Roger Winter. Devil's GarDen. 1990. Oil on linen. 62"× 86". Courtesy of the artist and the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. In 1812, around the same time that Napoleon was waging his war on the Continent, an eminent French scientist by the name of Pierre Simon Laplace was penning an essay in which he outlined the possibilities of a hypothetical monster. The "demon," as it later came to be known, would have complete knowledge of the location and velocity of every single particle in the universe.1 If such a monster existed, Laplace contended, then all of humanity's future could be predicted, since the creature could use the laws of physics--then held to be Newtonian--to chart the entire course of human events: past, present, and future. Thus Laplace gave rise to a theory of causal determinism, known in philosophical circles as "Laplace's Demon," making not infrequent appearances in pop culture. One was the memorable image of Maxwell's Demon in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of lot 49 (1966), where the "beast" could conceivably violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics and thus disprove the laws of entropy. The beast also makes brief cameos in the writings of Isaac Asimov, Ken Kesey, and in
Western American Literature – The Western Literature Association
Published: Feb 20, 2013
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