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By Harry Fawcett Buckley

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Do we really have to make this tragic choice? Must we choose between a science that leads to alienation and an anti­ scientific metaphysical view of nature? We think such a choice is no longer necessary, since the changes that science is under­ going today lead to a radically new situation . This recent evo­ lution of science gives us a unique opportunity to reconsider its position in culture in general. Modern science originated in the specific context of the European seventeenth century. We are now approaching the end of the twentieth century, and it seems that some more universal message is carried by sci­ ence, a message that concerns the interaction of man and na­ ture as well as of man with man.

Some pro­ cesses are , as far as we know, well described by deterministic equations, but others involve probabilistic processes. How then can we overcome the apparent contradiction be­ tween these concepts? We are living in a single universe. As we shall see, we are beginning to appreciate the meaning of these problems. Moreover, the importance we now give to the various phenomena we observe and describe is quite different from, even opposite to, what was suggested by classical physics. There the basic processes , as we mentioned, are considered as deterministic and reversible.

The world is far from being homogeneous. Therefore the question can be put in different terms: What is the specific structure of dynamic systems that permits them to "dis­ tinguish" past and future? What is the minimum complexity involved? Progress has been realized along these lines. We can now be more precise about the roots of time in nature. This has far­ reaching consequences. The second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy, introduced irreversibility into the mac­ roscopic world. We now can understand its meaning on the microscopic level as well.

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A short history of physics, by Harry Fawcett Buckley


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