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Chaos: Making a New Science [Kindle Edition]

James Gleick
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The blockbuster modern science classic that introduced the butterfly effect to the world—even more relevant two decades after it became an international sensation
For centuries, scientific thought was focused on bringing order to the natural world. But even as relativity and quantum mechanics undermined that rigid certainty in the first half of the twentieth century, the scientific community clung to the idea that any system, no matter how complex, could be reduced to a simple pattern. In the 1960s, a small group of radical thinkers began to take that notion apart, placing new importance on the tiny experimental irregularities that scientists had long learned to ignore. Miniscule differences in data, they said, would eventually produce massive ones—and complex systems like the weather, economics, and human behavior suddenly became clearer and more beautiful than they had ever been before.
In this seminal work of scientific writing, James Gleick lays out a cutting edge field of science with enough grace and precision that any reader will be able to grasp the science behind the beautiful complexity of the world around us.

Editorial Reviews


“Beautifully lucid . . . Gleick has a novelist’s touch for describing his scientists and their settings, an eye for the apt analogy, and a sense of the dramatic and the poetic.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“There is a teleological grandeur about this new math that gives the imagination wings.”
“Gleick’s Chaos is not only enthralling and precise, but full of beautifully strange and strangely beautiful ideas.”
—Douglas Hofstadter, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach

About the Author

Born in New York City in 1954, James Gleick is one of the nation’s preeminent science writers. Upon graduating from Harvard in 1976, he founded Metropolis, a weekly Minneapolis newspaper, and spent the next decade working at the New York Times. Gleick’s prominent works include Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, Isaac Newton, and Chaos: Making a New Science, all of which were shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest book, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood,was published in March 2011. He lives and works in New York.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4828 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0143113453
  • Publisher: Open Road Media; Revised edition (March 22, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Q3RRPI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,286 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Order from Chaos September 29, 2007
We all know things that are not predictable. These can be everyday occurrences like the weather, or more specialised events (whether the stock market will go up or down). The unpredictable plays a large part in "normal life". Yet for some of these matters, there is a nagging feeling that if sufficient information were known, the unpredictable would indeed be able to be forecast with as much certainty as whether the sun will rise tomorrow. Thus James Gleick introduces the topic of `chaos' - there can be a "sensitive dependence on initial conditions". If we were to know the initial conditions in all their details, predictability would be brought within our grasp. Thus the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in China could result in rainfall in Indianapolis.

At times I was lost in the small detail, but the strength of this book is that it paints a big picture. The mathematics (and physics, and chemistry, and biology, and .....) is sometimes beyond me, but the overall story is that there is `chaos' all around. Some of the chaos is linked into classic Newtonian mechanics, but strangely enough, chaos almost has in itself an order and `predictability' about it.

The three of the most significant scientific theories of the 20th century are reckoned to be Einstein's General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and ...... Chaos Theory. Before opening this very historical account of the last mentioned, I knew nothing about the theory of chaos. Now I have an awareness of the subject, and how experimentation can play a part in mathematics. Experimentation and mathematics are not normally uttered in the same sentence.

Look for the big picture, and do not get lost in the people and places, which can be bewildering.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Overview July 24, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was prepared to hate this book, and it sat on my Kindle for about a year before I finally read it. I am an Electrical Engineer, a group not normally enamored with mathematicians, since Engineering is, almost by definition, the avoidance of pure math.

I ended up loving the book. Probably proof right there that Chaos exists.

While the book is certainly "technical", it is well within the range of anyone who is not afraid of math and willing to spend a little time considering what it says. I ended up spending about a week or so reading the book, a long time for me, because it takes time to digest some of the material and understand what it is saying.

A very good example is Gleick's discussion of a common mathematical formula x(next)=rx(1-x). This formula, where R is a constant governs many common phenomena, including biological populations. (r is a constant, and x represents a level of population from 0 to 1). Just looking at the equation, you would expect it to be fairly well behaved, probably some sort of exponential or sinusoidal looking function with a nice regular period to it. In fact, as Gleick suggests, if you spend a few minutes playing with the equation in a spreadsheet, you see that it is anything but a neat, orderly function. Depending on the starting conditions and the value of the constant (scaling function R) that you use, the graph takes on numerous random shapes.

