Gerd Binnig, Nobel laureate in physics in 1986, proposed in his article "The fractal structure of evolution" 1 that everything in the universe, including its laws, had changed and became what we have got today through a process which mixes some concepts from darwinian evolution and fractal cosmology. I had some questions about this article and mr. Binnig ideas that I would like to clarify:

  1. In that article, Binnig says that everything in the universe has resulted from an evolutionary process, including the laws of nature. But does this apply even to the most fundamental laws of nature? Would even the fundamental laws be subject to change in his theory of evolution applied to the entire universe? Or, on the contrary, only low-energy/effective laws could change?

  2. Binnig describes his theory as closely related to Mandelbrot's fractal geometry. There are some cosmological theories that are also related to this, like Andrei Linde's cosmological inflation models. In fact, he seems to cite one of Andrei Linde's articles on inflationary cosmology which mixes fractals with the multiverse hypothesis 2 . Linde's models are closely related to the multiverse hypothesis, since they predict the existence of multiple universes. Since he cited Linde's models about multiple universes, was Gerd Binnig considering the possibility that multiple universes could exist? And if that was the case, would all these universes be also subject to change in his cosmological evolutionary process?

  • $\begingroup$ Gerd Binnig won his Nobel for inventing the scanning tunneling microscope, not for any research into evolution or cosmology. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


There is probably good reason the paper is not widely cited. Basically it is conflating "fractal" with "hierarchical": systems on one level interact and produce systems on a higher level (e.g. particles make atoms that make molecules and so on), but fractals are scale-free: dynamics or appearance on one scale should be similar to other scales. This is not true in most physics (molecules behave very different from electrons).

It also makes a very weak case for evolution of the laws of nature: Linde's scenario makes an explicit evolutionary model, but it requires a very particular underlying physics that is not assumed to be evolved. So your first question is, in the paper, only low energy physics is evolving. Similarly, Wolfram's recent speculative model of physics has some basic string rewriting rules but could in principle allow for evolution-like behaviour of everything else in the world-graph. Generally, evolution does require some background assumptions (like time-irreversibility) that are non-trivial.

Linde's evolving universe model is separate from his chaotic inflation model (where I think you do get a proper fractal large-scale multiverse), but both do produce a multiverse in the sense that you get isolated worlds that evolve independently of each other once they exist. But what Binnig thought is hard to guess.


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