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Chaos: Making a New Science Paperback – October 7, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Minerva; New Ed edition (October 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749386061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749386061
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,169,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fascinating... Almost every paragraph contains a jolt" New York Times "Highly entertaining...a startling look at newly discovered universal laws" Chicago Tribune

About the Author

James Gleick was an editor and reporter at the NEW YORK TIMES for ten years. He is the author of GENIUS, CHAOS, which was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, FASTER, and WHAT JUST HAPPENED. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

It presented a very good history of chaos theory and its development from quirky art into a legitimate branch of science.
Johnny
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.
Andy in Washington
On the other hand there were other parts that went very fast, but whatever effort you put into reading this book is well worth it.
LastRanger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mr P R Morgan on 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Andy in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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 By J. H. S. Roodt on May 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
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 By Hassan K Najjar on 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 By Francesca on 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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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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