This book is a survey of the range of apparently miraculous accidents of nature that have enabled the universe to evolve its familiar structures (atoms, stars, galaxies, and life itself) concludes with an investigation of the so-called anthropic principle.
From at least the time of the writing of The Philosophical Fragments , Søren Kierkegaard's work takes a special interest in both the transition from unbelief to faith and the character of the life of true faith. Trained in Lutheran dogma and convinced of the radical nature of human freedom, his work on this subject demonstrates a profound concern for and grasp of Lutheran orthodoxy, as well as a remarkable degree of subtlety. After all, it is no simple task to (...) give an account of the central features of the Christian life that is faithful to both a libertarian conception of human freedom and the doctrines of the church founded by the author of The Bondage of the Will . This paper proposes to accomplish two things: first, to state a problem that lies on the surface of Kierkegaard's account of the transformation involved in Christian conversion and second to present a resolution of the problem that is faithful to Kierkegaard's intentions. (shrink)
There is a widespread assumption that the universe in general, and life in particular, is 'getting more complex with time'. This book brings together a wide range of experts in science, philosophy and theology and unveils their joint effort in exploring this idea. They confront essential problems behind the theory of complexity and the role of life within it: what is complexity? When does it increase, and why? Is the universe evolving towards states of ever greater complexity and diversity? If (...) so, what is the source of this universal enrichment? This book addresses those difficult questions, and offers a unique cross-disciplinary perspective on some of the most profound issues at the heart of science and philosophy. Readers will gain insights in complexity that reach deep into key areas of physics, biology, complexity science, philosophy and religion. (shrink)
of a logarithmic time dependence of the fine structure constant is apparently within the limits discussed if there is a corresponding logarithmic time dependence of the strong coupling constant also. Moreover the recent discover> of naturally occurring ' Pu places the Gamow hypothesis of e' r much nearer the allov'able limits than had previously been supposed.
The problem of life’s origin remains one of the great outstanding challenges to science. Ever since Charles Darwin mused about a “warm little pond” incubating life beneath sunny primeval skies, scientists have speculated about the exact location of this transforming event. Nearly a century and a half later, we remain almost completely ignorant of the physical processes that led from a nonliving chemical mixture to the first autonomous organism. However, some progress at least has been made on tracking down where (...) and when life first established itself on Earth. Fossil evidence suggests that the biological record extends back at least 3.5 billion years, pointing to a still earlier origin1. But this presents a problem. The cratering record of the moon implies that Earth was subjected to intense bombardment by large comets and asteroids over an extended duration until about 3.8 billion years ago. The largest of these impacts would have released enough energy to swathe the planet in incandescent rock vapour, boiling the oceans and sending sterilizing heat pulses a kilometre into the exposed crust2. This unpromising setting – hardly a secure one for warm little ponds – has prompted some astrobiologists to conjecture that life began somewhere else and came to Earth readymade3. Favourite among extraterrestrial originating locations is the planet Mars4. (shrink)
The importance of applying game theory to the evolution of information in the presence of noise has recently become widely recognized. This Special Issue addresses the theme of spontaneously emergent order in both classical and quantum systems subject to external noise, and includes papers directly related to game theory or the development of supporting techniques. In the following editorial overview we examine the broader context of the subject, including the tension between the destructive and creative aspects of noise, and foreshadow (...) the signiﬁcance of some of the subsequent papers in the volume. (shrink)
: All known life requires phosphorus (P) in the form of inorganic phosphate (PO43x or Pi) and phosphate-containing organic molecules. Pi serves as the backbone of the nucleic acids that constitute genetic material and as the major repository of chemical energy for metabolism in polyphosphate bonds. Arsenic (As) lies directly below P on the periodic table and so the two elements share many chemical properties, although their chemistries are sufficiently dissimilar that As cannot directly replace P in modern biochemistry. Arsenic (...) is toxic because As and P are similar enough that organisms attempt this substitution. We hypothesize that ancient biochemical systems, analogous to but distinct from those known today, could have utilized arsenate in the equivalent biological role as phosphate. Organisms utilizing such ‘ weird life ’ biochemical pathways may have supported a ‘ shadow biosphere ’ at the time of the origin and early evolution of life on Earth or on other planets. Such organisms may even persist on Earth today, undetected, in unusual niches. (shrink)
Recent advances in string theory and inﬂationary cosmology have led to a surge of interest in the possible existence of an ensemble of cosmic regions, or “universes”, among the members of which key physical parameters, such as the masses of elementary particles and the coupling constants, might assume diﬀerent values. The observed values in our cosmic region are then attributed to an observer selection eﬀect (the so-called anthropic principle). The assemblage of universes has been dubbed “the multiverse”. In this paper (...) we review the multiverse concept and the criticisms that have been advanced against it on both scientiﬁc and philosophical grounds. (shrink)
In this sweeping survey, acclaimed science writers Paul Davies and John Gribbin provide a complete overview of advances in the study of physics that have revolutionized modern science. From the weird world of quarks and the theory of relativity to the latest ideas about the birth of the cosmos, the authors find evidence for a massive paradigm shift. Developments in the studies of black holes, cosmic strings, solitons, and chaos theory challenge commonsense concepts of space, time, and matter, and demand (...) a radically altered and more fully unified view of the universe. (shrink)
