivings in Chapter IV, where free energy is introduced. Gibbs’ conception of free energy is a powerful tool for understanding the universe because it combines that which is seen and that which is not seen: the entropy change in the system and the entropy change in the surroundings, the rest of the universe. In “Order out of Chaos”, free energy is introduced merely as a function used to define equilibrium in closed systems, without describing its fundamental link to entropy, and its usefulness in understanding the formation of dissipative structures is explicitly (and incorrectly) denied in subsequent chapters.

The discussion of oscillating reactions in Chapter V is obfuscatory in referring to ‘products’ what should strictly be called ‘intermediates’, and in neglecting to state not only that the overall driving force of the reaction A --> E is the free energy change in the system, but that the direction of each of the intermediate steps at each point in time is determined by the free energy change. By focussing on the chimeric idea of achieving maxima in thermodynamic functions – something only valid at equilibrium – and ignoring the paramount importance of changes in these functions (all we ever talk about in chemistry!) the authors draw a veil of muddle over exciting and interesting phenomena. They claim that ‘the concept of probability that underlies Boltzmann’s order principle is no longer valid in that the structures we observe do not correspond to a maximum of complexions’, but this is only true if a myopic focus is made on the system, rather than the surroundings. The complex oscillations – and dissipative structures in general – come about because they are the most efficient means, given the history of the system, to increase the entropy (the number of complexions) of the surroundings. Structure does not arise spontaneously within the system: it is propagated from the interface between the system and the surroundings. This is more clearly seen in the physical system of the Bénard cell which is also discussed in Chapter V, but it is equally true for chemical systems.

The confusion that arises from blurring the distinction between system and surroundings continues throughout the book.

Chapter VI suffers from an overabundance of metaphors drawn from diverse fields of study that serve to obscure whatever fundamental point the authors are trying to make. In between a discussion of how termite mounds are formed and a brief discussion of homogeneous nucleation of phase changes, they state: “although Boltzmann’s order principle enables us to describe chemical or biological processes in which differences are levelled out and initial conditions forgotten, it cannot explain situations such as these, where a few ‘decisions’ in an unstable situation may channel a system formed by a large number of interactive entities toward a global structure”. It is not true that Boltzmann’s order principle only enables us to describe chemical or biological processes in which differences are levelled out: a global structure will spontaneously form in any number of situations, such as micellisation of a surface active agent, driven by an increase in the entropy in the unstructured component of the system fully explicable by Boltzmann’s order principle. In the real world, homogeneous nucleation of structure is relatively rare. Physical and chemical transformations to give structure are nucleated heterogeneously – from the surroundings, and as order propagates inward from interfaces very different effects can be seen: it is true that Boltzmann’s principle cannot tell us a priori which structure will form, whether homogeneously or heterogeneously nucleated, but this does not mean structure formation per se is in any way incompatible with it.

