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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Order from Chaos
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...
Published on September 29, 2007 by Mr P R Morgan

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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 recognized as the science of complexity, and not just chaos. Particularly noticeable by its absence is any mention of the Santa Fe Institute, despite the participation of so many Nobel Prize...
Published 4 months ago by Terry A Eddy


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Order from Chaos, September 29, 2007
By 
Mr P R Morgan "Peter Morgan" (BATH, Bath and N E Somerset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. If you read this book, please ensure that it has colour photographs within it - the pictures are both staggering, and help to bring home the message. Some areas of chaos have their roots in self similarity, and the pictures from Mendelbrot sets are both staggering and fascinating. Self similarity can be best summed up by the classic (and anonymous) ditty: "Big fleas have on their backs small fleas to bite them, small flees have smaller fleas and so ad infinitum"

Gleick is strong on the history and roots of chaos, and how the ideas were received when initially tabled. There was shock and disbelief that others from external communities could have something to say that would have relevance to (say) population growth models, from totally different scientific disciplines. There was also reluctance initially to publish some of the ground-braking ideas.

Chaos is about non-linear dynamics, fractals, fractal boundary basins and much more. As `chaos' as a concept (and almost as a discipline) spread, rather than bringing order when chaos had existed before (and this could be described as one of the main purposes of `science'), evidence of more chaos emerges.

From study, it could be that there is more evidence of chaos than we thought hitherto. There could be chaos in space, and the onset of cardiac arrhythmias (heart attacks) seems chaotic. Gleick speculates that `evolution' is chaos with feedback. He has made me more aware of randomness. Classic determinism generates randomness. Perhaps, just perhaps, chaos is a way to reconcile free will and determinism. All in all, unlike the pure scientists of old, I now find myself positively looking for chaos.

Perhaps that is a mark of a well presented book.

[...].
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Overview, July 24, 2012
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This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (Kindle Edition)
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. (I am not trying to defend DDT, just using it as an example).

I found this to be a startling revelation. It certainly goes against my engineering mindset, where things work the way they do, first time, every time, and randomness is really caused by some error or external force you don't quite understand. Chaos theory proposes that randomness is inherent in nature, and even the most carefully controlled conditions may result in unexpected results.

No doubt Gleick has just scratched the surface, and watered down the math to the point where an average person could have a glimpse of concepts that trained mathematicians spend their careers on. From that standpoint, the book is a success. I walked away with an understanding of what chaos really means, how it influences real-world events, and why those fractal images aren't just pretty pictures, but actually have real meaning.

The only criticisms I have of the book are its attempt to relate chaos and the works of philosophers (Goethe) and artists. While I am sure there is a high-level connection to be made, I found the comparisons tedious. Also, because the book is a very limited overview, it can get a little jumpy and choppy. It is really more of a series of essays than a complete narrative. Finally, in some cases I found the mathematical simplifications overdone, and it took a while to realize what Gleick was talking about simply because it was so oversimplified.

All that said, I enjoyed the book, learned something, and walked away with at least a slight understanding of what all the chaos fuss is about. If you are at all interested in how the world works, some of the ideas put forward will amaze you. And while chaos theory is very much about the math behind it, don't let is scare you off. If you understood the first chapter of your algebra book, you are well on your way.
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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
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This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (Kindle Edition)
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
By 
Francesca "Bookishy" (La Pine, OR, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (Kindle Edition)
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
By 
NJ (Singapore) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (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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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad account of the development of chaos theory, August 1, 2014
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This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (Kindle Edition)
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 recognized as the science of complexity, and not just chaos. Particularly noticeable by its absence is any mention of the Santa Fe Institute, despite the participation of so many Nobel Prize recipients and other science giants in that institution.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This changed my way of thinking as a teenager, June 30, 2014
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This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (Kindle Edition)
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. Since then, I read this book about 4 times, and bought some others on the same topic (like Lorenz Book). It`s the best introduction to chaos theory to non scientists that one can ask for. If you are curious about chaos but have no idea what it is, read it!
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4.0 out of 5 stars More technical information, please, June 22, 2014
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This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (Kindle Edition)
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 branch of science. It also gave interesting personal backgrounds of the pioneers in the field. However, I would have preferred if were written more like a textbook and illustrated with practical examples.

The book is a very good introduction to chaos theory for non-technical readers. It's well-written and easy to read. But it doesn't offer enough detailed information for those of us who really want to delve into this subject and learn more than just superficial facts. I would have given the book five stars if it had presented a bit less historical background and offered more technical information, especially pertaining to the most recent developments in the field.

On the positive side, the author was very good at pointing out that chaos is a natural and very necessary feature of our universe. As an engineer, I was taught almost nothing about chaos, other than it is very bad when it appears in electrical system, and so we were trained to eliminate it at all costs. This book shed a whole new positive light on it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A classic, February 20, 2014
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This review is from: Chaos: Making a New Science (Kindle Edition)
This is the classic reference book that described the history and development of thought with regard to chaotic systems. This new edition, published in 2011 is pretty much the same as the original. Gleick makes the topic understanding, and discusses the ideas without resorting to incomprehensible mathematics.
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Chaos: Making a New Science
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