Astrobiologists are aware that extraterrestrial life might differ from known life, and considerable thought has been given to possible signatures associated with weird forms of life on other planets. So far, however, very little attention has been paid to the possibility that our own planet might also host communities of weird life. If life arises readily in Earth-like conditions, as many astrobiologists contend, then it may well have formed many times on Earth itself, which raises the question whether one or (...) more shadow biospheres have existed in the past or still exist today. In this paper, we discuss possible signatures of weird life and outline some simple strategies for seeking evidence of a shadow biosphere. Key Words: Weird life—Multiple origins of life—Biogenesis—Biomarkers—Extremophiles—Alternative biochemistry. Astrobiology 9, 241–249. (shrink)
In the atavistic model of cancer progression, tumor cell dedifferentiation is interpreted as a reversion to phylogenetically earlier capabilities. The more recently evolved capabilities are compromised first during cancer progression. This suggests a therapeutic strategy for targeting cancer: design challenges to cancer that can only be met by the recently evolved capabilities no longer functional in cancer cells. We describe several examples of this target‐the‐weakness strategy. Our most detailed example involves the immune system. The absence of adaptive immunity in immunosuppressed (...) tumor environments is an irreversible weakness of cancer that can be exploited by creating a challenge that only the presence of adaptive immunity can meet. This leaves tumor cells more vulnerable than healthy tissue to pathogenic attack. Such a target‐the‐weakness therapeutic strategy has broad applications, and contrasts with current therapies that target the main strength of cancer: cell proliferation. (shrink)
Paul Davies explains the significance of the amazing quantum universe, where fact is stranger than any science fiction. He takes us into a world where commonsense notions of space, time, and causality must be left behind as the realm of solid matter dissolves into vibrating patterns of ghostly energy, and where mind and matter are interwoven in a subtle and holistic manner. An Australian physicist and author of GOD AND THE NEW PHYSICS, Davies writes for the lay reader in simple (...) language. (shrink)
In March 1993, in preparation for the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights, representatives from the states of Asia gathered in Bangkok to formulate their position on this emotive issue. The result of their discussions was the Bangkok declaration. They accepted the concept of universal standards in human rights, but declared that these standards could not overridet he unique Asian regional and cultural differences, the requirements of economic development, nor the privileges of sovereignty. : The difficult and powerful dichotomies (...) raised in Bangkok, and their particular relevance to China, are explored in the ten essays contained in this book. The underlying political, cultural, philosophical, legal and economic issues which cut across the human rights spectrum are also considered. The writiers themselves are Chinese and Hong Kong scholars, or leading political figures who are involved in the current human rights debate. The ultimate goal of the book is not to resolve the issues raised in Bangkok, but to expose some contours of discussion in a way that is fresh and accessible. (shrink)
The hypothesis that life’s rapid appearance on Earth justifies the belief that life is widespread in the universe has been investigated mathematically by Lineweaver and Davis (Astrobiol- ogy 2002;2:293–304). However, a rapid appearance could also be interpreted as evidence for a nonterrestrial origin. I attempt to quantify the relative probabilities for a non-indigenous ver- sus indigenous origin, on the assumption that biogenesis involves one or more highly im- probable steps, using a generalization of Carter’s well-known observer-selection argument. The analysis is (...) specifically applied to a Martian origin of life, with subsequent transfer to Earth within impact ejecta. My main result is that the relatively greater probability of a Mar- tian origin rises sharply as a function of the number of difficult steps involved in biogene- sis. The actual numerical factor depends on what is assumed about conditions on early Mars, but for a wide range of assumptions a Martian origin of life is decisively favored. By con- trast, an extrasolar origin seems unlikely using the same analysis. These results complement those of Lineweaver and Davis. Key Words: Origin of life—Mars—Probability theory— Carter—Transpermia. Astrobiology 3, 673–679. (shrink)
Using a model quantum clock, I evaluate an expression for the time of a nonrelativistic quantum particle to transit a piecewise geodesic path in a background gravitational ﬁeld with small spacetime curvature (gravity gradient), in the case that the apparatus is in free fall. This calculation complements and extends an earlier one (Davies 2004) in which the apparatus is ﬁxed to the surface of the Earth. The result conﬁrms that, for particle velocities not too low, the quantum and classical transit (...) times coincide, in conformity with the principle of equivalence. I also calculate the quantum corrections to the transit time when the de Broglie wavelengths are long enough to probe the spacetime curvature. The results are compared with the calculation of Chiao and Speliotopoulos (2003), who propose an experiment to measure the foregoing effects. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that EinstcinRi7;s general theory of relativity is an satisfactory description of gravity 0nly in the macroscopic limit, where quantum eiTcc1;s may be neglected. Presumably this theory is inapplicable at the Planck length, but recently much attention has been devoted to gravitational theory at intermediate length scales where quantum affects 0f matter are inescapable, but where there is an general assumption that the gravitational Held may bc treated as a classical background, augmented if necessary by quamtizcd linearized (...) pertur-. (shrink)
We study the response of a uniformly accelerated model particle detector in a spacetime with compact spatial sections. The basic thermal character of the response re-emerges, in spite of the fact that the spacetime does not possess event horizons. Our model also permits a study of detector response to twisted field states.
