Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain

Werner R. Loewenstein. Basic, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-465-02984-6
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Loewenstein (The Touchstone of Life), emeritus professor of biophysics at Columbia University, describes his premise clearly and concisely: “consciousness has a physics explanation.” Unfortunately, his elucidation of this point gets lost in arcane details, complex writing, and metaphors run amok. The book’s first half explores the limits of information transfer in biological systems, while the second half discusses computational processes at the traditional and quantum levels. The link between brain function and evolution is, at best, opaque, and the author’s incessant use of the term “demons” to refer to catalyzing macromolecules (in honor of the nomenclature proffered by James Maxwell in 1871 to describe hypothetical beings who were able to create “order from chaos”) makes it hard to take him seriously. Credibility is further strained by the regular anthropomorphization of evolution; indeed, Loewenstein refers to the process as a female with very specific desires. Writing about the Pacinian corpuscle, a sense organ, he writes: “So we can see it now—that tuning gives away Evolution’s game. It was... biologically meaningful mechanical information... that she was after when she engineered that stupendous little capsule.” Loewenstein’s attempt to blend serious data with the accessible tropes of pop science is an unwieldy mess. 65 b&w illus. Agent: Jim Levine, Levine Greenberg. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/15/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
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