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Chaos: Making a New Science [Kindle Edition]

James Gleick
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 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

Amazon.com Review

Few writers distinguish themselves by their ability to write about complicated, even obscure topics clearly and engagingly. James Gleick, a former science writer for the New York Times, resides in this exclusive category. In Chaos, he takes on the job of depicting the first years of the study of chaos--the seemingly random patterns that characterize many natural phenomena.

This is not a purely technical book. Instead, it focuses as much on the scientists studying chaos as on the chaos itself. In the pages of Gleick's book, the reader meets dozens of extraordinary and eccentric people. For instance, Mitchell Feigenbaum, who constructed and regulated his life by a 26-hour clock and watched his waking hours come in and out of phase with those of his coworkers at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

As for chaos itself, Gleick does an outstanding job of explaining the thought processes and investigative techniques that researchers bring to bear on chaos problems. Rather than attempt to explain Julia sets, Lorenz attractors, and the Mandelbrot Set with gigantically complicated equations, Chaos relies on sketches, photographs, and Gleick's wonderful descriptive prose.

From Publishers Weekly

Science readers who have gone through relativity theory, quantum physics, Heisenbergian uncertainty, black holes and the world of quarks and virtual particles only to be stunned by recent Grand Unified Theories (GUTS) will welcome New York Times science writer Gleick's adventurous attempt to describe the revolutionary science of chaos. "Chaos" is what a handful of theorists steeped in math and computer know-how are calling their challengingly abstract new look at nature in terms of nonlinear dynamics. Gleick traces the ideas of these little-known pioneersincluding Mitchell Feigenbaum and his Butterfly Effect; Benoit Mandelbrot, whose "fractal" concept led to a new geometry of nature; and Joseph Ford who countered Einstein with "God plays dice with the universe. But they're loaded dice." Chaos is deep, even frightening in its holistic embrace of nature as paradoxically complex, wildly disorderly, random and yet stable in its infinite stream of "self-similarities." A ground-breaking book about what seems to be the future of physics. Illustrations. QPBC alternate.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3031 KB
  • Print Length: 333 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 043429554X
  • 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:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,304 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent book for non-experts December 8, 2008
Format:Paperback
I am not a hard scientist, but I like to have some idea of what is going on in those fields. Books like this one are ideal for people such as me. This book tackles the fascinating field of Chaos Theory. It turns out that certain patterns recur over and over in many diverse areas of the universe, whether it is the patterning of galaxies in clusters or the price of cotton.

Specialists working in many fields independently discovered curious patterns, and eventually, starting mainly in the 1970's, they became aware of each others' work. This book takes physics as the field on which it focuses, but it mentions many others. Since some of these fields involve conscious human decision making (especially economics), I have begun to wonder whether I can find comparable patterns in languages, my own specialty.

There are many reviews of a previous printing of this book: Chaos: Making a New Science, so you can go there to check them out. Other books useful to non-specialists interested in the history of and current research in the hard sciences are The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, A Briefer History of Time and Electric Universe: How Electricity Switched on the Modern World.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition with Audio/Video
(This review is based on the iBook version of Chaos: The Enhanced Edition, which I am assuming is identical to the Kindle edition)

In 1987 I got my Bachelors of Science in physics, Prozac was launched in the US, and James Gleick published Chaos. I don't think the middle one has any bearing on the other two. But the first and last are tentatively linked because, despite being completely jazzed on physics, I didn't read it.

Being a young physicist with a new-found appreciation of the universe and just how complex it is, I quickly found there was nothing thing quite so irritating as a popular science book. Just imagine, after three years of sweat and tears you begin to get a feel for the basics of your chosen subject, when some smart alec arts student comes along authoritatively sprouting stuff that you think you should understand, but don't - and all because they've read the latest best seller in the science charts.

Humiliating? Not even close!

But time and maturity help to break down the fragile arrogance of youth, so when I was asked to review the just-released enhanced e-edition of James Gleick's best-seller Chaos, I willingly agreed. And I'm glad I did.

For those who were too young, too disinterested or, like me, too arrogant to read the book when it first appeared, this is the story of how a group of scientists and mathematicians from very different backgrounds found a new way to describe the world. Traditionally, scientists had tried to understand natural phenomenon and systems as stable or almost-stable systems. And it was assumed that complex systems needed even more complex models and webs of equations in order to fully appreciate them.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An historical introduction to chaos theory July 13, 2010
Format:Paperback
This book is the first of its kind, which introduces a new branch of science, the chaos or chaos theory from the historical point of view. This theory is widely applied in the transdisciplinary field of meteorology, mathematics, physics, population biology, cell biology, philosophy, astrophysics, information theory, economics, finance, robotics, and other diverse fields. The author has done a tremendous job of putting this book together with very little mathematics. I found this book highly engaging.

A brief summary of the book is as follows: Chaos physics along with classical and quantum physics are required to fully describe physical reality. Physical laws described by differential equations correspond to deterministic systems. In quantum physics, the Schrödinger equation which describes the continuous time evolution of a system's wave function is deterministic. However, the relationship between a system's wave function and the observable properties of the system is non-deterministic (quantum physical phenomenon). The systems studied in chaos theory are deterministic. In general for a deterministic system, if the initial state of a system were known exactly, then the future state of such a system could be predicted. However, there are many dynamical systems such as weather forecasting that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. This sensitivity referred to as the butterfly effect which suggests that small differences in initial conditions (for example, rounding errors caused by limiting the number of decimals in numerical computation), yield different results, rendering long-term prediction impossible, hence they are called chaotic systems.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More about personalities than about the science August 11, 2013
Format:Paperback
Gleick is an entertaining writer without question. However, in terms of actually teaching you what chaotic systems are, I began to long for a world-class explainer of difficult ideas such as the late, great Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, or even contemporary authors such as Simon Singh. This book tells you everything about the people involved, and their rivalries, but after reading the entire book, you would be hard pressed to define in a few sentences to someone else what a chaotic system is.

Going through Gleick's book ws somewhat like reading all about the history of Paella or Oysters Rockefeller- where it was made, how the dish traveled to different locales and how others tried to steal the recipe, etc. - everything except the two most important chunks of information, what the recipe actually contains and how the dish is made. I can only say that the decision to award this book a Pulitzer speaks volumes about the scientific literacy of the judges on the award panel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
cant recommend this enough. read it couple of times.
Published 15 days ago by Vahan Ayvazyan
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaos changed my life
This book literally changed my career. I was a young tenure track prof in earth sciences when I read this book in about 1991. Read more
Published 21 days ago by dr. E.C. Kosters
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 28 days 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 1 month ago by Johnny
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Quality
I receive the book today and it has a Good Quality.
It is completely new one,

Thank you.
Best Regards,
Published 2 months ago by hossein jabbari
5.0 out of 5 stars Technical, technical, technical!
This book is intended for those individuals that have a significant amount of scientific background, and that could relate to the fundamental theories deployed within it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Staten Island Johnny
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Good place to start
Published 3 months ago by Bill Lowrey
3.0 out of 5 stars Transforming a scientific matter into romance is not easy
The author tryed to transform a very exact scientific matter into a popular palatable romance. I think he was not quite successfull. But it makes for a good reading.
Published 4 months ago by Reyolando M. Brasil
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 5 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 5 months ago by F. Costela
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More About the Author

James Gleick was born in New York and began his career in journalism, working as an editor and reporter for the New York Times. He covered science and technology there, chronicling the rise of the Internet as the Fast Forward columnist, and in 1993 founded an Internet startup company called The Pipeline. His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

His home page is at http://around.com, and on Twitter he is @JamesGleick.


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