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What is Life? (Canto Classics)

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Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life? is one of the great science classics of the twentieth century. It was written for the layman, but proved to be one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of DNA. What is Life? appears here together with Mind and Matter, his essay investigating a relationship which has eluded and puzzled p Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life? is one of the great science classics of the twentieth century. It was written for the layman, but proved to be one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of DNA. What is Life? appears here together with Mind and Matter, his essay investigating a relationship which has eluded and puzzled philosophers since the earliest times. Brought together with these two classics are Schrödinger's autobiographical sketches, which offer a fascinating account of his life as a background to his scientific writings.


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Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life? is one of the great science classics of the twentieth century. It was written for the layman, but proved to be one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of DNA. What is Life? appears here together with Mind and Matter, his essay investigating a relationship which has eluded and puzzled p Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life? is one of the great science classics of the twentieth century. It was written for the layman, but proved to be one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of DNA. What is Life? appears here together with Mind and Matter, his essay investigating a relationship which has eluded and puzzled philosophers since the earliest times. Brought together with these two classics are Schrödinger's autobiographical sketches, which offer a fascinating account of his life as a background to his scientific writings.

30 review for What is Life? (Canto Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    I am convinced that theoretical physicists are the true mystics of our age. Being, on the whole, smart people, they have developed some useful tricks to reduce the occupational hazards of their calling; the most dangerous of these hazards is the ever-present possibility of being killed by an angry mob who object to having their normal view of the world unexpectedly turned upside-down. Mystics have always been in the habit of evading their pursuers by using language which is difficult for the uni I am convinced that theoretical physicists are the true mystics of our age. Being, on the whole, smart people, they have developed some useful tricks to reduce the occupational hazards of their calling; the most dangerous of these hazards is the ever-present possibility of being killed by an angry mob who object to having their normal view of the world unexpectedly turned upside-down. Mystics have always been in the habit of evading their pursuers by using language which is difficult for the uninitiated to understand, but modern physicists have taken the idea to a new level. The strategy has proven very successful, and it's become quite rare to see a physicist burned at the stake or forced to drink hemlock. Every now and then, however, a physicist gets a little careless. In this famous essay, Schrödinger only puts in a hundred-odd pages of cover, with hardly any equations at all, before coming out with the following passage:Let us see whether we cannot draw the correct, non-contradictory conclusion from the following two premises: (i) My body functions as a pure mechanism according to the Laws of Nature. (ii) Yet I know, by incontrovertible direct experience, that I am directing its motions, of which I foresee the effects, that may be fateful and all-important, in which case I feel and take full responsibility for them. The only possible inference from these two facts is, I think, that I – I in the widest meaning of the word, that is to say, every conscious mind that has ever said or felt 'I' - am the person, if any, who controls the 'motion of the atoms' according to the Laws of Nature. Within a cultural milieu (Kulturkreis) where certain conceptions (which once had or still have a wider meaning amongst other peoples) have been limited and specialized, it is daring to give to this conclusion the simple wording that it requires. In Christian terminology to say: 'Hence I am God Almighty' sounds both blasphemous and lunatic. But please disregard these connotations for the moment and consider whether the above inference is not the closest a biologist can get to proving also their God and immortality at one stroke. In itself, the insight is not new. The earliest records to my knowledge date back some 2,500 years or more. From the early great Upanishads the recognition ATHMAN = BRAHMAN upheld in (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was, after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really to assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts. Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS SUM (I have become God). To Western ideology the thought has remained a stranger, in spite of Schopenhauer and others who stood for it and in spite of those true lovers who, as they look into each other's eyes, become aware that their thought and their joy are numerically one - not merely similar or identical; but they, as a rule, are emotionally too busy to indulge in clear thinking, in which respect they very much resemble the mystic.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Have you ever found yourself, in a remarkable fit of THC induced synesthesia, with your bloody tongue suffering long assault from a brillo pad? Yea, yellow tastes the worst. No. Let me start again. Have you ever wondered what characteristics a thing must exhibit before it can be considered living? Then I’m about to persuade you to read this book by way of a tenuously connected piece of post-apocalyptic fiction, in which a pathogen, engineered by the military, has produced a giant race of war-pla Have you ever found yourself, in a remarkable fit of THC induced synesthesia, with your bloody tongue suffering long assault from a brillo pad? Yea, yellow tastes the worst. No. Let me start again. Have you ever wondered what characteristics a thing must exhibit before it can be considered living? Then I’m about to persuade you to read this book by way of a tenuously connected piece of post-apocalyptic fiction, in which a pathogen, engineered by the military, has produced a giant race of war-platypi which now dominate the terrestrial biosphere. Here we will explore the ecology of humanity’s great nemesis in order to better conceptualize the issue: Against the better judgement of your peers, you decided that a massive collection of saccharine shoujo manga should occupy the principal volume of your cramped bunker, instead of additional grape nuts, canned peaches, throwing stars, sex toys, or SAS Survival Handbooks. Sounder minds expressed concern over your inventory, to which you replied: “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct them to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” Your friends and family found this aphorism quite moving (or else baffling) and said no more. But now your provisions are scant. You’ve cried your body weight in unrequited loves. You’ve exacerbated your carpel tunnel from writing fan fiction and sketching seedy doujins when you should’ve been searching for other survivors. It’s time for a change. You kneel before the only spiritual paraphernalia you saw fit to place inside this sterile capsule. Issuing soft prayers first to the poster of George Carlin, who symbolizes courage and irreverence. Secondly to a large statue of the Kool-aid man, who represents raw power and disdain for artificial barriers. And lastly, a print of Dita Von Teese, at the pinnacle of her burlesque, bathing in a martini glass. Because you’re a tasteful bacchanalian pervert who has never gained much traction with deities of wisdom - so fuck ‘em. You take up the only weapon you allowed yourself, one that perfectly suits your diminutive physique - a ceremonial Zweihänder - and strap it to your back. The weight would be reassuring if not so crushing. (Nutrition) A war platypus consumes its surroundings indiscriminately to provide itself energy. Derelict shopping carts, shrubs, canned cheeseburgers, naked mole rats, and terrified people make for a complex macronutrient profile which provides the raw materials for metabolic function. Meanwhile you’re stomping around the foothills of Kentucky looking for dry land fish (morels), dragging that lodestone of a weapon behind you and cursing the complete bastard that swindled you into buying it by regaling you with obvious hyperbole surrounding the battle prowess of Teutonic Knights. You were vaguely aware that the mongols whooped the ever loving piss outta them. Why the hell didn’t you look into becoming proficient in horse archery? (Respiration) This is the way in which these weaponized varmints, through complex biochemical pathways, turn all that squirrel gravy into the petrol that powers their funny looking, but terrifyingly fast and destructively insatiable, kinda waddling, kinda scuttling, kinda rampaging locomotion. (Movement) Once, while digging up roots and tubers with that goddamn slab of metal you’ve been using as a walking stick, you saw one of those big bastards wild as piss off consuming an entire clutch of hypnotic toads. In sweaty fascination you observed the absolute maniac, in a fitful waller, carve hateful gashes into the earth, bend trees cock-eyed, crush a mule deer into paste, and render totally inoperable the ATV you’d boosted. (Sensitivity) As misfortune would have it, these organisms have been engineered to resist any chemical attempt to pacify their wanton violence, and as such, recover from tripping balls with horrifying alacrity. They’re also equipped with excellent visual acuity, an olfactory sense that would blast the hair off a grizzly’s ass, and (here’s something most people don’t know) electrolocation. Needless to say, all would-be Peeping Toms are inexorably shagged. (Excrement) Well, this is better left to the imagination. But, given the circumstances, I think it’s forgivable to have a malfunctioning of bladder and bowel. Briefly: this is necessary to get rid of waste that, if allowed to build up within cells, would poison and kill the organism. (Movement) You set outta there like a sex starved succubus fleeing long internment at a nunnery. Moving your gangling ass with a grace heretofore unseen thanks to a blistering shot of adrenaline. Screaming: “But what changes come upon the weary desert of our culture, so darkly described, when it is touched by the magic of Dionysus! A storm seizes everything decrepit, rotten, broken, stunted; shrouds it in a whirling red cloud of dust and carries it into the air like a vulture. In vain confusion we seek for all that has vanished; for what we see has risen as if from beneath the earth into the gold light, so full and green, so luxuriantly alive, immeasurable and filled with yearning. Tragedy sits in sublime rapture amidst this abundance of life, suffering and delight, listening to a far-off, melancholy song which-HELP ME DITA! This egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed colossus is gaining on me! Did you know it’s one of the few species of venomous mammal?! (Growth) And the male has a spur the size of a Clydesdale on it’s hind foot that’s capable of delivering a neurotoxin that instills in its victim a fatal desire for lasagna?! Which is a dreadful affliction to have in a world of scarcity!” Shouting fractured bits of zoological trivia and philosophy is a persistent nervous tic of yours. (Reproduction) You come to a clearing and find an enormous collection of eggs, and some haggard looking bastard shoveling out the contents of one. He pivots with nervous energy upon your arrival and exclaims: “That’s an incredible sword you’ve got there, lady! You get that at the trading post?! OH CHRIST YOU’VE LED IT STRAIGHT TO US!” Well, look, the book is nothing like this. But imagine everything I wrote, except more coherent and chocked full of penetrating insight from a brilliant physicist (who is arguably the father of all cat memes), speculating from atop the ramparts of the most fundamental of the sciences on matters of: 4D human centipedes consuming disorder and shitting out negative entropy. Diffusion. Quantum mechanical processes which might underlie biology. The likely “aperiodic” crystal structure of heredity (bear in mind this was written years in advance of Watson & Crick). The omnipresent second law of thermodynamics. And finally matters of determinism, freewill, and consciousness, which goes from zero to Deepak Chopra in half a heart beat.

