A Different Universe – Robert Laughlin

A Different Universe is very new book by Stanford physics professor (and Nobel winner) Robert Laughlin. His thesis is that we are leaving the age of reductionism and entering the age of emergence. By this he means that we may well have learned one set of fundamental laws of how matter works, but there are many limits to what we can do with these laws in terms of predicting higher-level collective phenomenon.
The book is written for the layman (ie. no equations!), and I still found some of the detail hard to understand, but the main point comes across. One example of what he’s describing is the behavior of elements as they go through phase transitions (while we’re used to thinking of gas, liquid, solid, there are apparently many other states at extreme temperatures). These phases exhibit certain properties which are consistent with the fundamental laws, yet have new behaviors that no one could predict from those laws. Only though experimental measurement have we found out about these states.
I find myself in agreement with his thesis; I too believe there is much more that we can discover about how the universe works. The book is entertaining but perhaps a bit light once getting the main concept across.

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  • theunnies  On April 12, 2005 at 4:22 am

    Your book was a mind opener for me. It enlightens the mind to ask questions in fresh directions. the book has served more than its purpse for me. Set my mind ablaze. The questions that need be asked ( answers will always be questionable too. Unquestionable answers are dogmartism and not science) . The folowing questions with sme questinable answers suggested themselves to my mind.

    1. what ( energy / entity) makes like charges repel, to increase spacetime and unlike charges attract, to reduce the entity called spacetime in between ?
    2. what programmes the genes t assemble in a specific manner and to prtect its configuratin from normal disruptive energies?
    are all these dormant/inherent/in-built/latent energies the result of an emergent phenomena?
    3. what is the driving entity that drives or begets “energy”?
    4. Is “energy” ( in its manifold aspects , be it matter or radiant energy) an emergent phenomena ?

    What is known is that A lot of energy (E) put together “makes” a small amunt of matter [ E=M(C squared)] same thing to say that a small atom contains vast energy. The relatinship is purely linear as “C” is a constant..Energy, like matter (M) is an emergent phenomena.

    5. why not a lot of “some entity” beget a small amount of measurable energy?

    6. And, why not call this primary entity ” Cosmic Consciousness” ( or, “Cosmic awarenesss”)? CC or CA?

    whats the maths be ?

    A linear relationship has to exist ( as nature is fundamentally simple) between “CC” and “E”.

    7. The suggested relnship is, CC=E*(S-T to the power of 4)
    where S-T is a constant..

    S-T= space-time. power of 4 because of the fifth dimensionality of CC . Since, to describe electromagnetic waves requires three orthogonal dimensions ( as magnetic fields are perpendicular to electric fields and both have t be perpendicular to the direction of propogation) ,to describe CC in greater than 4 th dimension , it is suggested to raise the constant of proprtianlity to the power of four( ie one less than the number of dimensions we are dealing with. Nothing stops us from raising the constant to fractional dimensions to cater to fractals. or to imaginary quantites to cater to quantum relationships or to take care of any other nonlinear relationships that obtains in the perceptive sensory universe .

    In this CC universe communication could be instantaneous and even non-sequential ( like we do often with the mind when it grasps billion lightyears and visualises instantaneously the galaxies or whatever existing then.

    CC being fundamental ( and, not emergent) it is what is getting put together not only to beget itself but to beget everything else or ” no-things’ or ‘thoughts’ or ‘awareness’.

    8. All material and non-material entites do have consciousness at its own level . Chemical charcteistics r physical properties are all indicative of the omnipresent, omniscient , omnipotent presence of CC without which non- being and non-becoming is the result. Since evrything is dynamic and simulatneously , continous and non-continous( depending on one’s measuring intentions) , without incurrurring any conceptual contradictions our unuverse emrges as we want it or wish it.

    9. this makes us truely masters of the universe we inhabit.As this science ( or belief or mathematical equations) can beget us the universe we want or desire continuously and consistently may be taking over billions of years = may take the earth to go round the sun a bi(ilion times ) . But at the end of “long Time” we are sure of creating our own universe with a probability near to one. Like the “elements ” that make us desired life and enough decoherence and breaking of symmetry and non-localised action has been achievd to make it possible with a probability equal to one.

    This is CC evolution, (or quantum evolution as per Johnjoe Macfadden) . We not only see the universe as we want it but we also make the universe as we desire it.

    10. and, what is this that is called “desire” except one manifestation of the inherent Cosmic Consciousness or Cosmic Awareness or Cosmic Tendencies ?

    11. Cosmic awareness comunicates awareness instantaneosly within and without otself . It radiates into itself, reflects into itself ( like a sort of Y=X two dimensional cartesan being considered as a projection of higher dimensionalities). Everything is local and space-time has null lines. Nothng is non-local that requires a medium to transmit . Its structure is at once granular and super-stringed — as we ‘desire’ it .

    This is how my theory of CC explains cosmos, in its microcosm and macrocosm covering matter , energy, space-time and Consciousness ( Cosmic awareness) itself.

    I would love to discuss any aspect of this theory which had been developed by me over a number of years ( more than 25 years).and consolidated after every reading of quantum science , in any of its forms, including this “book of awareness” now.

    Can I have resoponses on this blog , please. Thank you. “the unnie”


  • […] In the end, my understanding is that Chaitin recommends that Mathematics take a more experimental approach, since there are limits to what the formal approaches can discover. This idea is quite similar to what physicist Robert Laughlin recommends in his recent book A Different Universe (see my earlier post). […]

  • By Mediated » Blog Archive » 2005 in Review on December 24, 2005 at 6:10 pm

    […] Other books that stood out in my mind this year mostly revolved around issues of how we ‘understand things’ or perhaps how our brains work. Donald Hoffman’s Visual Intelligence (1998) was very good – he describes a set of rules that we apparently use to interpret visual information (and uses plenty of optical illusions to indicate how they can ‘fool’ us into perceiving things that aren’t quite there). I also liked A Different Universe (2005) by physicist Robert Laughlin, who makes the case that reduction has gone about as far as is useful, and that there are many properties of elements that can only be found through experimentation (his work was in properties of superconductivity at very low temperatures). The book is for the layman. The idea is that you can’t use the basic laws to predict very much of the emergent behavior; you have to discover it by observation. The larger idea, for me, is that we really have still just scratched the surface of the phyical world, and perhaps that we will always find more, since we are mostly creating new mental maps and models… […]

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