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page of  Peter Nagy

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Non-professional interests...

I don't feel comfortable if I'm prevented from doing sports for a week. Most of the time I play tennis, basketball and I ride my bike to most places in town.


If time permits, I like to read books on history, philosophical aspects of science (especially theoretical physics, quantum mechanics and relativity theory) and about topics which are on the borderline of biology and physics.Three of the ones I have found fascinating:

Ubiquity: Why The World Is Simpler Than We Think (Mark Buchanan)

Many systems consists of a multitude of units (molecules, cells, particles, human individuals, etc.). If the behavior of the system is governed by weak forces (e.g. there is no dominant factor bringing about a change), then the system tends to be chaotic. In many cases the nature of the interactions between system units are known and computable, but due to the multitude of such interactions and our inability to know these factors and forces in a particular case such a chaotic system behaves unpredictably. Earthquakes, weather, normal heart beating; just a couple of examples for chaotic systems. I find it intriguing to assume that chaos is an integral part of the wiring of our cells, and if some strong interactions take over the control, a disease condition may develop (e.g. arrhythmia, and maybe other things, cancer?).

Shadows of the mind (Roger Penrose)

Have you ever thought about what free will is? How come that biology, medicine and physics seem to suggest that synaptic transmissions in our brain follow strict rules, but we think freely? What makes a conscious human mind different from the rest of the world? Roger Penrose shows that there must be some non-computable factor in human (mathematical) thinking and points out that quantum mechanics provides such mechanisms by which this is achievable. It is suggested that the microtubule network of neurons may present such an isolated space where entangled quantum states can exist without perturbation from the outside world.
This is a book which makes one think if one can think at all... But it is mind-blowing how hardcore theoretical physics can have something to say about how our brain works.

Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right For Life (Paul Davies)

It seems that the basic parameters determining the strength and range of basic physical interactions are adjusted such that life and intelligence can thrive in the universe. Why is it so? Is it just coincidence? Or was there a creator, a God, who made sure at (or before) the creation of our Universe that everything would be all right? This God is not necessarily analogous to the anthropomorphic God of Christianity (who seems to intervene in the everyday life of believers), but someone (something?) who/which sets the basic laws of the Universe. Although we may once find such theories which explain everything in the Universe (without making any assumptions). Assumptions abound: multiverse (multiple universes); self-explaining, intelligent or participatory universe; retrocausation. But currently it seems that we must believe in some basic principles. These can be the major laws of thermodynamics or even more basic theories of relativistic quantum theory. But for believers this something is God. However, the way Gods in different religions behave is not scientific since there doesn't  seem to be any system in how they intervene at different times and what they require believers to do.

A People's History of the United States (Howard Zinn)

How different the history of the US sounds if viewed and written from the standpoint of ordinary people? Was it indeed the belief in democracy which drove the war efforts of the US throughout history? Was the War of Independence a fight for independence or a struggle between two parties with conflicting financial interests? Was the involvement of the North (Union) in the American Civil War motivated by the desire to abolish slavery? History is written by the victors...

Europe since 1945 (Philip Thody)

Don't you find it strange that people and nations of Europe fighting bloody wars against each other for centuries have remained peaceful since the end of World War 2 (disregarding a couple of local conflicts) ? What taught us to view waging war as the very last resort to resolve conflicts? The unbelievable suffering witnessed in the world wars? The economic prosperity achievable in peacetime? A wider selection of sex partners if you don't disregard candidates from other countries? In addition to the usual analysis of historical events I found this aspect of the book very interesting. I got convinced that we must never turn a blind eye to history because it can teach us a lot. Especially with such bloody periods in our recent past. On a World War 2 memorial in Germany it reads:Was die Lebenden den Toten sagen hören die Toten nicht, aber was die Toten den Lebenden sagen, müssen die Lebenden verstehen (Dead people don't hear what living people say, but the living people must understand what the dead people say.)

And a book in Hungarian:

Megmaradni (Staying alive: The History of Hungary through the eyes of an Englishman, Bryan Cartledge)

We, Hungarians, are unique. This is reflected in our history, but our history was obviously also influenced by how uniquely different we are. Throughout our history we wanted to survive among big powers (Vatican, Venice, Holy Roman and Habsburg Empires, Turkish Empire, Soviet Union), and in many cases we planned much more than achievable. And then we didn't even achieve what would have been achievable due to internal disputes. But we never surrendered and helped by our unique way of thinking (which may also be rooted in our history and the structure of the Hungarian language) we will learn from the messages of our history how to build a bright future. The book was written by Bryan Cartledge who was the ambassador of the UK to Hungary for years and he was in a position to get acquainted with us. And he delved very deep into our way of thinking.