From Publishers Weekly
"Chaos begets complexity, and complexity begets life"—the most complex thing there is, writes Cambridge University astrophysicist Gribbin in opening this examination of how chaos theory has shifted scientific thinking. Gribbin, a veteran popular science writer (The Scientists
, etc.), points out that chaos theory is based on two simple principles: small changes in the starting conditions of a process can cause big changes in the outcome, and the behavior of the system feeds back into itself to change the development of the system. The way our genes produce proteins and in turn the cells in our bodies may appear so complex as to be "on the edge of chaos," but in fact, as Gribbin points out, a "deep simplicity" underlies all of nature. He details how the second law of thermodynamics, about the concept of entropy, and systems in equilibrium play vital roles in determining the order underlying apparent chaos. Gribbin argues for complexity as the agglomeration of a (relative) handful of natural processes. Yet despite his insistence that chaos and complexity are actually quite simple, Gribbin's sophisticated presentation may prove daunting to casual science buffs. But advanced science readers will find it worthwhile to understand how "we are the natural expression of a deeper order." B&w illus.
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From Scientific American
"The surprise that we un-fold in this book is that chaos begets complexity, and complexity begets life," Gribbin writes. "The great insight is that chaos and complexity obey simple laws." Chaos in everyday life is random and unpredictable. "But the kind of chaos we are discussing here is completely orderly and deterministic, with one step following from another in an unbroken chain of cause and effect which is completely predictable at every stage--in principle."
Yet sometimes, in chaos theory, the complex outcome is not predictable. Gribbin, a science writer trained in astrophysics and currently a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex in England, smoothly traces the steps from chaos to complexity in such things as weather, earthquakes, the properties of the solar system, and the rise of the most complex system now known--life on Earth. And then he explores "the biggest question," which is whether there is "life beyond Earth."
Editors of Scientific American