Eric Chaisson

Eric Chaisson
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

PhD, Harvard University

About

221
Publications
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2,137
Citations
Citations since 2017
5 Research Items
368 Citations
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20172018201920202021202220230204060

Publications

Publications (221)
Article
Full-text available
A new way is proposed to thermodynamically gauge the evolving complexity of nation-states and their growing cities. Energy rate density is a useful metric to track the evolution of energy budgets, which help facilitate how well or badly human society trends toward winning or losing. The fates of nations and their cities are unknown, their success i...
Article
Full-text available
Cosmic evolution-change, broadly construed-has become a powerful unifying factor in all of science, underlying the rise of complexity throughout Nature writ large. That complexity can be defined and quantified for a whole hierarchy of ordered structures by examining the rate at which normalized energy flows through open, non-equilibrium, thermodyna...
Book
Full-text available
478 pgs and 740 figs (1st edition, 1995) 404 pgs and 722 figs (2nd edition, 1998) 470 pgs and 735 figs (3rd edition, 2001) 487 pgs and 730 figs (4th edition, 2004) 498 pgs and 742 figs (5th edition, 2007) 502 pgs and 745 figs (6th edition, 2010) 492 pgs and 737 figs (7th edition, 2013) 521 pgs and 742 figs (8th edition, 2017) We are pleased to...
Article
Full-text available
Nature's many complex systems--physical, biological, and cultural--are islands of low-entropy order within increasingly disordered seas of surrounding, high-entropy chaos. Energy is a principal facilitator of the rising complexity of all such systems in the expanding Universe, including galaxies, stars, planets, life, society, and machines. A large...
Article
One of the beneficial outcomes of searching for life in the Universe is that it grants greater awareness of our own problems here on Earth. Lack of contact with alien beings to date might actually comprise a null "signal" pointing humankind toward a viable future. Astrobiology has surprising practical applications to human society; within the large...
Article
Full-text available
One of the beneficial outcomes of searching for life in the Universe is that it grants greater awareness of our own problems here on Earth. Lack of contact with alien beings to date might actually comprise a null "signal" pointing humankind toward a viable future. Astrobiology has surprising practical applications to human society; within the large...
Book
Full-text available
Astronomy is enjoying a golden age of exploration and discovery. Fueled by new technologies and novel theoretical insights, the study of the cosmos has never been more exciting than it is right now. We are pleased to have the opportunity to present in this book a carefully chosen selection of the known facts, evolving ideas, and frontier discoverie...
Article
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ns.2014.610077 Complex systems throughout Nature display structures and functions that are built and maintained, at least in part, by optimal energies flowing through them--not specific, ideal values, rather ranges in energy rate density below which systems are starved and above which systems are destroyed. Cosmic evolutio...
Article
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Nature's many varied complex systems (including galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society) are islands of order within the increasingly disordered universe. All organized systems are subject to physical, biological or cultural evolution, which together comprise the grander interdisciplinary subject of cosmic evolution. This is global history grea...
Book
Full-text available
704 pgs and 950 figs (1st edition, 1993) 623 pgs and 920 figs (2nd edition, 1996) 660 pgs and 760 figs (3rd edition, 1999) 757 pgs and 810 figs (4th edition, 2002) 764 pgs and 820 figs (5th edition, 2005) 812 pgs and 834 figs (6th edition, 2008) 727 pgs and 790 figs (7th edition, 2011) 749 pgs and 805 figs (8th edition, 2014) Astronomy is a scie...
Article
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Some twenty years ago, a scattered few, intrepid historians began teaching courses on a wider, slightly precarious stage. They realized that much good and valid history extends far back in time, well prior to the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Sumer thousands of years ago, even beyond the onset of hominins millions of years ago. These “big hist...
Article
Full-text available
Nature writ large is a mess. Yet, underlying unities pervade the long and storied, albeit meandering, path from the early Universe to civilization on Earth. Evolution is one of those unifiers, incorporating physical, biological, and cultural changes within a broad and inclusive cosmic-evolutionary scenario. Complexity is another such unifier, delin...
