Understanding Natural Phenomena

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About the author:
Dr. Vinod Wadhawan is a condensed-matter physicist and a materials scientist. He was associated with the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India, for his entire scientific career. He served as 'Outstanding Scientist' and Head, Laser Materials Division, Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore, till 2004. After that he was a Raja Ramanna Fellow for about six years at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai. He was also an Associate Editor of PHASE TRANSITIONS (Taylor & Francis) till 2010, having done editorial work for this journal for 25 years.

Wadhawan's current activities are centered around science popularization and book writing. His earlier books are: 'Introduction to Ferroic Materials' (Gordon & Breach, 2000), 'Smart Structures: Blurring the Distinction Between the Living and the Nonliving' (Oxford University Press, 2007), 'Complexity Science: Tackling the Difficult Questions We Ask about Ourselves and about Our Universe' (LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010), and 'Latent, Manifest, and Broken Symmetry: A Bottom-up Approach to Symmetry, with Implications for Complex Networks' (self-published, 2011). He is an avid blogger, and his blog is aptly called 'The Vinod Wadhawan Blog: Celebrating the Spirit of Science and the Scientific Method'.

He believes that scientists should take a lead in bringing more rationality and logic into public discourse. The scientific method is not something to be employed for doing science only; it has applicability in all walks of life.

Wadhawan calls himself a scientific pantheist. [As described by Paul Harrison (2013), there are three main types of scientific pantheism: dualist pantheism ('spirit and matter are two completely different substances, and the soul is to some extent separate from the body and can survive the death of the body); physicalist pantheism ('there is only one fundamental substance, namely matter/energy, and mind is a property of matter'); and idealist pantheism ('the one basic substance is mind or consciousness, and matter is simply a creation or delusion of mind').] As he puts it: 'I am a physicalist scientific-pantheist. I am a part of Nature and Nature is a part of me, and everything wondrous and beautiful in Nature is available to me to admire, explore, and protect'.

Understanding Natural Phenomena

Self-Organization and Emergence in Complex Systems

Authored by Vinod Wadhawan
Edition: 1

Science is all about trying to understand natural phenomena under the strict discipline imposed by the celebrated scientific method. Practically all the systems we encounter in Nature are dynamical systems, meaning that they evolve with time. Among them there are the 'simple' or 'simplifiable' systems, which can be handled by traditional, reductionistic science; and then there are 'complex' systems, for which nonreductionistic approaches have to be attempted for understanding their evolution. In this book the author makes a case that a good way to understand a large number of natural phenomena, both simple and complex, is to focus on their self-organization and emergence aspects. Self-organization and emergence are rampant in Nature and, given enough time, their cumulative effects can be so mind-boggling that many people have great difficulty believing that there is no designer involved in the emergence of all the structure and order we see around us. But it is really quite simple to understand how and why we get so much 'order for free'. It all happens because, as ordained by the infallible second law of thermodynamics, all 'thermodynamically open' systems in our ever-expanding and cooling (and therefore gradient-creating) universe constantly tend to move towards equilibrium and stability, often ending up in ordered configurations. In other words, order emerges because Nature tends to find efficient ways to annul gradients of all types.

This book will help you acquire a good understanding of the essential features of many natural phenomena, via the complexity-science route. It has four parts: (1) Complexity Basics; (2) Pre-Human Evolution of Complexity; (3) Humans and the Evolution of Complexity; and (4) Appendices. The author gives centrestage to the second law of thermodynamics for 'open' systems, which he describes as 'the mother of all organizing principles'. He also highlights a somewhat unconventional statement of this law: 'Nature abhors gradients'.

The book is written at two levels, one of which hardly uses any mathematical equations; the mathematical treatment of some relevant topics has been pushed to the last part of the book, in the form of ten appendices. Therefore the book should be accessible to a large readership. It is a general-science book written in a reader-friendly language, but without any dumbing down of the narrative.

Publication Date:
1548527939 / 9781548527938
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6.69" x 9.61"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Science / General

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