Infinite In All Directions 3

Dyson spends much of the third chapter describing a supposed conflict between “unifiers” and “diversifiers” in science and other fields: “Today we still find scientists divided into two camps: the unifiers who, like Einstein, believe that nature can be reduced to a finite set of equations; the diversifiers who, like Wiechert, believe that nature is inexhaustible.” He assures us that there is in fact no contradiction between these two approaches, but he seems almost not to believe it. But there really is no conflict! There is no reason to choose sides between the unifiers and diversifiers. “More is different” and we can prove it in a way that even the unifiers will accept.

“If it should turn out that the whole of physical reality can be described by a finite set of equations, I would be disappointed.” This is a remarkable statement from a physicist. I wonder what Dyson thinks the alternative is.

Dyson also bemoans the lack of communication between cosmology and biology and writes: “Among contemporary physicists, John Wheeler is unique in taking seriously the possibility that the laws of physics may be contingent upon the presence of life in the Universe.” Things have changed.

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