Article
Full-text available
Nature’s myriad complex systems—whether physical, biological or cultural—are mere islands of organization within increasingly disordered seas of surrounding chaos. Energy is a principal driver of the rising complexity of all such systems within the expanding, ever-changing Universe; indeed energy is as central to life, society, and machines as it i...
Book
Full-text available
This multi-media Web site, version 7.0 (2013), derives from an earlier textbook, Universe: An Evolutionary Approach to Astronomy by Eric Chaisson, originally published in 1988 by Prentice Hall and now revised, updated, expanded, and rewritten for this presentation in cyberspace, and from Chaisson's trade book, Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the C...
Chapter
Nature’s myriad complex systems—whether physical, biological or cultural—are mere islands of organization within increasingly disordered seas of surrounding chaos. Energy is a principal driver of the rising complexity of all such systems within the expanding, ever-changing Universe; indeed energy is as central to life, society, and machines as it i...
Article
Appraisal of the concept of energy rate density continues, as both a potential quantitative metric for complexity studies and a key feature of a unifying hypothesis for the origin and evolution of material systems throughout Nature writ large. This article extends a recent study reported in this journal, hereby analyzing normalized energy flows for...
Article
The proposition that complexity generally increases with evolution seems indisputable. Both developmental and generational changes often display a rise in the number and diversity of properties describing a wide spectrum of ordered systems, whether physical, biological, or cultural. This article explores a quantitative metric that can help to expla...
Article
Full-text available
Evolution – ascent with change of Nature's many varied systems – has become a power-ful unifying concept throughout the sciences. In its broadest sense, cosmic evolution, which includes the subject of big history, comprises a holistic explanatory narrative of countless changes within and among organized systems extending from the big bang to humank...
Article
Full-text available
Nature writ large is a mess. Yet, underlying unities pervade the long and storied, albeit meandering, path from the early universe to civilization on Earth. Evolution is one of those unifiers, incorporating physical, biological, and cultural changes within a broad and inclusive cosmic-evolutionary scenario. Complexity is another such unifier, delin...
Article
Forget global warming, just styaing alive could heat Earth by an extra, devastating 2 to 3 °C. Only one thing will save us, says astrophysicist Eric Chaisson
Article
Full-text available
Recent research, guided by theoretical searches for unification as much as by compilation of huge new databases, suggests that complex systems throughout Nature are localized, temporary islands of ordered structures within vastly larger, disordered environments beyond those systems. All such complex systems – including, for example, stars, life, an...
Article
Full-text available
Evolution, broadly considered, has become a powerful unifying concept in all of science, providing a comprehensive worldview for the new millennium. Among all of nature’s diverse systems, energy—acquired, stored, and expressed—is a principal driver of the rising complexity of galaxies, stars, planets and life-forms in the expanding universe. Our cu...
Article
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Regarding the roles of my assigned topics of knowledge, science and technology in the future of planet Earth, I suggest that the three most critical challenges now facing civilization on planet Earth are energy, energy, and energy: • Knowledgeable understanding of past energy-driven changes that have literally created Earth and life on Earth • Scie...
Article
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Review of Energy in Nature and Society by V. Smil, MIT Press, 2008: The topic of energy is in the news a lot these days. Not only are we concerned about having enough energy for today's civilization and tomorrow's needs, but also energy is at the core of our understanding of the inner workings of the Sun, Earth, and life itself. Indeed, energy may...
Article
Review of The Living Cosmos by C. Impey, Random House, 2008
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Even if civilization on Earth stops polluting the biosphere with greenhouse gases, humanity could eventually be awash in too much heat, namely, the dissipated heat by-product generated by any nonrenewable energy source. Apart from the Sun's natural aging-which causes an approximately 1% luminosity rise for each 108 years and thus about 1°C increase...
