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Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature / Edition 1

Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature / Edition 1

by Eric J. ChaissonEric J. Chaisson


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We are connected to distant space and time not only by our imaginations but also through a common cosmic heritage. Emerging now from modern science is a unified scenario of the cosmos, including ourselves as sentient beings, based on the time-honored concept of change. From galaxies to snowflakes, from stars and planets to life itself, we are beginning to identify an underlying ubiquitous pattern penetrating the fabric of all the natural sciences—a sweepingly encompassing view of the order and structure of every known class of object in our richly endowed universe.

This is the subject of Eric Chaisson's new book. In Cosmic Evolution Chaisson addresses some of the most basic issues we can contemplate: the origin of matter and the origin of life, and the ways matter, life, and radiation interact and change with time. Guided by notions of beauty and symmetry, by the search for simplicity and elegance, by the ambition to explain the widest range of phenomena with the fewest possible principles, Chaisson designs for us an expansive yet intricate model depicting the origin and evolution of all material structures. He shows us that neither new science nor appeals to nonscience are needed to understand the impressive hierarchy of the cosmic evolutionary story, from quark to quasar, from microbe to mind.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674009875
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/15/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 5.69(w) x 8.88(h) x (d)

About the Author

Eric J. Chaisson is a Research Associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is the author of Cosmic Dawn, nominated for the National Book Award for distinguished science writing.

Table of Contents


Prologue: Overview of Cosmic Evolution

Introduction: The Nature of Change

Chapter One: Matter

Chapter Two: Radiation

Chapter Three: Life

Discussion: Evolution Broadly Considered

Epilogue: A Grand Synthesis

Symbols and Numerical Constants



Works Cited

Further Reading


About the Author

What People are Saying About This

Richard Wolfson

A fascinatingly synthetic book that unifies evolution from the Big Bang through biology and human culture. Chaisson is at once quantitative and poetic, grounding his work in physics while celebrating intelligence as 'the animated conduit through which the Universe comes to know itself.' Cosmic Evolution shows us a universe teeming with the complex products of evolution, including ourselves.
Richard Wolfson, Professor of Physics, Middlebury College

Gerald Soffen

This century ushers in a new unified view of Nature. We can see that the mechanisms of the stars and the structure of bacteria are governed by the same fundamental processes. We can detect the link between the hottest fusion reactions in gamma bursters and the essential metabolic reactions which give rise to and sustain life. Eric Chaisson has long been one of our most passionate and articulate informants about this emerging conception of the cosmos. Cosmic Evolution tells this new story in language anyone can understand.
Gerald Soffen, Senior Astrobiologist, NASA

E.O. Wilson

Using the leitmotif of rising complexity and order, Eric Chaisson delivers the epic of creation as understood by modern science, from microsecond zero to the origin of life on Earth. His command of the subject and clarity of exposition are admirable.

Dudley Herschbach

Chaisson conducts an intriguing tour over vast realms of time and space. A lucid and sprightly guide, he brings forth original and provocative observations, while gathering a host of wonders in his cosmic embrace.
Dudley Herschbach, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Brian Fagan

Eric Chaisson has written a definitive synthesis of what he calls a golden age of astrophysics and biochemistry. Cosmic Evolution presents a dramatic new world view for the twenty-first century, which provides a potential guide for understanding the nature of all material things. Every scientist, indeed anyone interested in humanity's future, should read this masterly and unique book.
Brian Fagan, University of California, Santa Barbara

Hubert Reeves

A superb synthesis. Chaisson convincingly shows that free energy processing rates spurred the growth of complexity in the cosmos. Highly recommended.
Hubert Reeves, Astrophysicist, C.N.R.S. France

George Field

Eric Chaisson has thought deeply about the growth of complexity in the universe, as life and intelligence appear to have emerged from chaos. An astronomer whose lucid lectures draw a wide audience, Chaisson here tackles the issue head on, with conclusions that are as fascinating as life itself.
George Field, Harvard University

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