  3. 5 out of 5

    DJ

    I love reading explanations of biology from physicists; what once were magic and collections of 'just-so' stories become explanations of how and why processes occur the way they do. This book was single-handedly responsible for convincing dozens of physicists to chase issues biological and given I already had the bug, I figured it would be interesting to see what sparked it in so many others. Here's the conversation that runs through my brain when I think about this book: The Children: Grandpa Sch I love reading explanations of biology from physicists; what once were magic and collections of 'just-so' stories become explanations of how and why processes occur the way they do. This book was single-handedly responsible for convincing dozens of physicists to chase issues biological and given I already had the bug, I figured it would be interesting to see what sparked it in so many others. Here's the conversation that runs through my brain when I think about this book: The Children: Grandpa Schroedinger, Grandpa Schroedinger! Tell us about biology! Grandpa Schroedinger: Well, what do you want to know? TC: What's an organism? GS: An organism is a 4D pattern that consumes negative entropy to maintain order. TC: Huh? GS: It's something that's alive. TC: Oh. Why are organisms so much bigger than atoms? GS: Ho, ho, ho! If organisms were close to the size of atoms, life would be intolerable! We'd all be buffeted about by the quantum chaos and never have a chance at predicting our environment. Think about it: your sensory organs would be useless if all they could pick up was Brownian motion. That's one hell of a signal-to-noise problem! We have to be big so that life is more predictable. TC: How come we don't know how life works? If physicists are so smart, why haven't they figured out the genetic code yet? GS (grave face): You should learn not to run your mouth. But if you must ask, it's because physicists like things that are easy to study, such as the relatively simple and elegant structures produced by statistical mechanics. But statistical mechanics produces statistical structures - periodic crystals and such. Organic molecules are aperiodic and quite foreign to physicists. We shouldn't expect that our physical models will carry over so easily; in fact, 'it is well-nigh unthinkable that the laws and regularities thus discovered should happen to apply immediately to the behaviour of systems which do not exhibit the structure on which those laws and regularities were based.' Reductionism is hard. There are many steps on the ladder between physics and phenomena, each one possibly best describable in a completely different language. TC: I heard the biologists are going to discover DNA in 7 years, but I want to know now! How does it work?! GS: Well fortunately I'm a flippin' genius and probably one of the smartest grandpas in the world so I can tell you how this DNA stuff works seven years before anyone else will know. Here's the trick: it's an aperiodic crystal stored in your chromosomes. TC: But if it's so tiny, how do we fit the recipe for a whole human being in there? GS (pats child on head): Combinatorics, my boy! Combinatorics! If you have 25 letters and want to make a 25-letter word using just 5 different letters, you know how many words you can make? More than 62 trillion! TC: Wow... but if the DNA is so tiny, how does it remain stable? You told us that tiny things get buffeted about in the quantum storm! GS: Silly child! Quantum theory can save the day again! Since molecules are only stable in discrete quantum states, these aperiodic crystals will only be stable in certain patterns. They'll need a minimum amount of energy to pop out of place, kind of like a marble stuck in a thimble. You can poke it and flick it without knocking the marble out but if you smack it too hard, kapoot! That's why high temperatures and x-ray radiation are not particularly conducive to your health. They sometimes provide enough energy so that, kapoot!, your little aperiodic DNA crystals pop out of place and mutate! TC: Wait.. I look nothing like my mom and dad. How can I be just a copy of them? GS: Well, it turns out your DNA isn't perfectly stable. It's just instable enough that mutations can occur here and there. Think of it like an optimization problem: your DNA mutates just often enough to explore different design possibilities, but just rare enough that evolution can isolate the mutation responsible when we make a good or bad move. With too many changes at once, it's impossible to judge which were 'good' and which were 'bad', but with no changes at all, the whole world would be like one big personality-less fraternity. Either that or your parents adopted you. TC: Oh... [one child walks away from crowd with head down:] So we dip into the quantum storm just often enough to be helpful.. neat! How does every cell know how to follow the recipe? Is there a DNA dictator who tells everyone what to do? GS: Nope! Organisms are more democratic than that. Every cell gets a cloned copy of the recipe. It's a bit like a collection of local governments all based on the same constitution but that each make decisions based on local conditions. TC: Wow... you really are the smartest grandpa in the world! GS: Ho, ho, ho! [pats child on head again:] Yes, I know. Now, here; take this bratwurst and run along! I have to go solve the mysteries of dark matter and energy, explain consciousness, and prove P=NP.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Orhan Pelinkovic