Article
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The question looming large for us right now on Earth is: How can we reconcile the need for secure and reliable energy with human competitiveness and economic growth without damaging the environment? Alas, science does not prescribe what we ought to do, just what is possible – or impossible. Here are some options to address present and future global...
Article
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Edited transcript of keynote talk for UNESCO-Foundation for the Future meeting on Humankind and the Biosphere: The next thousand years, Paris, September 2006
Book
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This book is an extensive rewrite of an earlier one, Cosmic Dawn: The Origins of Matter and Life, that I authored some twenty-five years ago. That original book, based on an interdisciplinary course that I cocreated at Harvard University in the 1970s (and that I still teach there), was wonderfully received by both students and public alike. Even co...
Article
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Emerging now from modern science is a unified scenario of the cosmos, including ourselves as sentient beings, based on the time-honored concept of change. Much as Heraclitus claimed long ago, “change is permanent”; we have evidence for it everywhere. From galaxies to snowflakes, from stars and planets to life itself, scientists are using the idea o...
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Review of Nature: An Economic History, by G.J.Vermeij, Princeton Univ. Press, 2004
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Free energy, the ability to do work, is the most universal currency known in the natural sciences. In an expanding, non-equilibrated Universe, it is free energy that drives order from disorder, from big bang to humankind, in good accord with the second law of thermodynamics and leading to the production of entropy. On all scales, from galaxies and...
Article
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One of the more effective ways to convey the story of our origin and evolution is to present the entire chronicle in a multimedia format that allows today's tech-savvy students to browse at will, thereby extracting parts of the story at their own pace and comfort. This article describes an interactive CD-ROM (included in this issue of "The Science...
Article
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Planetologists now searching for microbial life on Mars know well to "follow the water," and anthropologists studying the behavior of modern men and women on Earth are often said to "follow the money." Likewise, big historians seeking a unified view of life and civilization in the Universe at large would do well to "follow the energy." Energy, the...
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Review of Giant Telescopes: Astronomical Ambition and the Promise of Technology, by P. McCray, Harvard Univ. Press, 2004; appeared in American Scientist, 2005.
Article
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We are currently entering an age of synthesis such as occurs only once every few generations. The years ahead will surely be exciting and productive times in the world of science, largely because the scenario of cosmic evolution grants us an opportunity to systematically and synergistically inquire into the nature of our existence—to mount an inter...
Article
Full-text available
Cosmic evolution--change, broadly construed--has become a powerful unifying factor in all of science, underlying the rise of complexity throughout Nature writ large. That complexity can be defined and quantified for a whole hierarchy of ordered structures by examining the rate at which normalized energy flows through open, non-equilibrium, thermody...
Article
This article has taken the liberty of using the word “evolution” in an intentionally provocative way, to capture ontological, ecological, and phylogenetic change on all spatial and temporal scales by means surely including, but not restricted to, natural selection. I have sought, within the grand context of cosmic evolution, general trends among Na...
Conference Paper
Cosmic evolution-change, broadly construed-has become a powerful unifying factor in all of science, underlying the rise of complexity throughout Nature writ large. That complexity can be defined and quantified for a whole hierarchy of ordered structures by examining the rate at which normalized energy flows through open, non-equilibrium, thermodyna...
Article
Full-text available
Evolution, broadly construed, has become a powerful unifying concept in much of science – not only in the biological evolution of plants and animals, but also in the physical evolution of stars and planets, and the cultural evolution of society and its many varied products. This paper (1) explores the bulk structure and functioning of open, non-equ...
Article
Full-text available
to view these short movies, consult: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~ejchaisson/cosmic_evolution/docs/fr_1/fr_1_intro_movies.html
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Review of The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemunde and the Coming of the Balistic Missile Era, by M.J. Neufeld, Harvard University Press, 1996; appeared in Isis: Journal of Hisgtory of Science Society
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Whether galaxy, gene or art, patterns in physical, biological and cultural systems are manifest expressions of order and complexity, and increasingly so over the course of time.
