Books Worth Re-reading

Deep Simplicity


Gribbin explores our biological history to show how complexity can arise out of simplicity. Chaos leads to complexity which leads to life. The interesting things happen at the edge of complexity; in chaotic systems, minute differences in the initial conditions lead to huge differences in outcome

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Key Takeaways
  1. Common theme – explains complex/complicated objects by breaking down to its simplest parts and begin by explaining these
  2. Common theme – emergence, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
  3. Gribbin describes many of the shared, common components of life and different systems
  4. Chaos begets complexity, complexity begets life
  5. World starts with the simple and eventually leads to the complex
  6. Chaos and complexity based on two simple ideas – sensitivity of a system to its given starting condition and feedback
    1. There are simple, orderly laws underpinning the confusion of the world
  7. Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell (electromagnets), Einstein (genera/specific relativity), Fourier (Law of transfer of heat), Rumford (heat is work), Joule / Helmholtz (conservation of energy), Clausius (entropy), Boltzman (over time, gas averages out in a container), Poincare (solar system orbits are stable, periodic; foundations of chaos), Lorenz (butterfly effect), Turing (cryptography, AI, embryonic development)
  8. Near fractal self-symmetry is pervasive in living organisms
  9. DNA is more of a recipe than a blueprint – much simpler, more elegant as it doesn’t have to have everything planned out, simply the base of what is needed
  10. Turing mechanism – embryo experiences chemical reaction from actuators and inhibitors which leads to whatever the recipe calls for (stripes, spots, hands, hair, etc.)
  11. Nature’s power law – smaller events (earthquakes) occur predictably more than larger events (earthquakes) but both at random
    1. Power law a deep universal truth affecting people, weather, earthquakes, economy, etc. (1/f noise)
  12. Fractals are scale invariant (look the same no matter if microscopic or macroscopic view)
  13. No large triggers are needed for earthquakes or other power laws. Happen randomly but larger ones with much less frequency
    1. Same size triggers don’t cause same size events
  14. All life built on networks – interconnections between simple parts that make up the complex system (emergence of life from non life)
    1. Kauffman’s theory about emergence due to network effects
    2. Also, genes control machinery of cell and genes can turn on/off other genes. That is why it is so difficult to cure anything because one gene is interconnected to everything else
    3. Humans are the most complicated things and even we run on very simple rules
  15. Darwinian evolution – genes get passed down, some mutations, more species with each generation
  16. The most interesting things happen on the edges of chaos
    1. Natural for simply systems to organize at the edge of chaos
  17. Evolution has no aim, it simply helps species fit the niches they’re in. Species do not get better or worse at surviving, simply are better/worse at surviving particular niche in a particular time
  18. Living systems reduce entropy – how we are looking for life in other planets
  19. Gaia Hypothesis – Earth is a self-regulating system
  20. Clouds are extremely important for Earth’s thermal regulation
  21. If we find life abroad, very likely it is made of simply building blocks working together in one connected, self-regulated network
  22. Carbon plays such a key role in life because it can combine chemically with as many as four other atoms at once (CHON)
  23. Boundary between life and non-life is very blurry
  24. Humans are the most complicated things in the world but still made of the most common materials
What I got out of it
  1. Interesting read and I’ll remember that interesting things happen at the edge of chaos as chaos leads to complexity which leads to life

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