The Cosmic Blueprint

Throughout the history of science, there have been periods of stability during which theory seems to encompass and subdue the wonder of existence. One thinks of the long complacent periods after Aristotle or Newton. During such periods, people recognize that there is more to be learned about the universe, but they also believe that what is not known is really not more different from what is known, that the major questions have been answered in broad outline and that unexplained phenomena will ultimately fit into that outline.

Other times are chaotic. New techniques reveal new phenomena that obtrude into the popular theoretical framework, refusing to fall into the orderly litany of facts. The world suddenly seems paradoxical, uncanny. To some this new view of the world is frightening and in need of suppression; while to others, it is liberating. One thinks of Galileo’s demonstration that bodies of unequal weight fall at the same speed or that Jupiter has moons.

Paul Davies’ THE COSMIC BLUEPRINT suggests that modern science is entering a new, chaotic phase which will bring into question some of the basic assumptions of scientific methodology. In a fascinating tour of such seemingly disparate phenomena as cellular automata, fractal geometry, video feedback, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, Davies shows how the nineteenth century idea of a comfortably predictable clockwork universe, already stretched out of shape by the theory of...

(The entire section is 497 words.)