    Many people give themselves the task to comprehend the present knowledge available in a particular field of their interest. This is not easy, but it seems like, Schrodinger, was capable of achieving this task, but not only this, he also created new knowledge in his field of profession of physics and introduced the wave function of a quantum mechanical system. His brilliance doesn't stop there, he foresees and describes what is yet to be discovered in other fields of study, genetics in particular Many people give themselves the task to comprehend the present knowledge available in a particular field of their interest. This is not easy, but it seems like, Schrodinger, was capable of achieving this task, but not only this, he also created new knowledge in his field of profession of physics and introduced the wave function of a quantum mechanical system. His brilliance doesn't stop there, he foresees and describes what is yet to be discovered in other fields of study, genetics in particular, and contributed to discovery of the DNA. What Is Life? with Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches (1944) is written by Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961), an Austrian quantum physicist intrigued by genetics and philosophy. What is life in a physical sense? A phenomenon of living cells that constitute living organisms. A four-dimensional pattern of atoms. An unlikely assembly of cooperating molecules. A system capable of decreasing its entropy (measurement of disorder) by continuously extracting and feeding itself the energy from the environment to maintain its low level of entropy and stay alive. Schrodinger argued that we possess a hereditary molecule which contains: "...a fairly complete code-script of the 'pattern' is contained in every single set of chromosomes." furthermore "...the nucleus of the fertilized egg, could contain an elaborate code-script involving all the future development of the organisms". Schrodinger, with this book, that is based on the lectures he gave in 1943 in Dublin, contributed and partly influenced the men and women 10 years later to uncover the double helix structure and form of the DNA. In the second half of the book, Schrodinger, observes Life through the prism of metaphysics. Discussing consciousness, mind and matter, and the scientific knowledge that is, at the end of the day, based on the perception of our delicate senses. Perhaps too much for a nearly 200 page book, but it was one of the more inspiring reads for me this year. I appreciated that, even thought Schrodinger was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, his point of view on life was not only considered through the angle of science which can lack the feelings that provide meaning and purpose to our lives. (4.5/5.0)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    In 1943, a scientist, at one remove from the world of biology, gave a series of lectures in Dublin - called provocatively ‘What Is Life?’. Erwin Schrödinger, had shared the Nobel prize in physics in 1933 for laying the foundations of wave mechanics. In his Dublin lectures, Schrödinger addressed what puzzled many students — why biology was treated as a subject completely separate from physics and chemistry: frogs, fruit-flies and cells on one side, atoms and molecules, electricity and magnetism, o In 1943, a scientist, at one remove from the world of biology, gave a series of lectures in Dublin - called provocatively ‘What Is Life?’. Erwin Schrödinger, had shared the Nobel prize in physics in 1933 for laying the foundations of wave mechanics. In his Dublin lectures, Schrödinger addressed what puzzled many students — why biology was treated as a subject completely separate from physics and chemistry: frogs, fruit-flies and cells on one side, atoms and molecules, electricity and magnetism, on the other. The time had come, Schrödinger declared, to think of living organisms in terms of their molecular and atomic structure. There was no great divide between the living and non-living; they all obey the same laws of physics and chemistry. He put a physicist’s question to biology. If entropy is (according to the second law of thermodynamics) things falling apart, the natural disintegration of order into disorder, why don’t genes decay? Why are they instead passed intact from generation to generation? He gave his own answer. ‘Life’ is matter that is doing something. The technical term is metabolism — ‘eating, drinking, breathing, assimilating, replicating, avoiding entropy’. To Schrodinger, life could be defined as ‘negative entropy’ — something not falling into chaos and approaching ‘the dangerous state of maximum entropy, which is death’. Genes, he said, preserve their structure because the chromosome that carries them is an 'irregular crystal'. The arrangement of units within the crystal constitutes the hereditary code. The lectures were published as a book the following year, ready for physicists to read just as the war ended and they looked for new frontiers to explore. To this new breed, “What Is Life?” was the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of biology — a small book that started a revolution. For post-war physicists, suffering from professional malaise, Schrödinger showed a new way forward - ‘When one of the inventors of quantum mechanics could ask ‘‘What is life?’’, they were confronted with a fundamental problem worthy of their mettle.’ Biological problems could now be tackled with their own language, physics. The first half of the Twentieth-century science belonged to physics, with the general theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and nuclear fission. The second half would belong to biology.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Can Physics account fully for the mysteries of Biology? This is what Schrödinger wants to know. He ends up writing something half-mystical, half-radical and fully-confusing, as Manny says in another review to this book. Now the beauty of any sufficiently confusing book by a good/great scientist is that it is capable of triggering inspiration many times over. These lectures which are mostly musings on a nascent new branch of science (genetics) in the light of another nascent new branch of science Can Physics account fully for the mysteries of Biology? This is what Schrödinger wants to know. He ends up writing something half-mystical, half-radical and fully-confusing, as Manny says in another review to this book. Now the beauty of any sufficiently confusing book by a good/great scientist is that it is capable of triggering inspiration many times over. These lectures which are mostly musings on a nascent new branch of science (genetics) in the light of another nascent new branch of science (quantum physics) inspired Haldane, Watson, Crick, Wilkins, etc. to take some of the greatest scientific leaps of the modern world. We shouldn't bet against it inspiring more even today - perhaps the next round of disciples will come from among the ones who pursue AI today? Just a hunch.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Khashayar Mohammadi

    A magnificent book that approaches philosophy with strong scientific knowledge. In today's world where Rockstar scientists not only shamelessly disregard philosophy, but speak of its irrelevance, this book plays an important role fusing together Science and philosophy. If you're a layman like me, do not worry since the book has been written to be understood by those with minimal scientific knowledge. Its a book meant to challenge your mind metaphysically and not arithmetically. Schrödinger explor A magnificent book that approaches philosophy with strong scientific knowledge. In today's world where Rockstar scientists not only shamelessly disregard philosophy, but speak of its irrelevance, this book plays an important role fusing together Science and philosophy. If you're a layman like me, do not worry since the book has been written to be understood by those with minimal scientific knowledge. Its a book meant to challenge your mind metaphysically and not arithmetically. Schrödinger explores the history of consciousness by delving deep into the history and behaviour of particles themselves. As a bonus, the last dozen pages are dedicated to a brief chronology of Schrödinger's life himself. I recommend this to every lover of philosophy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rajat Ubhaykar

