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Review of Physics of Life

Author: Mrs Iwona Majewska-Opiełka
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Iwona Majewska-Opielka is a specialist in people leadership; a psychologist, mentor, coach and advisor to senior management professionals. She's frequently invited as a guest on many TV and radio programmes. She specialise in training and providing consultancy services to individuals and companies across Canada and the US. She is also the co-founder of “The Academy of Success” in Chicago.

(2009.09.16)

Six reasons why you should read John Freeslow's „Physics of Life”.

I met John Freeslow through an email he sent me – in which he stated that we are on the same wavelength. I believed him. Full of enthusiasm, I picked up his „Physics of Life” and looked for this mental kinship between us on every page. I haven't found it, just the opposite – I found many differences. However, his book enchanted me.

I thought that might be able to read it in three days, a week at the most… No chance. Even though the book pulls you in like the best of fiction, one cannot just swallow it whole, one must relish it and digest carefully.

The author possesses an enormous amount of knowledge in mathematics and natural sciences and it seems like he wants to bestow it to his readers through his book. It's not impossible since the lecture is interesting, sometimes exciting, and at the same time very clear and understandable. I have to admit that despite my familiarity with issues discussed regarding mathematics, physics or chemistry, some of them became clear thanks to the Physics of Life. To know doesn't always mean to understand. The author's ambition is for the reader to understand everything and he succeeds at it most of the time. The book refreshes, consolidates and supplements one's knowledge in a very enjoyable way. It is worth reading just for that reason.

Another reason for reading the book is the author's passion. I'm sure that one teacher like this in a student's life would be enough to awaken a passion for knowledge. It is obvious that Freeslow lives in this subject. Considering that laboratories and conference halls are not his everyday life, like in case of some other authors who write about similar subjects (R. Dawkins, E. Wilson, D. Morris), Mr. Freeslow is a successful full time businessman instead, the enormousness of his knowledge and input in the work is impressive. But this is not blind admiration speaking, but thought provoking inspiration. It may lead one to agree with the author's theses, or just the opposite – to look for counterarguments in one's mind. Either way, the reader will be involved in a creative, mind-expanding process. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, and even biology become more familiar thanks to this work. More friendly for those who haven't felt closeness with these subjects thus far, and for those who are comfortable with these sciences, an interesting journey.

With the assumption that all processes in life can be explained using physics and described using mathematics, the author explains was life is. He reveals the secrets of life on earth, describes probable evolutionary processes, which have given the currently existing species their current shapes. Page after page, he convinces us that a basic task of every organism is to survive and multiply. The book explains how organisms try to fulfil this condition, and how thanks to random advantageous changes which later become permanent, new organs are created, guaranteeing this survival and multiplication, dragging then into higher levels of the evolutionary ladder. Humans are present in all of this as a species with its own adaptations and also some specific behaviours. Admittedly, a woman might feel a little sad to find out that her breasts are only a consequence of a random disturbance in the generic design, and even saying that "be accident, this turned out to be a perfect disturbance" (p. 29), doesn't make up for it. However, the author's argument is so logical it's hard not to agree. Logic is the author's strong point, however, as a psychologist, I cannot help notice that sometimes this simple sequential thinking causes that he fails to notice various side topics, so to say, which if taken into consideration, would have to change the way conclusions are arrived at. Another strong point of the author is his interesting type of humour, which lightens up sometimes dark processes of evolution and bringing a smile to the reader's face. For me, that's the third strength of this book.

I don't feel authorized to remark on the factual contents in this work, exact sciences are not my strong point. I am a psychologist, I know how companies should be managed and people directed. I feel a stronger connection to the work when the author makes analogies to human behaviour or even to some social processes. These are the moments where my own convictions can be compared to those of the physics of life. And indeed, a certain similarity exists. Let me put it this way: using the rights of life, Freeslow explains why people don't behave like we would want them to, and why despite the fact that in theory it is known that a certain conduct would be the best for all (the author bases this on the game theory in a large part), individuals behave differently, try to cheat the rest. Well, they strive to "survive" and "multiply". A simplification? That's what I think, however, the argumentation in the book that it's just the way things must be is very convincing. I and the author both agree that things wouldn't be this way only if people managed to consciously take control over social processes. I think that looking at social processes from the angle of physics can make it easier for a certain group of people, especially tough managers with technical or economic education to understand what some managerial coaches try to get through. Freeslow uses concrete facts and logic, which is not always that easy for psychologists to do. And that's the forth reason why this book is so valuable.

I wouldn't be myself – a psychologist who is always looking for new ideas for improving the human kind so that separate individuals trying to survive would not necessarily do so at the cost of their fellow men, if I wasn't also looking for that in this book. That is why my favourite fragment of the book is the part about the "victory factor" - something that is born (for various reasons) in some individual, allowing them to fulfil the basic rights of life (to survive and multiply) more fully, transferring these traits to next generations, favourably changing them this way. It takes place spontaneously, randomly, but when organisms start devising, as Freeslow writes, and then even think, they can devise this "victory factor" for themselves on their own. The "victory factor" was at some moment an ability to survive up in the air, and in a different moment "to listen to the advice of elders" or "to trust the rule". For me, the "victory factor" – this crucial factor in evolution – holds in itself the hope for humanity. After all, we can devise behaviours today, which will guarantee a positive selection within the species and will cause that future generations will be smarter and better. I am not speaking about genetic engineering, but for example about bringing up children to have a sense of self-worth, which will surely make them more able to survive and more attractive as partners. And that's the fifth, most important I think, reason for which this book is worth a read.

"Physics of Life" is a unique book, I have never read anything like it. Unique is its form as well as its content. It forces one to think, it is very helpful in expanding the world view of people like me, typical humanists, praising the human mind and power of human character. On the other hand, I cannot refuse myself saying that people thinking similarly to Freeslow might gain by taking a look at some books written for the soul, whatever that word might mean to mathematicians.

Personally, I am thankful to John Freeslow for inspiring me to write another book, which in a way corresponds to his work. For me, that's the sixth positive aspect of the Physics of life. So far, only for me, but in the future, maybe for others as well.