2017 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?

Professor of Biological Sciences, Physics, Astronomy, University of Calgary; Author, Reinventing the Sacred
Non Ergodic

“Non ergodic” is a fundamental but too little known scientific concept. Non-ergodicity stands in contrast to “ergodicity. “Ergodic” means that the system in question visits all its possible states. In Statistical Mechanics this is based on the famous “ergodic hypothesis, which, mathematically, gives up integration of Newton’s equations of motion for the system. Ergodic systems have no deep sense of “history.” Non-ergodic systems do not visit all of their possible states. In physics perhaps the most familiar case of a non-ergodic system is a spin glass which “breaks” ergodicity and visits only a tiny subset of its possible states, hence exhibits history in a deep sense.

Even more profoundly, the evolution of life in our biosphere is profoundly “non-ergodic” and historical. The universe will not create all possible life forms. This, together with heritable variation, is the substantial basis for Darwin, without yet specifying the means of heritable variation, whose basis Darwin did not know. Non-ergodicity gives us history.