Not being terribly familiar with Prigogine before, I had expected that Stuart Kauffman’s wild concept of ‘order for free’ was based on a misreading of Prigogine’s work, but all the ingredients for it are here, alas...
Profile Image for Mengsen Zhang.
72 reviews23 followers
July 1, 2016
I came across this book when browsing the library shelves for a little project on Prigogine's Brusselator model related to nonlinear chemical reactions. The reward certainly exceeded my expectation. Prigogine has been an important figure in the study of dissipative structures and far from equilibrium systems, e.g. biological systems, and social systems etc.. When one consider the behavior of those complex systems, time can no longer be treated as (paradoxically) static as in classical dynamics. Irreversibility, and chance come into play, which in fact engender natural orders. He started off with an expedition of scientific and philosophic history of classical world views on the permanence of natural laws, and how it emerges in the context of social/cultural influences and human desires. Natural sciences, in the classical world, initiated as a form of dialogue between men and nature, only returns with the answer that there is no dialogue at all since the natural laws are immutable and autonomous. Progogine advocated that we should put time back in the story.
Later part of the book discussed the meaning of irreversibility in a bit more formal and scientific terms. The philosophical struggle gets projected into a scientific struggle to reconcile dynamics (micro) and thermodynamics (macro), the interaction between which has fascinated me for as long as I have been interested in complex systems. First you have this macro-phenomenon of the ever-increasing entropy, but for long the irreversibility was nowhere to be found in the micro-dynamics. But finally people realized the important role of initial conditions in what is actually observable in nature, assuming the dynamic laws are invariant. It turns out that processes that contracts the distribution of initial conditions requires long pre-interaction correlation, which takes infinite amount of information to achieve - this infinite entropy barrier prevents the reversal of the arrow of time. At some point, Prigogine made it sound like 'oh well, this irreversibility thing isn't really a macro-privilege. We can use micro-level dynamics alone to describe it as well!" However, one can't help but notice that the distributional view of initial conditions and the concept of information used in the micro-level description already takes macro as a priori.
Prigogine had somehow blamed the static view of the universe way back on the ancient Greeks - those guys only cared about being/eternity, now we, the new generation of scientists gotta talk about becoming. I found it somewhat funny when one Platonic dialogue (Parmenides) really pointed out the one cannot *be* without being in time, where being in time entails becoming.
Author 13 books6 followers
April 5, 2021
At times very difficult and challenging book. There are patterns and references to physics and physical chemistry, which usually repel humanists. But do not be afraid. Even if you do not understand everything, the book will sharpen your appetite for knowledge. A must read for anyone seriously interested in science and forecasting.
Profile Image for Joe Raimondo.
39 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2008
This book rearranged my brain cells in terms of thinking about emrgent propoerties.
Author 1 book6 followers
July 17, 2019
It's often said that an author really writes only one book, over and over again in different ways. This has never been more true than for Ilya Prigogine. I have read three of his books over the past few months, and each is making the same points in different ways. The most useful distinction is audience: From Being to Becoming (the earliest) is for chemists and physicists; The End of Certainty (the most recent) is for the sci-curious at a popular science level; and Order Out of Chaos is for the academics and philosophers. OOoC has the most material for my undergraduate classes. I appreciate especially the historical foundations provided by Boltzmann, Carnot, and others, because those were not detailed in my physical chemistry classes and knowing the history makes the physical chemistry a lot clearer. I took several historical notes about WHY we have different laws of thermodynamics with different emphases. This historical and philosophical richness must be attributed to Isabelle Stengers, and her contribution really makes this book work differently from the others.

For all that, I'm glad I read this book after the other two, mostly because there's not enough room to include the full arguments. As a result, many of the crucial arguments come down to important elements that must be tucked into a citation or waved away -- you can't fully derive the true mathematical germ that explains why it has to be this way, or at least you don't have the tools to fully challenge it when it's asserted. So I don't think OOoC would convince a skeptic in the same way From Being to Becoming did, at least in the areas of kinetics where I am equipped to be skeptical.

On the other hand, From Being to Becoming was a difficult read for me and I still don't have the tools to really use what Prigogine says about quantum mechanics. That's not really my area. But FBtB was like a scenic mountain hike, a lot of climbing and some fog but ultimately worth it, especially for the kinetics/non-linear dynamics part, which is Prigogine's specialty.

It's also possible that Prigogine downplayed his QM ideas in his later writings, after they were challenged (which I know they were and they don't seem to have taken hold at least for QM). Still, in my opinion, the heart of what he has to say is nonetheless intact. So I don't worry about the QM, I'm happy to take the kinetics and run with it.

Another issue is that I would have liked more philosophy at the end, thinking about what this all means. We have some of that but it's not as thorough as the historical review itself.

But this story is worth telling three different ways in the end analysis. So I recommend reading all three books, and not reading this one first, but reading it nonetheless.
Profile Image for Alex Lee.
904 reviews108 followers
September 17, 2015
The authors' enthusiasm comes out quite strongly. Congruent with their Kantian world view, they combine disparate fields of study in order to assemble "noumena causa" by which order can be achieved regardless of expression... this is a search for the pure logic of material relations found through the a priori field of mathematics. Thus this book jumps onto the bandwagon of the 20th century in order to disassemble time in order to bring order. This order must be of a symmetrical nature since equivalence of energy-matter difference has to be held in order for the true substantive relations of the universe to be beholden. Thus, they introduce theoretical energy to preserve this symmetry and "reverse time". Because once the orders are established as purely reflexive one way or another way, the organizing relations hold and the arrow of time, which seems arbitrary, can truly be arbitrary.