    A naive physicist honestly ponders upon the mysteries of life, he just happens to be Erwin Schrodinger. However a word of warning, this book may be disconcerting to the truly naive physicist. Schrodinger admits the inability of physics to comprehend the living organism, the need for extra-physical laws to explain life as it is. However, he lays a groundwork based on existing physical laws to come to terms with life and going along his train of thought also happens to predict the existence of DNA A naive physicist honestly ponders upon the mysteries of life, he just happens to be Erwin Schrodinger. However a word of warning, this book may be disconcerting to the truly naive physicist. Schrodinger admits the inability of physics to comprehend the living organism, the need for extra-physical laws to explain life as it is. However, he lays a groundwork based on existing physical laws to come to terms with life and going along his train of thought also happens to predict the existence of DNA years before its discovery. A scientific man's interpretations of the philosophical questions raised by the title was particularly interesting and insightful. His eventual turn to Indian philosophy for lucidity was effortless and apparently essential. However, what is particularly interesting is how his final question is not 'What is Life?', but 'What is this I?'.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris Feldman

    This along with Heisenberg's "Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science" and "Philosophical Problems of Quantum Physics" are what you want to read instead of "The Tao Of Physics" and "Dancing Wu Li Masters." This along with Heisenberg's "Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science" and "Philosophical Problems of Quantum Physics" are what you want to read instead of "The Tao Of Physics" and "Dancing Wu Li Masters."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    Pound-for-pound, quite possibly the most exciting book (outside of math/CS textbooks) I've ever read. Every home should have a copy. Pound-for-pound, quite possibly the most exciting book (outside of math/CS textbooks) I've ever read. Every home should have a copy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rama

    Erwin Schrödinger: The man and his vision This is another great work of Erwin Schrodinger which gives an insight into the biology of life from a physicist's perspective that inspired scientists like; Francis Crick who discovered the structure of DNA, J.B.S. Haldane, and Roger Penrose. It is clear from this work and other books of Schrodinger that he was one of the few physicists who deeply thought of the inner most secrets of life. This book is divided into two parts: What's Life (7 chapters) and Erwin Schrödinger: The man and his vision This is another great work of Erwin Schrodinger which gives an insight into the biology of life from a physicist's perspective that inspired scientists like; Francis Crick who discovered the structure of DNA, J.B.S. Haldane, and Roger Penrose. It is clear from this work and other books of Schrodinger that he was one of the few physicists who deeply thought of the inner most secrets of life. This book is divided into two parts: What's Life (7 chapters) and Mind and Matter (6 chapters). The physicist's most dreaded weapon, the mathematical deduction can not be used for life because it is too complex to be accessible to equations. The orderliness required for the preservation of life does not come by the random heat motions of atoms and molecules, but statistical averages that provide order. Schrodinger asks a simple question; why is life made of so many atoms and not just a few. He offers three examples; higher magnetic fields, increase in molecular population and the error introduced into a reaction rate constant or any other physical parameter would be far too great if only few molecules are involved to form life. Hence orderliness, and of course evolution and diversity of life, requires very large population of molecules. The world is a construct of our sensations, perceptions, memories; all existing objectively and all scientific knowledge is based on sense of perception and nonetheless the scientific views of material processes formed in this way lack all sensual qualities and can not account for the latter. Theories that are developed from scientific observations of experiments never account for sensual qualities. The sentient, percipient and thinking ego does not figure anywhere in our world picture, because it is itself the world picture. It is identified with the whole and not part of it. The physical world lacks all the sensual qualities that go to make the subject of cognizance. It is colorless, soundless, and impalpable. The world is deprived of everything that makes sense in its in relation to the consciously contemplating, perceiving, and feeling the subject; no personal god can form part of world model that has only became accessible at the cost of removing everything personal from it. God is missing from spacetime picture like sense of perception or ones own personality. Upanisads (Hindu Scripture) states that Atman = Brahman, the personal self equal the all comprehending eternal self. Consciousness never experienced in plural only in the singular, and plurality is merely a series of different aspect of one soul and one conscious produced by a deception (Maya). There is no multiplicity of minds; in reality and truth there is only one mind. Before and after is not a quality of the world we perceive but pertains to the perceiving mind and don't imply the notion of space and time. After relativity, the notion of before and after reside on the cause and effect relationship. The general directedness of all happenings is explained by the mechanical or statistical theory of heat. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that order changes to disorder but not disorder to order, and time travels in one direction from past to future, but not future to past. The statistical theory of time has a stronger bearing on the philosophy of time than theory of relativity. The latter presupposes unidirectional flow of time while statistical theory constructs from order of events. My body functions according to laws of nature, but I direct body motions. The word "I" means to state that I who control the motion of the atoms and molecules according to the Laws of Nature. The uncertainty principle and the lack of causal connection in nature introduce certain features into physical reality. For example, we can not make any factual statement about a physical system without interacting with it which would change the physical state of the system. This explains why no complete description of any physical object is ever possible. These laws have pushed the boundary between the subject and object. In fact subject and object are only one, and no barrier exists. It is the same element that goes to compose my mind and the world. The situation is the same for every mind and its world, in spite of the unfathomable abundance of cross references between them. The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. The last chapter gives brief autobiographical sketches of Schrodinger translated by his granddaughter. Schrödinger was deeply philosophical with strong family: He loved and respected his parents. His strong interest in physics and Vedanta philosophy (one of the six schools of Hindu Philosophy) is apparent, but he shy's away from writing about his complex personal life that involved many women and numerous extramarital affairs.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    Schrodinger wrote “What is Life?” in 1944, just a few years before Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA's structure. Schrodinger, a physicist writing about the fundamental juncture between life and non-life, flirts with a quantum theory of biology where mutations behave in “jump-like” fashion. Moving through evolutionary time as whole units leads, he believes, to life's stability in the face of ever-present forces of entropy. At its core, because of this stability, life is an effective counter-fo Schrodinger wrote “What is Life?” in 1944, just a few years before Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA's structure. Schrodinger, a physicist writing about the fundamental juncture between life and non-life, flirts with a quantum theory of biology where mutations behave in “jump-like” fashion. Moving through evolutionary time as whole units leads, he believes, to life's stability in the face of ever-present forces of entropy. At its core, because of this stability, life is an effective counter-force to the entropic pressures toward heat dissipation and disorder. Life, through its seeking and defending behavior, is able to stay alive, for awhile. Through the importation of external energy (“continually sucking orderliness from its environment,” life is able to avoid “the rapid decay into the inert state of 'equilibrium'” or heat death. In contrast to non-life, where order moves to disorder, life is able to draw upon order (“less complicated organic compounds which serve them as foodstuffs”) to maintain order. Schrodinger is clear, however, that the laws of physics remain in place. Life is able to maintain order for a time, but in death, life rejoins non-life's march to thermal equilibrium. In Mind and Matter, a series of lectures he gave in 1956, Schrodinger makes several hard to follow arguments that appear to blend physics, evolutionary theory and philosophy. One of his arguments is that “increasing mechanization and 'stupidization' of most manufacturing processes involve the serious danger of a general degeneration of our organ of intelligence.” This will lead the unintelligent man to settle down to “beget offspring,” which will lead to “a negative [evolutionary] selection as regards talents and gifts.” That seems elitist as well as Lamarckian. Schrodinger also gives a nod to the Upanishads that behind all diversity lies oneness. It's not clear why Schrodinger moves in this direction. It could be that he sees mind as spirit or god, and not of space and time. While mind might see some underlying oneness, in real time, as live matter and energy, we compete and kill as well as love and cooperate.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gendou