Book
Full-text available
Using astronomical telescopes and biological microscopes, among a virtual arsenal of other tools of high technology, modern scientists are weaving a thread of understanding spanning the origin, existence, and destiny of all things. Now emerging is a unified scenario of the cosmos, including ourselves as sentient beings, based on the time-honored co...
Chapter
We are entering an age of synthesis such as occurs only once every few generations. The scenario of cosmic evolution now grants us an opportunity to systematically and synergistically inquire into the nature of our existence, to mount an integrated effort to build a modern world view that people of all cultures can adopt-a big-bang-to-humankind sto...
Article
Full-text available
Cosmic evolution is the study of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of radiation, matter and life throughout the Universe. At one and the same time, cosmic evolution represents a search for our cosmic heritage, for a principle of cosmic selection that transcends neo-Darwinism, indeed for a holistic cosmology wherein life plays...
Article
Full-text available
to view this short movie, consult: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~ejchaisson/cosmic_evolution/docs/fr_1/fr_1_intro_movies.html
Article
Two papers on global morality and ethics—by David Loye and Solomon H. Katz—are hereby placed into an evolutionary context. Simply stated though no less true, ethical evolution will likely be the next great evolutionary leap forward into the future—if humankind is to have a future.
Article
The unifying scenario of cosmic evolution is outlined by following the natural changes among radiation, matter and life in standard, big-bang cosmology. Using aspects of non equilibrium thermodynamics, especially energy flow considerations, we argue that it is the contrasting temporal behavior of various energy densities that have given rise to the...
Article
Full-text available
This paper outlines the grand scenario of cosmic evolution by examining the ongoing changes among radiation, matter and life in standard, big‐bang cosmology. Using aspects of non‐equilibrium thermodynamics and information science, we argue that it is the contrasting temporal behavior of various energy densities that have given rise to the environme...
Article
Double review of The Life of the Cosmos, by L. Smolin, Oxford Univ. Press, 1997, and of The Whole Shebang, by T. Ferris, Simon & Schuster, 1997; appeared in Philadelphia Inquirer
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Hubble's law states that the universe is expanding at a rate that places its age at about 10 to 15 billion years. However, some of the stars in the universe, in particular those found in globular clusters, appear to be older. This paradox has led to debate among astronomers about how old the universe is. In his Perspective, Chaisson argues that suc...
Article
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Congratulations are in order for NASA. The agency has embraced a vision around which researchers, educators, and the general public alike can rally. For the first time in its history, the U.S. space program has a set of sweeping, integrated science objectives. Now, at least in some parts of NASA, the advancement of scientific knowledge will drive t...
Article
Review of About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Business, by P. Davies, Simon & Schuster, 1995; appeared in Philadelphia Inquirer, 12 May 1995.
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Several months before convening the Boston Forum, I wrote a "working paper" that was intentionally controversial. It set forth a somewhat extreme view of how I regard science and technology potentially affecting the lives and attitudes of future generations. I sent it to the Forum participants, hoping to get their intellectual juices flowing well b...
Book
Full-text available
For two days in the fall of 1995, a highly diverse and international group of invited guests came together at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in Cambridge, to discuss a broad and timely topic of interest to all people. The first Boston Forum on "Science, Education, and Future Generations" was designed to explore how we might improve scie...
Article
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Stars are massive, self-luminous objects that shine by radiation derived from internal energy sources. Of the trillions of stars comprising the universe, many occur in pairs, multiple systems, and clusters. The members of such stellar groups are physically related through common origin and are bound by mutual gravitational attraction. Somewhat rela...
Article
Some of the most important results obtained from the Hubble Space Telescope during its first two years of operation are reviewed, with attention given to observations of objects both within and beyond the solar system. In particular, within the solar system, observations of the giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, monitoring of the Mars atmosphere, a...
