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Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity Hardcover – April 5, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006256X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062560
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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

Customer Reviews

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See all 22 customer reviews
A second or third reading of this wonderful book is truly worthwhile.
James C. Reynolds
John Gribbin’s book Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity is a very interesting and rewarding read.
Gribbon is a good writer, and I'm looking forward to reading more work by him in the future.
J. Frakes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on January 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover

This book, by astrophysicist John Gribbin, gives us insight into the concepts of "chaos" and "complexity." Chaos occurs when a small change in the starting conditions of a process produces a big change in the outcome of that process. A complex system is one that is chaotic, and in which the way the system develops feeds back on itself to change the way it is developing.

Is there an order or a simplicity that underlies chaos and complexity? According to Gribbin, there is. He states, "the great insight is that chaos and complexity follow simple laws-essentially the same simple laws discovered by Isaac Newton more than three hundred years ago." Gribbin goes on to make this startling statement:

"Chaos begets complexity, and complexity begets life."

So what is the theme of this book? Answer: "It is the simplicity that underpins complexity, and thereby makes life possible, that is the theme of this book."

The first three chapters tell us about Chaos. They are titled as follows:

(1) Order (or simplicity) out of chaos
(2) The return of chaos
(3) Chaos out of order

The next chapter introduces another important concept. It's titled:

(4) From chaos to complexity

The next two chapters introduce and discuss the most complex system of all. They're entitled:

(5) Earthquakes, (mass) extinctions, and emergence (of life)
(6) The facts of life

The final chapter looks into the biggest question facing science today: "Is there life beyond Earth, elsewhere in our Solar System, or out in the Universe at large?
Read more ›
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By John Fabian on May 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This work takes giant steps with the history of science and cosmology. From the Big Bang to Life, from Copernicus to Lovelock, Professor Gribbin advances the theory of complex order from simple rules.

A reader familiar with complexity theory may feel they have heard all this before. Professor Gribbin however takes a very mathematical approach to the subject and delivers am interesting and readable account of his subject.

I recommend this work to serious lay readers (casual science readers may find the math daunting, although just appreciating the author's enthusiasm will be infectious) and to a general academic audience. The scope is vast but engagingly presented and readable.

Throughout the work Professor Gribbin goes on tangents and then announces that it is out of the scope of the present work. I challenge the good professor to write a new work on just those tangents. I for one will be happy to read it.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mark on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading Deep Simplicity and felt the urge to tell anyone who would listen how I felt about the book. Read the other reviewers to find out what the book is about.

There have been very few occasions and very few books that moved me in the way that Deep Simplicity did, for it is a work of art and without doubt a genuinely beautiful piece of literature. What's more, I feel that the beauty inherent in the book is self-similar on many scales, from the lucidly illustrative metaphors, to paragraphs that grab you as they weave delicately expounded threads together, to the overall structure and flow of the book itself. I felt privileged to have read the book.

After I finished I was left with a tremendous sense of appreciation for and recognition with our planet, its biosphere, life, and the Universe at large; even for my fellow man - although our depredations are made strikingly apparent. My final and lasting feeling is one of profound enlightenment; something felt when previously reading Gribbin, but not to this extent.

Thank You John Gribbin, for writing this book; $24.95 in one currency, priceless in another.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Regnal on October 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a very informative, unique work by Gribbin about fascinating topics of physics, biology, life and Universe. What is more important it presents brand new experiments and many (maybe too many) mathematical models of network interconnections between simple parts and models of self-organized criticalities in the phase transition on the edge of chaos. This sounds like difficult text, and indeed, especially the third chapter (bifurcations and fractals) is not an easy read. Persistent and math inclined learner should try to grasp the sense of Power Law ("1/f noise"). Then after, satisfaction and pleasure of reading will grow, everything will become clear towards the end of the book. As a long time ago trained chemist, I was surprised discovering Lars Onsager's description of the FOURTH law of thermodynamics and that Alan Turing was not only an "iconic computer man" but worked on oscillating chemical reactions called "chemical clocks". These reactions (quote): "seemed to fly in the face of the second law of thermodynamics"! I was quite enlightened how phase transition can be explained as phenomena taking place on the edge of chaos. Last chapter is mostly devoted to James Lovelock and "Gaia Theory" presenting Earth as a self-organizing, entropy reducing system (check his last book "Revenge of Gaia"). Maverick physicist Lee Smolin has formulated the similar hypothesis about Milky Way. The field of chaos and complexity states that simple rules must underline many apparently noisy, complicated aspects of nature - and this is what John Gribbin writes about. Whether chaoplexologists will find any profound new scientific laws only time can tell. For now enjoy and reduce your entropy by absorbing information emanating from this book.
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