Hidden in this view are the author's interesting mix of philosophy, art and humanity into the material reality as a function of time/entropy... we are to find our place as a logical coherency with everything else. I am not sure they achieve this, although they dance around the role of the observer. I found some of their attempts to place human beings/observers in their schema a little confusing. Their attempt to include EVERYTHING at the end as long as it seemed to address what they were saying chaotic. Their attempt to order chaos leads to chaos! In the end though, this view is again complicated by their acknowledgement that the world remains a mystery, one that is distorted by endless renewals of paradigms and experimentations... they stick with the Kant here, by supposing a suprasensible order that we cannot understand... and then claiming that human beings have a place in that order that we cannot comprehend due to our finite limitations.

Their energy is infectious, bright and idealistic. Their conclusions are suspect because I am not sure what they are. Their exploration of science and math is interesting but it took them a long time to get going. It would have been better if they were able to make a clearer statement with less than a muddled statement with more.
Profile Image for Jeroen.
106 reviews3 followers
October 11, 2007
This book simply changed everything for me... It opened me to the world of chaos theory and made me understand that every biological system (in essence every 'open system' in a classical physics sense) is a chaotic system... Wow, to be able to see and analyze everything as a chaotic system...gives very much insight...
Profile Image for Felix Delong.
198 reviews7 followers
May 4, 2021
Even though it requires a bit of an "technical" knowledge (and by that I basically mean an high school level of physics), I would consider it a necessary part of canon if one sets out to understand reality.
Profile Image for Campbell.
15 reviews3 followers
June 15, 2020
Blew my mind. Conceptually somewhat difficult, but once it all clicked - it hit me hard.
Profile Image for Hexagia.
13 reviews6 followers
July 13, 2018
En las leyes del caos nos encontramos frente a la exposición extendida de la teoría de estructuras disipativas que le valió el Nobel. Ahora si, Prigogine desenfunda adecuadamente su filo científico para plasmar su visión acerca de la irreversibilidad y las rupturas de simetría temporal en procesos químicos conocidos.

Nos encontraremos en esta obra conceptos físico-matemáticos potentes y muy relevantes como el desplazamiento de Berouilli, el operador de Perron-Frobenius y las divergencias de Poincaré.

Destaca por encima del resto la ecuación de Liapunov, que traduce la función de onda a probabilidad resultando ser un claro candidato a substituir la ecuación de Schrodinger para describir la mecánica cuántica, a la vez que puede ser empleada con el mismo corte substituyendo las trayectorias por probabilidad en mecánica clásica. Resulta convincente y abre un primer camino hacia la unión de termodinámica y mecánica cuántica teniendo en cuenta la relevancia de los sistemas caóticos propios de Teoría del Caos.

Curioso el detalle de que cite obras en su tiempo novedosas, hoy con el peso de 30 años, como la historia del tiempo de Stephen Hawking o la nueva mente del emperador de Roger Penrose (Que por casualidad ando leyendo ahora mismo)

Capítulos exigentes a nivel de conocimiento, pero bien hilados y muy bien contrastados con formulas que (algo me dice) que no veremos por última vez en esta obra. Recomendado para esos locos obsesionados por la caza de una teoría unificada, perturbados por la incomprensión del tiempo o fascinados por el concepto de azar determinista. Recomendado si caes en cualquiera de esas 3 categorías.
Profile Image for Denis Romanovsky.
194 reviews
August 10, 2020
Not an easy read, but a very deep and interesting. The authors investigate history of science looking at how dynamics and thermodynamics developed and then contradicted. There was a long time without proper scientific connection between dynamics of single bodies and multibody systems with growing entropy. The authors explain their approach through unstable non-equilibrium systems, randomness and irreversibility, make a point that those are the source of order in the universe. The order that brings life to matter.
Profile Image for Blaine Snow.
140 reviews98 followers
February 27, 2022
Quite simply one of the most important books on science in the 20th century. Prigogine-Stenger's Order Out of Chaos is the definitive statement of the new (meaning late-20th century) science of self-organizing systems and the sciences of complexity. Not an easy read, the book requires a background in the history and philosophy of science as well as some physics, chemistry, and biology. I read this book first in the late 1980s as an independent project in my junior year in college with a physics professor as my faculty mentor. It, along with several other books, became the centerpiece to a new worldview of science I became aware of - complexity theory, systems theory, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, emergence theory, nonlinear dynamics, and the like.