    A well thought out paper by a brilliant physicist. Would have given it five stars, but it happened to be remedial for me, but it may be more informative to you, so check it out! It's sort of eerie to hear Schrodinger contemplate with fascination and wonder something so obvious today as the nature of the DNA molecule. He gets a lot of stuff right, considering he's going on very limited evidence. Sometimes he plays devil's advocate in too convincing a way, a befuddling habit. His conclusion, mainly reg A well thought out paper by a brilliant physicist. Would have given it five stars, but it happened to be remedial for me, but it may be more informative to you, so check it out! It's sort of eerie to hear Schrodinger contemplate with fascination and wonder something so obvious today as the nature of the DNA molecule. He gets a lot of stuff right, considering he's going on very limited evidence. Sometimes he plays devil's advocate in too convincing a way, a befuddling habit. His conclusion, mainly regarding life as a processor of "free energy" or "negative entropy" is, along with being right on the money, respectably insightful for his time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex Zakharov

    Schrodinger is a Trump of biology – “What is Life” has famously polarized scientific community, and Schrodinger’s 1944 thoughts on what will eventually become molecular biology are considered to be both prescient in direction and wrong in details. For example, Watson and Crick openly credit their intellectual debt to Schrodinger’s insights, whereas Max Perutz quips that “what was true in his book was not original, and most of what was original was known not to be true”. Well, let me tell you one Schrodinger is a Trump of biology – “What is Life” has famously polarized scientific community, and Schrodinger’s 1944 thoughts on what will eventually become molecular biology are considered to be both prescient in direction and wrong in details. For example, Watson and Crick openly credit their intellectual debt to Schrodinger’s insights, whereas Max Perutz quips that “what was true in his book was not original, and most of what was original was known not to be true”. Well, let me tell you one thing, it doesn’t really matter how you feel about significance and/or inaccuracy of “aperiodic crystal”, “hereditary code-script”, negative entropy, or doctrines of Upanishads. It also doesn’t matter that you can legitimately criticize Schrodinger for attempting to bridge physics and biology, while ignoring chemistry. What matters is that he attempted that bridge by sheer intuition, and you will walk away in awe after watching one of the most celebrated minds in physics intuit the framework of thinking about heredity and life from quantum mechanical principles, and then musing on its implications for determinism and consciousness. Note, this edition includes “What is Life?” and “Mind and Matter”, and both are short and tasty. Rest are notes to self. Physical laws are statistical, so how to explain stability of hereditary mechanism from physical principles, given the relatively small number of atoms involved. “Aperiodic crystal” comes in handy (he thought it to be protein, later it turns out to be nucleic acid of course, but qualitatively he was pretty damn close). Uses Delbruck’s model and argues from quantum energy state transitions to make a case for “jump-like” spontaneous mutations. So we have a structure stable enough to contain hereditary “code-script”, with enough (but not much) mutations to power natural selection. The energy configuration of the gene is stabilized by evolution such that natural frequency of rearrangement is orders of magnitude smaller than reproduction. (According to Perutz (1987), Schrodinger ignored experimental evidence available at the time, which invalidated some of his estimates, and showed alternative likelier mechanism for mutations) There is much more about energy jumps, negative entropy, extracting order from environment to avoid entropic decay, Lamarckism, dysgenics, and evolution but you’d better read it for yourself. Schrodinger is often credited with bringing QM into biology, but until I read him I wasn’t aware that he explicitly insists that quantum effects are not due to indeterminacy, but quantum energy state transitions. And that brings about some pretty radical thinking at the tail end of “What is Life?”. Ready? Schrodinger finds himself in a bind. He disposed of indeterminism (in context of life), and he has shown how life, heredity and his body follow deterministic physical laws. He also states that he has a “direct incontrovertible experience of directing own actions”, and taking responsibility for them. From this he is forced to conclude that it is him (“ I - in the widest meaning of the word”) who controls those atoms according to the Laws of Nature. As such he is effectively becoming “God” in Christian terminology, or “Athman/Brahman” in Vedanta and Upanishads. Naturally, he fully acknowledges the Christian interpretation as lunatic, but he is clearly quite sympathetic towards Upanishads and the idea that all subjective “I”s reflect some aspect of unitary objective experience. Crazy, man, I know… However, it is peculiar the Bohr was also sympathetic towards Vedic philosophy, so go figure – QM is puzzling indeed. There are many treats in “Mind and Matter” as well. He is hypothesizing about what we know today as NCCs (Neural Correlates of Consciousness), and consciousness as a necessary mechanism for an activity/skill to be learned and internalized. And today’s neuroscientists such as Ramachandran and Christof Koch make quite a big deal of this “zombie” within. But what bothers Schrodinger the most is “qualia”, observer effect, and plurality of subjective conscious experience. He struggles with the paradox of having to reconcile objective reality independent of observation, with the model of reality we have in our minds, the model that by construction is based on subjective observation by that very mind. He blames our conundrum on the Greeks, and thinks that science payed too high of a price for taking out the subjective mind out of the objective world being investigated. (For my money, if anything, Descartes is more at fault for that particular predicament). And so, in the last lecture, he takes a broader sweep and connects Plato, Kant and Einstein as thinkers who contributed most significantly to freeing Western thinking from insistence on subject-object dichotomy. Then he brings in Boltzmann and implied time convention when describing thermodynamic irreversibility (“arrow of time” etc). And then he goes full Schopenhauer and drops plurality of conscious minds. Vedanta, here we come.

