A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down.
A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down ROBERT B. LAUGHLIN
Nobel prize winner Laughlin writes that physics has traditionally strived to simplify phenomena, through theories of reductionism such as those of the Big Bang and quantum mechanics. Laughlin argues that this approach fails to recognize the importance of emergence, which he describes as the idea that the whole is usually greater than a sum of its parts. Examining physical phenomena on too small a scale overlooks behaviors and attributes of matter that are apparent only collectively, Laughlin asserts. For example, Newton's law of motion describes the behavior only of macroscale fluids and solids and is thus not fundamental, but emergent. The author cites the organization implicit in the phases of matter and the paradoxical role of collective behavior in quantum measurement. Though his subject matter is complex, Laughlin uses analogies to everyday experience, such as commuting to work, to put his ideas into context. Personal anecdotes detailing his work and interaction with physicists and other colleagues make the book an engaging narrative. Laughlin provides a new focus for scientific inquiry, moving beyond phenomena so small they can't be measured to phenomena that anyone can observe. Basic Books, 2005, 254 p., b&w illustrations, hardcover, $26.00.