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Chaos: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Leonard Smith , Lenny Smith
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Chaos exists in systems all around us. Even the simplest system of cause and effect can be subject to chaos, denying us accurate predictions of its behaviour, and sometimes giving rise to astonishing structures of large-scale order. Our growing understanding of Chaos Theory is having fascinating applications in the real world - from technology to global warming, politics, human behaviour, and even gambling on the stock market.

Leonard Smith shows that we all have an intuitive understanding of chaotic systems. He uses accessible maths and physics (replacing complex equations with simple examples like pendulums, railway lines, and tossing coins) to explain the theory, and points to numerous examples in philosophy and literature (Edgar Allen Poe, Chang-Tzu, Arthur Conan Doyle) that illuminate the problems. The beauty of fractal patterns and their relation to chaos, as well as the history of chaos, and its uses in the
real world and implications for the philosophy of science are all discussed in this Very Short Introduction.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Editorial Reviews


"Leonard Smith's Chaos (part of the Oxford Very Short Introduction series) will give you the clearest (but not too painful idea) of the maths involved... There's a lot packed into this little book, and for such a technical exploration it's surprisingly readable and enjoyable."--


"Leonard Smith's Chaos (part of the Oxford Very Short Introduction series) will give you the clearest (but not too painful idea) of the maths involved... There's a lot packed into this little book, and for such a technical exploration it's surprisingly readable and enjoyable."--

Product Details

  • File Size: 1521 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (February 22, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SEGC1Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,628 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsuitable as an introduction to chaos February 4, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book starts out promising but, as one goes along, it drifts farther and farther from what an introduction to chaos should be.

In particular, the book turns out to be largely a discussion of modeling and forecasting, with some emphasis on the relevant implications of chaos. Moreover, most of the examples and applications relate to weather and climate, which becomes boring after a while (especially considering the abundance of other options). Smith's bio reveals that this is exactly his specialty, so the book appears to be heavily shaped by his background and interests, rather than what's best for a general audience. As a result, many standard and important topics in chaos theory recieve little or no mention, and I think the book fails as a proper introduction to chaos.

A further problem is that much of Smith's discussion is muddled, especially in the later chapters. It's as though he wants to probe deeply, but can't take time to really spell things out, so he winds up being unclear. This lack of clarity is exacerbated by his bending over backwards to avoid writing out even the simplest equations, which is cumbersome and annoying, not to mention out of place given Smith's efforts to present some fairly sophisticated material.

Considering all of this, I can recommend the book only to people who are particularly interested in modeling, forecasting, and the relevant implications of chaos, especially as this relates to weather and climate. In this context, Smith's discussion of the differences between mathematical, physical, statistical, and philosophical perspectives is particularly insightful and useful.

However, I can't recommend the book for a general audience, and I would definitely recommend against it as a first book on chaos. It's simply too incomplete and unbalanced for that purpose.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and Humbling October 18, 2007
I really struggled in trying to rate this book, as I really want to be fair and equitable in all my reviews. Perhaps it is a very good book and I have "short-changed" it, but I cannot really say because, after reading it, I feel just about as confused and bewildered regarding mathematical chaos as I did before I launched into it. Well, I do not suppose that reading it "hurt" me! But, in my humble opinion, this condensed, compressed "cutting edge" stuff is not for "beginners"!

It seems like I would have a "fighting chance" to readily comprehend the content of this little book, given that I am what many people would call a "well-read" and intelligent person (and I even have a graduate degree with a "minor" in multivariate statistics from a respected university). But no way! I was confused early on in trying to decipher this book on my own. I really needed a patient teacher to hold my hand. Maybe I am basically dense, stupid, below average in IQ, and/or just getting old -- who knows? But, while I endeavored to read this "very short introduction", I found myself thinking that, at least for the average person, it may be possible, but not probable, that they will grasp much of the content beyond perhaps a few vague intuitive notions. Otherwise, I learned a few new impressive words, what a "vole" is, a little about "Olbers' paradox", and that Edgar Allan Poe was seriously interested in cosmology (for example, see his essay entitled, "Eureka").
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but maybe a little to basic May 15, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I understand this series is focused on providing an introduction to virtually anyone, but honestly, I doubt many people are reading a book about chaos who aren't at least a little well versed in math. If you already have a basic familiarity with chaos, this is not the novel for you - if you are completely new to the idea and/or a first year college student then go for it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review of chaos April 13, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoy this short introduction series. I have read several books from this series and have found that it is a good way to learn about topics I have always wanted to learn about but never found the time to study in depth. Nevertheless, I was a little disappointed with this book.

I have heard about chaos theory for years and 'the butterfly effect,' that chaos theory invokes has almost become cliché. Yet, I didn't understand what chaos theory was. That is why I picked up this book. Now, after reading it, if I understand rightly, it seems like chaos is an apparent lack of order within a system and chaos theory is an attempt to measure and model uncertainty within particular systems. Even though there is apparent disorder there is an underlying order in which small events can lead to complex results, thus the famous 'butterfly effect.' of chaos theory. The theory actually arose from attempts to understand and model weather patterns, and to predict future weather. It was out of the need to understand uncertainty in weather that the science grew.

That was about as far as I got in my understanding of the ideas contained within. The author claimed readers didn't need to be mathematicians to understand what he was saying about chaos. Sure, he never threw any formulas at me. Yet, much of the concepts and jargon was derived from math. I feel to really appreciate what he was saying about chaos theory one needs a solid background in math. I found some of the jargon and math ideas intimidating and didn't feel like I was comprehending all of the concepts that the author was trying to communicate.

Again, could have the author communicated the concepts better, or does the reader need the background to understand what the author was saying?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent, prompt service
Published 3 months ago by papyrus
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction for the informed reader
An excellent introduction for the informed reader. It is not exhaustive, but is a good primer before digging deeper into the subject.
Published 8 months ago by Bruntleby
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Published 8 months ago by Jennifer A.
5.0 out of 5 stars As an intro, it was great!
I found this in an interesting, but difficult read. That is not to say it was not a very helpful introduction, but this is a very complex and potentially daunting subject. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mark Abrams
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, Well-written
Covers the topics that I was interested in reading about.
This book appears to be an original work by the author, although there may be
other similar titles.
Published 21 months ago by Lloyd Rice
4.0 out of 5 stars Chaos
This book was a required for a class, but I still found it really interesting. If you are into math or science I would recommend it.
Published 21 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars great topic, great read
this topic is too interesting, but it can be easily messed up by bad explanations
this book is an excellent introduction, using clear real world examples and relating them to... Read more
Published on May 20, 2013 by Xavier Matos
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but unnecessary
While readable and accurate, the book has two main flaws. First, there already exists an excellent book on chaos for the general (non-scientist) reader: Gleick's "Chaos: Making a... Read more
Published on November 28, 2012 by Raghuveer Parthasarathy
4.0 out of 5 stars Physics Introductions
I am a physicist with a PhD who likes reading almost anything on physics, astronomy, and mathematics. These "... Read more
Published on September 17, 2009 by B. Weber
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, simple book
I like the book. It is really easy to read and includes so so much information.
Published on January 11, 2009 by P. Fomenky
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