Physical chemist Ilya Prigogine working both in Europe and the US won the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in non-equilibrium thermodynamics, describing how under the right conditions, order emerged spontaneously from dynamical systems undergoing energy flows. Both he and Isabel Stengers went on to champion a new worldview of science that took into account the fundamental roles of heat, entropy, information, and the arrow of time - to the great distress of reductionist physicists who (still) resist the idea that irreversible time is an integral part of reality. To get a sense of what I'm talking about, read my review of Carlo Rovelli's The Order of Time.

Other books by these authors are well worth your time but again, not easy reading:
1. Prigogine, The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature
2. Prigogine, Nicolis Exploring Complexity
3. Stengers, Cosmopolitics I
4. Stengers, Cosmopolitics II

Also of mention is the unfortunately long out of print book by Erich Jantsch The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications which expands on Prigogine's work and presents a complete overview of the evolution of life and cosmos from this perspective. Absolutely fantastic, thrilling stuff. Both this Jantsch and the Prigogine/Stengers books are in the top ten all time books that influenced how I view the world and think about science. A more contemporary (and outstanding) book on these themes is Schneider and Sagan's Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life (see my review of it here on Goodreads).
Profile Image for Jon Richfield.
21 reviews
September 28, 2021
For best comprehension and benefit, this book should be read in combination with "The End of Certainty" also by Prigogine, and "The Arrow of Time" by Coveney and Highfield.
Each of the books is a challenge. For readers at home in maths and physics, it still presents challenges in perspectives and philosophy of science, in particular ontology, and for the layman it is a challenge in all three. Make no mistake, the rewards are beyond rubies, but you have to work at it. Don't be too worried about the details of the maths: you can take that on trust. What matters is the implications.

Conspicuously, the most virulent negative evaluations have come from those who struggled in understanding the implications and clearly displayed their failure in the nature of their complaints and in their attempts to explain the intention behind the books. Those who did not master the technicalities of the maths and phys did better, and often did get the implications and profited proportionately.

Order Out of Chaos is the oldest of the three, and Progogine's mind did not congeal after he wrote it. He knew it was incomplete, and Coveney and Highfield's book did a lot to expand the topic and to some extent to clarify the sticky bits. But even though all three books were written with the educated laity in mind, they realised that they could not be all things to all readers.

So when he wrote "The End of Certainty", Stengers refused to co-author it because she did not wish to claim any credit for the intellectual background. I take off my hat to her, but I suspect she could have been of value all the same. Oh well...

So, to any reader who is willing to face the challenges, I say go for it. If you find the learning curve too steep, don't worry, a lot of folks are in the same boat. Personally, I think it would be a good idea for those in difficulties to form an online forum to discuss sticking points. I regard the major points as being of significance close to the concepts of thermodynamics, relativity and QM.

And if you really are not in a position to assimilate it, no worries... there are plenty of more familiar topics to occupy yourself with instead.

The work still is not complete, but at least the concept of time is now better placed to fit into our concepts of physics, arrow and all.
Profile Image for Nathan Titus.
126 reviews10 followers
December 8, 2013
The first third of this book wasn´t about science so much as the hisory of science. It felt like a very drawn out introduction. After that, the book became highly technical, explaining almost everything in terms of equations. That may not be much of a complaint in a science book, but that was just a symptom. The book failed to anwser, or even to adress, the question of what it means to your non-scientist everyman. One gets the disticnt impression reading this book that nothing they are talking about has any relevance outside of a chalkboard, a computer simulation, or a labratory. Even when talking about such things as human behavior, the book gives that impression. perhaps that´s all the authors were interested in. But I couldnt help thinking, through every page of this book: why should I care? since the authors didn´t even try to provide an answer, I found all that they had to say irrelevent.
Profile Image for Celeste.
451 reviews
May 16, 2019

All description implies a choice of the measurement device, a choice of the question asked. In this sense, the answer, the result of the measurement, does not give us access to a given reality. We have to decide which measurement we are going to perform and which question our experiments will ask the system.

