#Books – Mysteries of Life
This time is different, as I make an exception with four books instead of three.
I am passionate about life complexity and intelligence, and I believe that there are significant bridges between each of the topics exposed below. One could regard those books as “popular science”, as they are much easier to digest than pure research papers. An excellent introduction to the state-of-the-art knowledge on the following fundamental questions:
What is the universe?
What is nature?
What is biological life?
What is human life?
A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
No need to introduce Stephen Hawking, one of the most popular cosmologists of the past century. This book was published in 1988 to explain concepts like space and time, the theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics. Hawking also explained the concept of black holes and singularities in modern physics, before discussing the search of a unifying theory that would fill the gap between cosmology findings and subatomic particles study.
How Nature Works – Per Bak
I think that Bak’s contribution to science could be as significant as Einstein’s. This outside-the-box thinker physicist introduced the concept of self-organized criticality at the end of the 1990’s to explain striking similarities between from various natural systems such as solar activity, plate tectonics, sandpiles, biological evolution, economic activity, and even capital markets. A perfect introduction to non-equilibrium systems, avalanches and power-tailed distributions. And perhaps a key approach to build a unifying theory of nature.
What Is Life? – Erwin Schrödinger
The oldest book of the list (1944). Schrödinger is one the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, and What Is Life? focuses on the following question: “How can the events in space and time which take place within the spatial boundary of a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?” Important conclusions emerge, like the fact that living bodies must constantly absorb negative entropy in order to survive in a system characterized by increasing disorder.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
And finally the most recent piece (2015). Harari is not a physicist, but an historian. Sapiens tries to answer this complex question: “What makes humans so special with respect to other animals?” Harari introduces the concept of intersubjectivity to explain how anatomically modern humans have been able to form and control groups of thousands to billions of individuals, and thus to “dominate” all other species from a biological perspective.