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Bak's Sand Pile: Strategies for a Catastrophic World Paperback – February 28, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Agile Research and Technology, Inc (February 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 098307450X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983074502
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ted G. Lewis is currently a Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He has previously held a variety of positions within IEEE Computer Science (EIC of IEEE software, EIC of IEEE COMPUTER), industry (CEO Daimler Chrysler Research and Technology NA, Senior Vice President of Eastman Kodak) and academia (University of Louisiana, Oregon State University, Naval Postgraduate School). Lewis is the author of over 30 books and 100 papers on computing, critical infrastructure and complexity.

** See Author Video section on the right-hand side of Ted Lewis' author page to view the book trailer for his most recent book, Bak's Sand Pile: Strategies for a Catastrophic World **

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tony Harper on April 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Per Bak's very original book, How Nature Works, introduced the reading public to the science of self-organized criticality, SOC, and using examples from ecology, evolution, traffic flow and the like, demonstrated the utility of his basic idea, that complex systems evolve to a state of criticality. Upon reaching the critical state, these systems then become subject to cascades, rapid down turns in complexity from which they recover but will be experienced again repeatedly. Both the magnitude of these repetitious events and their time spacing can be described by a power law. Lewis has taken both the theory and application of SOC an order of magnitude further. His book covers a wider range of topics than Bak's. I would particularly recommend the chapters on Levy Flights, Invention, Innovation, and Inspiration, and the final chapter, If I Were King. In these chapters he makes connections between SOC and movement, the burstiness of inventive occurrences and the distinction between invention and innovation, and in the last chapter is prescriptive with respect to our shared problems of the 21st Century, all of which appear to be consequences to SOC. Also, his discussion of system resilience and its relationship to the power law exponent is quite insightful.

If you have an interest in self-organized criticality and in understanding SOC at some significant depth, if you have an interest in the many events that affect our collective experience (and existence) as a species, the occurrence of which cannot be described by normal distributions but exhibit skewed, long-tailed distributions, and if you appreciate accessible, insightful scholarship, then this book is for you.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lewis does a fantastic job in this volume of explaining the concept of self-organizing criticalities and why systems seem to drive themselves into disastrous situations. In short: we strive for efficiency and that doesn't always get along well with resiliency. This was explored by physicist Per Bak (thus the title) in a series of papers done with other colleagues that have since been cited tens of thousands of time across many disciplines.

I've read a lot on this from other authors and this is one of the best explanations of related concepts. Lots of good content here and it's surprisingly accessible even if you're not familiar with the theories behind it. Highly recommended for students of disaster management or complexity theory, or for anyone interested in systems theory or system resilience.
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Format: Paperback
I'm still thinking about "self-organized criticality" over a year after reading this. It impacts systems, governments, and most large-scale technologies. It made me think differently, more realistically and expansively, about system redundancy, back-up systems, capacity planning, and security.

Another area where the book led to a greater understanding is that disasters aren't necessarily isolated events. There can be a devastating subsidiary disaster during a period of time afterwards due to the intricate linkages and dependencies of our complex world. Think mortgage meltdown & global financial crisis, which is still reverberating over 4 years later. Think tsunami & Fukushima meltdown.

I highly recommend this book. It is highly accessible to generalists, and even more meaningful to someone with a foundational mathematical background.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By looking4stuff on August 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We must start to accept responsibility and make the changes necessary to protect the future environment, what is the real cost of buying cheaper products? We must change the way we evaluate progress.
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