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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  479 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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 coex

Paperback, 1st edition Bantam New Age Books, 349 pages
Published April 1984 by Bantam Books (first published 1984)
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Blaine Well, I'm not a trained scientist and had a tough time reading it back in the late 1980s even though it was written for the layperson without math, ph…moreWell, I'm not a trained scientist and had a tough time reading it back in the late 1980s even though it was written for the layperson without math, physics, and chemistry technicalities. BUT, there's a lot of very important history and philosophy of science questions addressed in it, specifically how Newtonian science and the world of modern physics both continue to believe in the unreality of time, irreversibility, and their role in evolution. Prigogine's ideas are so important that I advise sticking it out and doing everything you can to understand as much as you can for they really amount to a new vision of science, one that is much more human, one that re-enchants the disenchantment of traditional science. Make no mistake, the traditional science worldview still reigns today (2017) but the self-organizing, complex systems view is in direct competition with it. You might say Prigogine is to Einstein what Einstein was to Newton... a whole new paradigm of thought. (less)

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Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Chris Fellows
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 pr ...more
Mengsen Zhang
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Joe Raimondo
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book rearranged my brain cells in terms of thinking about emrgent propoerties.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Blew my mind. Conceptually somewhat difficult, but once it all clicked - it hit me hard.
Alex Lee
Aug 30, 2015 rated it liked it
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 equi ...more
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
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 very much insight... ...more
Matt Mayevsky
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: formal-sciences
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.
Ben McFarland
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Nathan Titus
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 a ...more
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people capable of understanding math
Sometimes, I was like, "Whoa! This is really interesting and provocative! Quantum uncertainty really should make us rethink our notions of objectivity and determinism!" But a lot of the time, I was more like, "I don't understand all these variables and functions, thus I have no actual idea why microscopic chaos creates order. But I believe you, Ilya, really I do." Anyway, the failing is mine, but so is the rating. ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it

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
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 pr
Denis Romanovsky
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 brin ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
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 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.
Leo W.
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Strejda Felix
May 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Alan Chan
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Yeah, I always know I came from chaos.
Keith Swenson
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Love this book. Rated 4 stars because this is pretty esoteric. Hope to have a longer review later about this ground-breaking book later.
Chris S
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 scie ...more
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 t ...more
Karl Zachry
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's been a long time since I read this book. I should probably go back and read it again. My recollection was that it was quite technical, but this was the first book on chaos theory I ever read and have ever since been fascinated with it. For the first time it seem there is a science that explains social interactions. I clearly saw bifurcation points in my work place.
Do to the scientific nature of it, I recall it was hard to read and I really had to concentrate. But frankly this was one of the
Jan 08, 2015 marked it as to-read
The metaphorical and practical implications of self-organization are staggering, perhaps even more so than those of quantum mechanics. I first became aware of self-organization sixteen years ago when, just out of college, a friend handed me Order out of Chaos by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers. This book blew my mind. Amid numerous examples of self-organization in chemical systems, the book gave me my first glimpse of the Mandelbrot Set, an extraordinarily complicated fractal generated by a ...more
Mar 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
HOw do the termites know how to build their
5 foot high nests?
Uses Chemical Thermodynamics to explore how evolution
could possibly occur.
Posits the idea that the 2nd law of thermodynamics,
is more basic than quantum mechanics, ie that QM
is based on 2nd law, not the other way.
Read this with How Nature Works by Per Bak
Jul 04, 2009 added it
recommended by my physics guru, interested to see whether it's new agey fluff or something substantial ...more
May 29, 2011 marked it as to-read
dude i didn finish this book. it's a friggin textbook. but it's cool. read it. ...more
Jerry Balzano
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
A classic. Worth reading and re-reading (even though I gave it only 4 stars ... it's really closer to 4.5). ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Some of this made sense.
Harry Kessels
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, systems
systematic approach to analysis of organic and anorganic systems. recommended if you're interested in chaos theory and biological systems dynamics from a research perspective ...more
Warren Manning
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book, have reread several times, amazing when you realize real thermodynamics occurs in non-equilibrium conditions of the world outside the lab....
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Ilya, Viscount Prigogine (Russian: Илья́ Рома́нович Приго́жин, Ilya Romanovich Prigozhin) was a Russian-born naturalized Belgian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate noted for his work on dissipative structures, complex systems, and irreversibility.

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“We grow in direct proportion to the amount of chaos we can sustain and dissipate” 31 likes
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