  15. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    Foreword, by Roger Penrose --What is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell --Mind and Matter --Autobiographical Sketches

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia Greek

    The first part was perfect for Physicists, Chemists, Engineers, etc; the second one was perfect for literature- and philosophy-lovers. So, all must be satisfied!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    I read this almost 10 years ago and it was time to reread and think on it some more. This book consists of both What is Life and Mind and Matter. In What is Life, Schrödinger attempts to provide a new understanding of living organisms by using thermodynamics as a backdrop. Life seems so organized. If it were subject to the second law of thermodynamics, we would expect that molecules would decay to lower energy states. They do not. In fact they remain at higher energy states through the lifespan I read this almost 10 years ago and it was time to reread and think on it some more. This book consists of both What is Life and Mind and Matter. In What is Life, Schrödinger attempts to provide a new understanding of living organisms by using thermodynamics as a backdrop. Life seems so organized. If it were subject to the second law of thermodynamics, we would expect that molecules would decay to lower energy states. They do not. In fact they remain at higher energy states through the lifespan and one organisms seems to endow future generations with this ability to resist entropy as well. The unit if heredity that provides such an advantage is called an aperiodic crystal, later termed DNA. Schrödinger explained that life can resist entropy because of metabolism. An inanimate object cannot take in a nutrient source, such as photons of light that carry energy from the sun, but an animate object can take in nutrients and use the energy from the nutrients (photons, carbon, oxygen) to resist entropy. Thanks to Schrödinger, we were able to begin looking at life, and indeed evolution, through the thermodynamical lens. From this perspective, researchers have been able to measure the intake and output of cells and larger organisms and calculate that the amount of energy organisms release is overwhelmingly more than the reduced entropy their bodies maintains by being ordered. Adam Rutherford provides a wonderfully updated understanding of Schrödinger's ideas as well as later research on the thermodynamics of life. HIs book Creation is definitely worth reading if you want to know more about Schrödinger's ideas. Mind and Matter is more philosophical than What is Life. It focuses on ethics, how humans understand Darwinian evolution, and questions about religion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Scientifically very out of date, often unclear and self-condradictory. Frequently descends into religio-metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. The autobiographical part completely superficial.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nati S

    Do you know what it means to Understand? It comes from an Old English word: understandan. The word consists of two parts: under and standan, which means to stand. If you understand an object of thought, you stand above it i.e. you can see it through and inside out. You can manipulate its contents effortlessly and playfully. After reading this, I can say that this man, Schrödinger, appears to truly understand the scientific take on Life. Here is one of my favourite quotes form the book: So we are fac Do you know what it means to Understand? It comes from an Old English word: understandan. The word consists of two parts: under and standan, which means to stand. If you understand an object of thought, you stand above it i.e. you can see it through and inside out. You can manipulate its contents effortlessly and playfully. After reading this, I can say that this man, Schrödinger, appears to truly understand the scientific take on Life. Here is one of my favourite quotes form the book: So we are faced with the following remarkable situation. While the stuff from which our world picture is built is yielded exclusively from the sense organs as organs of the mind, so that every man's world picture is and always remains a construct of his mind and cannot be proved to have any other existence, yet the conscious mind itself remains a stranger within that construct, it has no living space in it, you can spot it nowhere in space.

  20. 4 out of 5

    First Hope

    A very short book, based on a series of his lectures on explaining the behaviour of living organisms, more specifically, the behaviour of their cells and the nervous systems using the discovered, or to-be-discovered laws of physics. There are two two chapters on Vedanata and the lessons Schrödinger learned from the Upanishads. Keeping aside the two chapters the rest of the chapters too in a way reflect his understanding of Vedanta.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Philipda Luangprasert

    Pros: -Many concrete physical ideas of life in 1930s -Good for seeing how limited but still useful physics theories are at that time. Cons: -His language is a bit difficult to read. -Some discovery during the last century have appended details beyond this old book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Atlas Can

    Wonderful book, a rare example of a scientist who's also a brilliant thinker. Ideas are lucid and explained even though he is dealing with paradoxes concerning both science and philosophy. Easily best scientific discourse on philosophy. Wonderful book, a rare example of a scientist who's also a brilliant thinker. Ideas are lucid and explained even though he is dealing with paradoxes concerning both science and philosophy. Easily best scientific discourse on philosophy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roberto Rigolin F Lopes

    Regarding energy, this book has negative entropy therefore adding order to human knowledge. It also provoked a profitable and permanent mutation on science. This Schrodinger guy was witty and every sentence in this text has a purpose; it was a great pleasure read such lucid reflection.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Krish Sanghvi

