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Chaos: Making a New Science [Paperback]

by James Gleick
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)


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Chaos: Making a New Science Chaos: Making a New Science 4.2 out of 5 stars (157)
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Book Description

December 1, 1988 0140092501 978-0747404132 1st
James Gleick explains the theories behind the fascinating new science called chaos. Alongside relativity and quantum mechanics, it is being hailed as the twentieth century's third revolution. 8 pages of photos.


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

Gleick here adventurously attempts to describe the revolutionary science of "chaos," a challengingly abstract new look at nature in terms of nonlinear dynamics. "A ground-breaking book about what seems to be the future of physics," praised PW. Illustrated. 100,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1st edition (December 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140092501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747404132
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
80 of 83 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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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Achieves its goal - even after 18 years July 12, 2005
Format:Paperback
When I first picked up Gleick's "Chaos" I was a little skeptical - could a book written in 1987 still work as an introduction to chaos and nonlinear dynamics, a field that has been evolving rapidly for the past eighteen years? Well, in a certain sense, it turns out it can.

The truth is that the focus of Gleick's book is not so much chaos itself as it is the people who first explored chaos theory and eventually managed to make it respectable and bring it into the mainstream. As the book's subtitle hints, Gleick is concerned mainly with how a 'new science' is 'made', not necessarily with the actual science or math involved. This was not quite what I was expecting from "Chaos", but it is actually an advantage for the book, since its age becomes somewhat irrelevant: although chaos theory itself has been growing and evolving dramatically in recent decades, "Chaos" deals only with its roots in the '60s, '70s and early '80s. On the other hand, I was hoping for more discussion of the science itself, rather than the personalities involved in its early development.

I was also not that taken with the style of Gleick's writing. His narrative tends to jump around rapidly, often spending only a few pages on some person or event before moving on to another, commonly with little in the way of connection or logical transition. This is fine for short articles in newspapers and magazines, but it doesn't work so well in a 300+ page book. The vast cast of characters (meteorologists, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, biologists, ecologists and many others) spins in and out of view, and it can be very difficult to get more than a general impression how the little pieces all fit together in the big picture.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science Meets Nature August 1, 2004
Format:Paperback
Have you ever wondered why a leaf or tree is shaped the way it is? Can science explain the seemingly randomness of nature? This book will make your imagination run wild. Pure science meets Mother Nature. I would read from this book each night before I went to bed and then just dream about the possibilities. This is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read. I grab this book off the shelf at least once a month and just thumb through it again to revisit some of the ideas. His explanation and discussions about nonlinear dynamics were very eye opening for me. The author also did a great job of providing a brief background of each scientific breakthrough along the way. This provided allot of additional and interesting facts that directly contributed to ones understanding.

You don't have to be a genius to comprehend and enjoy this book. Some of the reviews for this book complain about there not being enough math to support the theory. The lack of advanced math made this book even more enjoyable for me. The average person will appreciate this book just as much as anyone else.

This book also has some very nice full color illustrations. Nothing was spared for this book. You won't be disappointed.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Order from Chaos September 29, 2007
Format:Paperback
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Good place to start
Published 1 day ago by Bill Lowrey
5.0 out of 5 stars Science majors & Engineers
If you are not a science major then you do not have the background to appreciate this book. Not too much math but it explains a lot about experimental error and hidden... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Kent J. Nauman
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 1 month ago by Reyolando M. Brasil
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for beginners
Studying Calculus in high school, this book clearly portraits complex chaos and nonlinear dynamics with such a simple language that did not require me to get any additional... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Dima
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great book a little bit over my head but I learned a lot about everything. Needs to be read :)
Published 7 months ago by Joana
2.0 out of 5 stars More about personalities than about the science
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... Read more
Published 8 months ago by P. Nadkarni
4.0 out of 5 stars The new math that makes you think deeply about the world we live in...
The book was in a very good condition and it was a great deal for such book. The material seems interesting and I will use it for my upcoming grad-class.
Published 9 months ago by Jose Garcia
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
Really interesting book. Very easy to read. It outlines the history of the science of chaos and its properties. Highly recommend it.
Published 9 months ago by lazy guy
3.0 out of 5 stars ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
This is a good history of the whole new approach to fractals and systems in chaos theory, but, a little too technical for me.This is for math brainiacs.
Published 10 months ago by John S. Pieri
5.0 out of 5 stars A new science is made
"Chaos" by James Gleick is a book that tries to do two things: teach its readers some of the basic ideas and intuitions behind nonlinear dynamics (known colloquially as chaos... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Doktor Faustus
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