In other words, even for populations with can be modeled with a simple formula, the math predicts that there will be occasional booms and crashes INDEPENDENT of any external influences. To put it another way, bald eagle populations might crash every once in a while, seemingly at random, whether anyone invents DDT or not- just because of the chaotic nature of how the universe works.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The stories that switch on the lights! May 26, 2007
Gleick introduces chaos in an easy and understandable way, not relying on lots of mathematics. His descriptions of deterministic chaos are accurate and he recounts several stories to help the reader understand the context of the discoveries. Not a book for mathematicians, but rather a book for everybody else that loves a good story about where our current science views are coming from. Read this before you get into Holland and the rest of the manic gang.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chaos Theory made relevant January 22, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book really made me see why Chaos is relevant, and what makes it stand out among the many theories of the century. The theory's beauty and simplicity is especially appealing for those wishing to escape reductionism, and get a holistic view of the world and nature. This book gives life to the theory by mentioning stories of 'converts' to Chaos, and discussing its evolution in various disciplines.

I recommend this book for those looking for a non-technical book on Chaos Theory, and for those that have no clue what the theory is all about but want to understand its importance to the sciences and the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - highly recommend! June 13, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really simple review: A fascinating book - interested in it after reading Gleick's book on Isaac Newton (which was also great). A great choice or gift for anyone who enjoys any aspect of science since "chaos" affects everything... don't have to be a science buff to enjoy it, neither do you need to have a degree to understand it. Well-written and I can't wait for more books by James Gleick.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect book even with its limited applicability August 23, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
The sad thing is that I lived so much of life without ever coming across fractals.

I have not learned as much new in a single book ever. From the coastline length concept to Mandlebrot Sets, Feibengaum constants to Lorenz attractors, Julia sets and Cantor sets, the world of non-linear mathematics that is even at the fringe of linear mathematic is deep and beautiful (literally). The concepts of fractional dimensions, bounded areas with infinite perimeters, mode-locking, bifurcations, Newton fractals - the list of new things here is staggering.

A perfect book - partly because the subject was so new to me. That said, it is a subject that is at best where physics was some three millenia back. There are infinite non-linear differential equations and the humankind is perhaps gasping at the wonders of the first few dozens. This funky math begins a proper science when some part of it can at least be mapped to a single snow-flack let alone describe water flow for a few seconds or go further to cure heart diseases or predict stock prices.

So all in all, the useability of this new science is likely to be limited in our lifetime but it is a must learn subject and this book along with Wiki opened a whole new world to me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Important Book to Read
Anyone interested in nonlinear forecasting should read this
Published 3 months ago by Mary C. Gillaspy
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaos everywhere
Thorough inside look at this exciting topic.
Published 5 months ago by R. Crolene
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
love chaos theory
Published 5 months ago by Joseph M Verdi
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that changed my life.
This book changed my life. I was 18, and preparing for the last exam of high school. This book was landed to me by a high school professor and I blasted through it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by don Pedro
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very interesting.
Published 8 months ago by A. Iott
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad account of the development of chaos theory
Not a bad account of the development of chaos theory, but jumps around quite a bit, while at the same time leaving out some of the key players in what is now pretty universally... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Terry A Eddy
5.0 out of 5 stars This changed my way of thinking as a teenager
First time I came across with this book I was 15 years old and was roaming at an used bookstore. I bought it because the tittle seemed interesting and started reading. Read more
Published 10 months ago by André da Costa Ramos
4.0 out of 5 stars More technical information, please
My background is electrical engineering, and I really liked this book. It presented a very good history of chaos theory and its development from quirky art into a legitimate... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Johnny
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic
This is the classic reference book that described the history and development of thought with regard to chaotic systems. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Steven Daut
5.0 out of 5 stars Kindle version of an atractive printed book, includes a lot of fractal...
I have a paper copy from around 20 years, and this Kindle version surprised me
It includes an amazing variety of images (same as in the printed edition) including fractals and... Read more
Published 15 months ago by F. Costela
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