No single theoretical language articulating the variables to which a well defined value can be attributed can exhaust the physical content of a system. Various possible languages and points of view about the system may be complementary. They all deal with the same reality, but it is impossible to reduce them to one single description. The irreducible plurality of perspectives on the same reality expresses the impossibility of a divine point of view from which the whole of reality is visible.
Profile Image for Rhys.
709 reviews95 followers
January 10, 2021
Remarkably clear considering the heady content.

"Although the effects of "nonlinear" reactions (the presence of the reaction product) have a feedback action on their "cause" and are comparatively rare in the inorganic world, molecular biology has discovered that they are virtually the rule as far as living systems are concerned. Autocatalysis (the presence of X accelerates its own synthesis), autoinhibition (the presence of X blocks a catalysis needed to synthesize it), and crosscatalysis (two products belonging to two different reaction chains activate each other's synthesis) provide the classical regulation mechanism guaranteeing the coherence of the metabolic function."
Profile Image for Chris S.
27 reviews5 followers
December 24, 2016
It's a challenging but possible read without some kind of undergraduate-level scientific background, but it explains certain technical concepts with a kind of clarity and efficiency you wouldn't find in most textbooks. The sections where Prigogine and Stengers lay out their hypothesis could have been elaborated more, and I feel that certain logical jumps have been made that many readers won't be prepared for. Nevertheless, an interesting, mostly well-written book on the relationship between science and nature.
Profile Image for Warren Manning.
4 reviews1 follower
August 15, 2013
Brilliant book, have reread several times, amazing when you realize real thermodynamics occurs in non-equilibrium conditions of the world outside the lab....
Profile Image for Courtney.
212 reviews
June 14, 2017
This book was an ordeal to finish. It was very difficult. Partly because it invokes a lot of chemistry and thermodynamics, which are two topics that I'm ignorant on.

The topic is chaos, or rather chaos theory. This is the perspective of Soviet/European side as opposed to American approaches a la Feigenbaum et.al. It aims to go very deep to the heart of our conceptions of the universe and how it works. I can't claim that I understood or appreciate all of it. But the project was huge.
Author 5 books6 followers
June 11, 2019
A period piece. Much overblown in positioning self-organization and dynamic chaos in the pantheon of human understanding. Didn't buy his arguments of entropy as a selection rule (on initial conditions). Several fine points, though. Especially liked his clarity of some aspects of the mathematics undergirding quantum mechanics.
Profile Image for Keith Swenson.
Author 15 books50 followers
February 14, 2021
Love this book. Rated 4 stars because this is pretty esoteric. Hope to have a longer review later about this ground-breaking book later.
Profile Image for Ali Reda.
Author 3 books184 followers
September 13, 2021
I'm not qualified to review this book. Needs a second read when I'm ready.
Profile Image for Ricardo Acuña.
129 reviews13 followers
April 22, 2013
Hay diversas perspectivas desde las cuales se puede apreciar este libro. A mi me pareció extraordinaria la perspectiva epistemológica. Las "leyes de la naturaleza" de la dinámica clásica asociadas al determinismo a la reversibilidad del tiempo, son modelos que son válidos dentro de un conjunto limitado de sucesos.. Los nuevos modelos que plantea Prigogine de las "leyes del caos", aportan una explicación más amplia que abarca y extiende la dinámica clásica y explican la irreversibilidad del tiempo y la naturaleza probabilista de los fenómenos. Las "Leyes del Caos" es una nueva forma de ver la realidad, mas amplia, compleja, que cubre los huecos relegados por la ciencia a la fenomenología. Muy recomendable este libro.
Profile Image for Jean-Baptiste.
36 reviews
August 6, 2020
I can only recommend this book to people who have an excellent knowledge of modern advanced mathematics and physics (particularly quantum physics). Indeed, as the author mentions in the prologue, the book is written like a conference speech, therefore passing over the details sustaining major demonstrations and calculations. This allows to understand the fundamental ideas in a cursory reading but precludes any deeper understanding of the reasons of the author. Still very interesting read, even though I missed most of the maths, as the author's goal is nothing less than an attempt at explaining scientifically and mathematically the irreversibility of time and at reversing one of the most fundamental axiomes of science.
Profile Image for hikaru fujita.
11 reviews6 followers
May 23, 2009

Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.