The ﬁne structure constant α ≡ e2/ c ≈ 1/137 is one of the fundamental parameters of the standard model of particle physics. There is a long history of attempts to derive the measured value of α from an underlying theory, or exhibit it in the form of a compact mathematical expression [2–4, 6, 8, 14–16]. The most signiﬁcant advance in this endeavour was made by Dirac, who showed that if magnetic monopoles exist, with magnetic charge μ, then..
The Unruh-Wald scenario for mining quantum black holes is applied to de Sitter space. The following questions are addressed: Will the generalized second law of thermodynamics be maintained for de Sitter horizons? Does the mining process allow the recovery of unlimited energy from the cosmological gravitational field? The evaporation of a black hole in de Sitter space is also investigated in the context of the second law.
The massless Thirring model of a self-interacting ferinion field in a curved two-dimensional background spacetime is considered. The exact operator solution for the fields and the equation for the two-point function are given and used to examine the radiation emitted by a two-dimensional black hole. The radiation is found to be thermal in nature, confirming general predictions to this effect. We compute the particle spectrum of the Thirring fermions at finite temperature in Minkowski space and point out errors in a (...) previous attempt at this calculation. Finally we calculate the vacuum expectation value of the stress tensor in an arbitrary two-dimensional spacetime by exploiting the connection between the thermal Hawking radiation from a black hole and the value of the so-called conformal trace anomaly. The latter is also computed quite independently, using dimensional regularization, from general considerations of the renormalization group. (shrink)
We discuss the Starobinskii-Unruh process for the Kerr black hole. We show how this effect is related to the theory of squeezed states. We then consider a simple model for a highly relativistic rotating star and show that the Starobinskii-Unruh effect is absent.
In this dissertation I uncover a logic of the development of atomism in early Greek philosophy that has not been previously recognized in the philosophical literature. This logic results from the nature of subjectivity and the attempt by reflective subjects to understand the world in which they live. Thus because of the nature of illusions built in to perception and reflection, reflective subjects who attempt to understand their world will develop more or less accurate accounts according to their ability to (...) see through these illusions. ;Physicalism, as it is understood by Professor Phillip Scribner of The American University and explained in currently unpublished manuscripts, provides the interpretative key that reveals the underlying logic in the development of early Greek philosophy. It is therefore necessary to explain this particular form of physicalism in some detail in order to understand the terminology and categories to be used in the historical analysis. To this end I explain the physicalist ontology and philosophy of science, the genesis of the problem of mind in Modern and Contemporary philosophy, the physicalist solution to the problem of mind, and the nature of the physicalist critique of the history of philosophy. ;In the historical sections the themes of materialism, reductionism, and realism are used to compare the views of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, and Democritus and to show how their various positions on the themes follow from their assumptions about the nature of subjectivity. I argue that the predecessors of atomism were all naive realists and that this assumption about the nature of mind generates the problems of early Greek philosophy. The resolution of these problems follows from the development of critical realism by Leucippus and a form of proto-physicalism by Democritus. ;The main sources used are English translations of Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker by H. Diels, edited by W. Kranz, and a variety of secondary sources which provide the consensus of modern authorities. (shrink)
For Thomas Reid, moral knowledge is a matter of having "good evidence" supplied by a sense-like moral faculty concerning moral reality, and the purpose of this work is to show that such a view can be both consistent and plausible. The first chapter attempts to characterize the state of moral epistemology and the assumptions that were considered uncontroversial when Reid wrote. The second chapter opens with a brief recounting of Reid's central claims about the moral sense and the progress of (...) moral knowledge, and then seeks to describe the various problems that confront those who would explain and defend his views. Three features in particular of his account turn out to be in need clarification: his reasons for using the moral sense analogy, his understanding of the object apprehended by the moral faculty, and his conception of evidence. ;Reid's expectations about moral ontology are handled somewhat briefly in chapter 2, and the rest of the work concentrates on the more purely epistemological issues of evidence and the process of moral belief-formation. Chapter 2 concludes with an explanation of the difficulty Reid's text poses for understanding his doctrine of evidence, and the third chapter lays the foundation for resolving those difficulties by detailing an epistemological conception of evidence which parallels the legal conception of evidence in use in the Scottish courts of Reid's day. Chapter 4 builds on this foundation, developing Reid's general epistemological strategy and showing that Reid's various claims about evidence and self-evidence are best understood in light of the legal model detailed in chapter 3. ;The fifth chapter returns to Reid's claims about moral knowledge, explaining his understanding of the primary task of the moral faculty--practical deliberation--and defending his invocation of the moral sense analogy. With these clarifications secured, chapter 6 characterizes and attempts to make plausible Reid's account of moral knowledge, both concerning individual actions and the truth of moral principles. The final chapter sketches brief responses to twentieth-century worries about "moral sense" constructions, and offers a final assessment of the success of Reid's project. (shrink)