    This is one of those books which can give new ideas to anyone. No wonder Watson and crick discovered [plagiarised] the structure of DNA shortly after reading this book (causality? Maybe). A physicist explaining biology is what this book is about. The central premise of this book is the question "can physics and chemistry account for all that happens in biology". At first sight, one may say yes, because well, it has to! But then schrodinger come in and tells us how our answer is flawed and points This is one of those books which can give new ideas to anyone. No wonder Watson and crick discovered [plagiarised] the structure of DNA shortly after reading this book (causality? Maybe). A physicist explaining biology is what this book is about. The central premise of this book is the question "can physics and chemistry account for all that happens in biology". At first sight, one may say yes, because well, it has to! But then schrodinger come in and tells us how our answer is flawed and points out some really fundamental problems. One being size. Quantum mechanics is probabilistic, and atoms follow sheer statistics, and because our bodies are fundamentally atoms, this brings the dilemma of how building blocks that are purely statistical, can crate something so definitive, like life. His solution to this was life only being able to exist at sizes large enough, to turn statistics into more definitive and directional means, with a sample size of atoms large enough, to counter any quantum effects. This to me was a pretty profound idea, which pointed towards a fundamental hypothesis: can life exist only at a size which is at a specific ratio to its quantum building blocks? And hence, can the universe to only exist at a size which is at a specific ratio to its quantum building blocks? Schrodinger keeps switching between quantum mechanics and biochemistry/ mol bio, in the book, showing how one can be derived from the other, and the many parallels that exist between the two fields. Some other, epiphanies [maybe] crossed my mind while reading this book and I shall state them below. Many of them seem like untestable hypotheses, superfluous, or even unorthodox, and may even be inaccurate (but I'm not a biochemist or cosmologist, just a humble ecologist). I have a habit of underlining and writing in my books, but this book had a significantly higher number of markings. So here it goes: (some of these are new ideas and hypotheses, some are doubts and questions, and some are just statements of what I found revealing. I would love it if someone could provide some explanations for the questions/ doubts I have posed, and correct/ alter/ provide explanations for the hypotheses I propose). 1. Schrodinger speaks about how molecules diffuse from an area of higher to lower concentration because of sheer statistical probability and this makes us feel as if molecules are diffusing in a directional way, because molecules in the higher concentration part have a greater probability of diffusing to the lower concentration. This made me think whether the universe itself could be this way. That we think the universe is accelerating and expanding in all directions because it was concentrated at the beginning of time at the singularity, while other parts of the universe were deficient In the contents (particles, stars, everything that isn't vacuum) of the universe hence causing these contents to diffuse across and accelerate to those parts of the universe This made me further wonder if the same thing could happen temporally. Because time is in itself a dimension, and the early universe was concentrated in one part of time which we call the past, maybe the universe is diffusing through time, into the future, where the universe is present in a lower concentration. So time exists in the universe completely as a dimension (with the past and future both existing simultaneously) but the future not having any contents because contents of the past universe haven't diffused till there. Also, because different parts of the universe would diffuse through time at different speeds, this hypothesis hence would also be able to incorporate special relativity (and maybe general) into it. 2. Can a mechanism exist, in which chiasma formation exists in mitosis? This would allow asexual reproduction to produce more genetic variation than usual. 3. Are there any genes that regulate chiasma formation? Genes which tell the chromosome where to break off/ cross over/ recombine? Do chromosomes have a preference or bias while chiasma formations? 4. Are there genes for positive mutability? It has been often hypothesised that more good mutations happen that bad mutations, although the likelihood of a mutation being good is very less. Thus, is it possible that genes/ parts of genes, control mutations such that there is a bias towards producing beneficial mutations? 5. There is good or bad, fitter or more adaptable in evolution. All of this is relative to the type of selection pressure. 6. Are there any genes/ parts of genes that regulate mutability of a gene/ the genome? Some organisms are more mutable than others, same goes for genes. Are there any parts of a gene which control the rate at which it mutates? To add to this, I feel that 'selfishness' in a gene can be measured by measuring its mutability. The more selfish a gene is, the less mutable it would be, because mutating would make it lose its selfishness, which it has already evolved to have. The less a gene mutates, the more it would be able to replicate as itself, hence having a greater fitness than other genes, which mutate really rapidly. 7. Are all parts of a gene independent from each other? Do mutations in one part of a gene make the other part more or less mutable? 8. Can quantum jumps be either because of quanta using some sort of wormholes through higher spatial dimensions? 9. Just like molecules require a catalyst (enzyme) to help it cross transition states by reducing the activation energy, can some sort of particle (let's call it enzymeon) exist, which helps quanta of energy to jump (quantum leap) from one energy state to another? 10. Why do mutations in a gene create an allele of that gene instead of another gene altogether? Can sympatric speciation occur, when mutations in a gene causes a new gene, instead of an allele, to occur at that locus, hence making the genome of the two incompatible and leading to speciation? 11. He states that mutations are similar to changes in energy states. This would require a release or input of energy to cause a mutation. Is there any specific amount of energy (quanta) required for a mutation to occur? This would allow us to predict when and where one would occur. 12. Can atoms not form anything else, other than molecules? Can the constants and laws of the universe not form anything else, other than the universe? Can sub atomic particles not form anything else except atoms? And so on. 13. Can silica act as an organic molecule in the earth's mantle? 14. If life is a non entropic state, can death be called a highly entropic/ equilibrium state? Is this why organisms die? Because of a quantum tendency of things to reach equilibrium? Everything that an organism does increases the entropy within it, until it reaches a state of maximum entropy, which translates as death. I just don't understand the biochemical mechanism that would entail so. Organisms catabolise energy from the external environment, hence increasing the entropy outside, and anabolise themselves, to reduce entropy and prevent death. 15. Requirements for/ definition of life: needs to be able to replicate itself. Use energy to maintain a low entropy state within. Have some sort of mechanism/ phenotype for doing so. Have a code script which can replicate as well as associate with and organise metabolising phenotypes. Low entropy. variation? (Only then will it be subject to natural selection). And competition for more efficient use of energy. There's a lovely section on origin of life, entropy, heat, and sustenance of life, but I can't go into detail here, and that section by itself makes this book worth buying and reading. That to me, was also the most profound and interesting section of this book. I especially liked his take on identity, and the idea that identity is non plural. Although in the last chapter, he says that macroscopic events can be explained by quantum statistics, which I think they have to, I didn't find his examples very convincing. Of course, this book is a very serious read, and the only fun you'll have while reading is from intellectual delight. I've read some more technical books which have also been funny, this one isn't one of them. I guess schrodinger wasn't as much fun as his cat. The book also brings out Schrödinger's naivety as a physicist commenting on biology, when he makes statements like "nature has succeeded in making such a subtle choice of threshold values, as in necessary to make a mutation rare". Nature doesn't make choices, dear schrodinger. Or when he says that mutations can't be inherited. But all in all, anybody looking for some revelations and insights into some fundamental questions will find something of worth in this book. I haven't read mind and matter yet, which accompanies what is life in the edition I have, but I plan to read it soon. I also feel that these are the kinds of science books that people should read, rather than those by authors like fritjof Capra.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dan Raghinaru

    It is rare and great when someone ventures beyond his/her field and actually says something meaningful – as Schrodinger did here. The first half is directly preparing and anticipating the discovery of DNA. His approach is along the understanding of very small, yet stable, molecules in terms of quantum, entropy, and statistical physics. With the DNA discovery, this first half of the book is less relevant today. The second part of the book is far more interesting and mainly stays under the influen It is rare and great when someone ventures beyond his/her field and actually says something meaningful – as Schrodinger did here. The first half is directly preparing and anticipating the discovery of DNA. His approach is along the understanding of very small, yet stable, molecules in terms of quantum, entropy, and statistical physics. With the DNA discovery, this first half of the book is less relevant today. The second part of the book is far more interesting and mainly stays under the influence of Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Darwin, and oriental philosophy. The interesting philosophical point made by Schrodinger here is that against the objective approach of the sciences and against distinctions like mind-matter and subject-object. By developing so, sciences gave up substantial ground along with the possibility of explaining some phenomena forever. The title is somehow misleading since the book does not directly follow and answer the question “what is life?”.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ushan