Article
If there ever were a more appropriate subject for Vistas in Astronomy than a discussion of Space Telescope on the eve of its launch, then we are unsure what it might be. The Hubble Space Telescope is designed to provide for astronomers on Earth a decidedly new vista—by looking far back into the past with unprecedented accuracy. As Space Telescope o...
Article
Much of the observational time during the early months of the Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) orbital operation will be devoted to tasks set by the scientific teams responsible for the design of the HST's six instruments; afterwards, proposals for observations will be selected and scheduled by a peer-review process. It is expected that users will gi...
Article
Full-text available
This century's remarkable astronomical discoveries--the vastness of time and the cosmos--can have a negative impact on humankind's perception of itself. How can we possibly matter in a universe billions of years older than we are and populated with objects that render us microscopic? From another point of view, however, life, especially intelligent...
Article
My conclusions are threefold: The subject of cosmic evolution is my religion. The process of change itself (especially developmental change) is my God. And global ethics and a planetary culture, which cosmic evolution mandates, are the key to the survival of technologically competent life forms, both here on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the Unive...
Article
Full-text available
Major stages in the evolution of the universe are discussed as a background for the study of the nature and distribution of life. The history of the universe since the time of the Big Bang is divided into six epochs, corresponding to chaos, the hadron epoch, and the lepton epoch, which collectively make up the radiation era, and the atom epoch, the...
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Review of The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy, J. Audouze & G. Israel (eds.), Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985; appeared in The New York Times
Article
German translation of the English original "The invisible Universe"; Boston 1985 (39.003.089).Contents: (1) Sichtbare und unsichtbare Strahlungen: Die Schlüssel zum Universum.(2) Der interstellare Raum: Die dunklen Reiche des Nachthimmels. (3) Sonne und Fixsterne: Schauplätze unsichtbarer Urgewalten. (4) Planeten, Leben und Intelligenz: Sind wir al...
Chapter
Auf Anordnung des ehrwürdigsten Vaters und Oberhauptes des Heiligen Stuhles habe ich dieses Buch, «Der Probierer», gelesen; und nicht nur, daß ich in ihm nichts bemerkt habe, das gegen die guten Sitten verstieße, oder Worte, die von der heiligsten Wahrheit unseres Glaubens abwichen, habe ich darin so viele vollendete Überlegungen und Gedanken über...
Chapter
... Sonnenflecken entstehen und vergehen über mehr oder weniger lange Zeiträume; einige verkleinern sich, andere dehnen sich von einem Tag zum anderen aus; sie verändern ihre Gestalt, und einige von ihnen sind sehr unregelmäßig geformt; an einigen Stellen sind sie sehr dunkel, an anderen weniger. Ihre Masse muß auf jeden Fall gewaltig sein, da sie...
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Es wäre ganz und gar verlorene Zeit, wollte man die große Zahl und die Bedeutung all der nutzbringenden Vorteile aufzählen, die man vom Gebrauch dieses Instrumentes zu Lande und zur See erwarten kann. Aber meine Aufmerksamkeit richtete sich weniger auf seine Benutzung für irdische Dinge, sondern mein Eifer galt den Beobachtungen der Himmelskörper....
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Der nächste Gegenstand meiner Beobachtungen war das Wesen oder die Substanz der Milchstraße. Mit Hilfe des Teleskops kann jedermann diese mit einer solchen Deutlichkeit erblicken, daß alle Dispute, die die Philosophen durch so viele Zeitalter hindurch gequält haben, durch den unwiderleglichen und klaren Augenschein ad absurdum geführt werden und wi...
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So sehr sich der Mensch von jedem anderen Geschöpfe unterscheiden mag, so wäre doch die Behauptung nicht eben ungereimt, daß die Menschen untereinander kaum minder verschieden sind. Was will Eins gegen Tausend heißen? Doch aber pflegt man zu sagen, daß ein Mann für Tausend gilt, wo Tausend nicht für Einen gelten. Solche Wertverschiedenheit schreibt...

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