    This book, which examines the physical basis of life, forms a part of the same mid-twentieth century information revolution as Claude Shannon's information theory, Norbert Wiener's cybernetics and John von Neumann's automata theory. It first asks, why atoms are so small compared to a human, or alternatively, why humans are so large compared to an atom, and answers that in a much smaller being quantum randomness and atomic discreteness (the analog of shot noise in electronics) would destroy life- This book, which examines the physical basis of life, forms a part of the same mid-twentieth century information revolution as Claude Shannon's information theory, Norbert Wiener's cybernetics and John von Neumann's automata theory. It first asks, why atoms are so small compared to a human, or alternatively, why humans are so large compared to an atom, and answers that in a much smaller being quantum randomness and atomic discreteness (the analog of shot noise in electronics) would destroy life-giving processes. This may be true; however, the order of magnitude of size of human beings is a product of contingent events in the history of life on Earth; it does not follow from the first principles. A snake kills its victims with toxins and digests them; so does a jellyfish despite being a much simpler organism - but the jellyfish has a highly specialized killer cell, a touch-sensing harpoon-firing cnidocyte, and the snake uses organs with billions of cells to achieve the same effect. Since we only have one example, we don't know how small or large a being has to be in order to write a book explaining, why its kind is so large compared to an atom. The book then discusses genetics, and hypothesizes that the material carrier of genetic information is "probably a large protein molecule." That it is in fact DNA only became the scientific consensus in the 1950s. It then speculates that the discreteness of genes follows from the discreteness of states in quantum mechanics; in fact, it follows from the discreteness of molecules in chemistry. The carrier of genetic information is indeed an "aperiodic solid", as Schrödinger calls it. The book asks, how life manages to maintain order and avoid thermodynamic breakdown; it answers correctly: by feeding upon "negative entropy"; animals ingest and inhale more ordered matter than what they excrete and exhale; this is not in the book, but plants take in visible light and radiate away infrared light. The book doesn't mention another factor, natural selection; individuals whose genetic material has degraded more will be less fit than those for whom it has degraded less, and will be less likely to survive and reproduce. The last chapter tries to understand, how the orderliness of life can be reconciled with thermodynamics; non-equilibrium thermodynamics such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky chemical reaction hasn't been investigated when the book was written. This book is significant not only in itself, but in having served as an inspiration to both James Watson and Francis Crick, the co-discoverers of the molecular structure of DNA.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Erwin Schrodinger was an Austrian physicist, biologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Darwinist, author, and professor (this list merely scratches the surface). In this book, Schrodinger tackles the mystery of organic life. He discusses the application of universal physical laws on the organism, but points out that life has a way of working with its own rules as well. His explanation and application of the laws of thermodynamics and statistical order are accessible to the layperson. Hi Erwin Schrodinger was an Austrian physicist, biologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Darwinist, author, and professor (this list merely scratches the surface). In this book, Schrodinger tackles the mystery of organic life. He discusses the application of universal physical laws on the organism, but points out that life has a way of working with its own rules as well. His explanation and application of the laws of thermodynamics and statistical order are accessible to the layperson. His grasp of molecular science is impressive considering DNA had not been discovered at the time he wrote. His essay, Mind and Matter, delves into the ageless questions about consciousness, experience, will, and memory. Interestingly, he approaches this scientific study with an Upanishadic mindset, pointing at a collective conscience, subjectivity of time, and inheritance of memory. Schrodinger's autobiographical bit at the end is rather incomplete. He unrepentantly acknowledges this fact. He begs off the question by saying a life can be rather boring and indicating that some parts would not go over well if he did share them. According to the brief research I performed, his life was far from boring. He opposed the Nazis and fled his country. He spent time with some of the great scientific minds and educational institutions of his time. He served in the military. His reluctance to record his romantic escapades probably would detract from the rest of his writings. I'll leave it at saying he had a very open relationship with his wife. Writing this brief review almost changed my rating from 3 to 4 stars. It probably deserves 4. I suspect I was personally put off by some of his metaphysical points and his claim that: "no special laws of nature, such as vis viva, or an entelechy, or a force of orthogenesis, etc., were at work in living organisms to abrogate or to counteract the universal laws of inanimate matter. This bothers me, because he admits that life is more than the sum of chemical and physical exchanges, the mind is more than electrochemical impulses, and that laws like entropy don't seem to apply the same to organic life. I find it interesting that authors who deny God's hand in life often reinforce my conviction that the hand of God is in all things.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Adeyemi Ajao

    I wish I had 6 stars to give here...and to think that Schödinger is famous for "his cat"! It is the first part of this book that has gotten most recognition over the years. Certainly, a framework for the rules of heredity, mutation and evolution that ultimately inspired Franklin, Watson and Crick to discover the double helix, deserves a lot of credit on its own. Moreover, Schödinger's intuition of statistical physics rules being unable to describe the processes of the chemistry & biology within I wish I had 6 stars to give here...and to think that Schödinger is famous for "his cat"! It is the first part of this book that has gotten most recognition over the years. Certainly, a framework for the rules of heredity, mutation and evolution that ultimately inspired Franklin, Watson and Crick to discover the double helix, deserves a lot of credit on its own. Moreover, Schödinger's intuition of statistical physics rules being unable to describe the processes of the chemistry & biology within the human body due to scale are absolutely brilliant and clearly the kernel for the current search for "Quantum Processes in the brain" spearheaded by Roger Penrose and others. Truly a stroke of genius intuition outside his field that, in my opinion, has not been fully assimilated by modern biochemists and neurologists and, I am afraid, will probably be the underlying failure of most modern approaches to human-level AI. But the second part of the book...I was blown away. I am partial to anything Spinoza so clearly biased here but I have to say that this is the best explanation to what "human consciousness" actually is that I have ever read, and it is interesting that it came from a Physicist! Schödinger goes from Spinoza to the second law of thermodynamics, from Plato to The Upanishads, From the collective unconscious to...God? And I feel Schödinger actually left a lot on the table. I feel he just implied, probably due to respect (or fear?) to the very religious Trinity College where he was conducting his lectures in exile. General Relativity had already been out for a couple of decades and Schödinger actually touches on the implications of the non-linearity of time for the ultimate nature of the "all-mind" and creation itself...but was he too afraid of the conclusion or just too wary of the consequences of revealing the ultimate nature of God? I guess, one day, I will be able to ask him :)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Piyush Yadav

    Epochs in the physicist's world and eternalness of mathematical truth, combined with the general person's innate curiosity towards life, meeting at intersections of evolutionary biology and philosophy, It offers a quite honest, unique and refreshing perspective to the physicist's understanding of life, especially, while leading to the debate on consciousness and mind, where the battle supposedly has to include the wisdom traditions of east or mysticism, or more specifically the unified theory in Epochs in the physicist's world and eternalness of mathematical truth, combined with the general person's innate curiosity towards life, meeting at intersections of evolutionary biology and philosophy, It offers a quite honest, unique and refreshing perspective to the physicist's understanding of life, especially, while leading to the debate on consciousness and mind, where the battle supposedly has to include the wisdom traditions of east or mysticism, or more specifically the unified theory in 'upanishads'. Though the book majorly talks about the ideas which existed before the advent of cognitive neuroscience and artificial intelligence, it still is equitably relevant to the current debate.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Niccolò Ceresa

    a totally recommended book: a clear and precise mind that describe in a very effective way the connections between physic (both quantum and mechanic) and biology. The fact that this book was written before the discovery of DNA is not a big deal: all the major concepts remain unchanged.

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