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Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life First Edition Edition

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674023383
ISBN-10: 0674023382
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Editorial Reviews

Review

I read this book with huge enjoyment. It is wonderfully well presented, and offers a wide range of new insights into interesting and important and emerging topics in mathematical biology. The book will have a wide and enthusiastic readership. (Robert M. May, Professor of Zoology, Oxford University)

This is a brilliant book by the master of his field. Simple, clear and profound on topics of major importance: cooperation, cancer, language, and HIV itself. You can only benefit by learning what Martin Nowak knows. (Robert Trivers, Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, and co-author of Genes in Conflict)

Martin Nowak has injected rigor and new ideas into the study of the evolution of language and cooperation. This book is brimming with insights and surprising findings and should be of interest to anyone who is curious about these topics. (Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Language Instinct, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language, and How the Mind Works)

Martin Nowak is undeniably a great artist, working in the medium of mathematical biology… Nowak has seemingly effortlessly produced a stream of remarkable theoretical explorations into areas as diverse as the evolution of language, cooperation, cancer and the progression from HIV infection to AIDS. Evolutionary Dynamics, based on a course he gives at Harvard, is a comprehensive summary of this work… This is a unique book. It should be on the shelf of anyone who has, or thinks they might have, an interest in theoretical biology. (Sean Nee Nature 2006-11-01)

The lucid presentation, drawing frequently on the author's own research, provides a uniquely compelling introduction to mathematical biology. Nowak aims to demonstrate the power of simple mathematics to illuminate diverse aspects of evolutionary analysis… Evolutionary Dynamics provides a new generation with an opportunity to draw from the masters. (Steven A. Frank Science 2006-12-22)

The book will be a valuable resource both for those familiar with evolutionary dynamics and for those who are interested in learning the subject. (Ross Cressman Mathematical Reviews 2007-01-01)

Two of the crucial processes that drive evolution, mutation and selection, can be described with mathematical equations. This book introduces the reader to the basic mathematical laws that govern the evolution of life… This is a fascinating treatment of evolutionary theory, with many fresh insights. (S.E. Southeastern Naturalist 2007-12-01)

About the Author

Martin A. Nowak is Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and Professor of Mathematics and Biology at Harvard University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition edition (September 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674023382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674023383
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Karl Sigmund on October 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a remarkable book, absolutely original, containing a lot of material which has never before appeared in book form. It is written in a very accessible style, and leads almost effortlessly from first principles to state-of-the-art research.

The book takes an eagle's view on evolution, covering an vast range of topics from molecules to man. It emphasises analytical methods and presents a large canvas of superbly elegant mathematical models.

The author has chosen a very personal, highly idiosyncratic sample of subjects of amazing diversity, basically because he feels excited about them: and this excitement shows through, and makes the book very engaging, a positively bracing experience. On all of the topics, the author has contributed substantially, and the feel to get it `straight from the horse's mouth' is one of the great assets of the book. I believe that it will be a splendid hit with students, and regret that I did not have anything like that when I was young.

The style of the book is lucid and vigorous, with short, clear sentences, occasionally in staccato style. The mathematics is reduced to the bare minimum. It is incredible how much mileage the author can get out of it. The illustrations play an important role, and are well devised.

The chapters are short, and they address an amazing array of topics, ranging from molecular evolution to evolutionary games, from HIV to cancer, and from cooperation to language.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By N. Beale on November 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is, quite simply, a dazzling book. Nowak manages to take very deep mathematical ideas that are on the cutting edge of science and make them fun and pretty rigorous at the same time. The review in Nature said "It should be on the shelf of anyone who has, or thinks they might have, an interest in theoretical biology" and I completely agree. The section on HIV, explaining mathematically why there is a long delay between infection and the disease, and how this proposal in 1990 correctly predicted several biolgical facts which were subseqently discovered (but not mentioning execpt in the notes, that this was his work) is truly exceptional. We are moving beyond the "Just So stories" phase of evolution (such as wooly rhetoric about "Selfish Genes") to real, mathematically rigorous, science.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By G. Serjak on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Excellent book for the mathematically and evolutionarily minded. However, not for general reading unless you are doing graduate work in either mathematics or evolutionary biology. Just excellent survey.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steven Forth on June 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are so many good things to say about this book I think I will begin with my misgivings!

Not a fault of the book, but before reading this you may want to brush up on your math, especially on systems of differential equations and matrix algebra. Martin Nowak is a fluent and elegant writer and this extends to his math, which (for me anyway) flows wonderfully. But I don't spend enough time on math so I had to slow myself down as I read, think carefully and test my understanding.

There is very little 'biology' in this book. It is mostly on the theoretical structures that underlie evolution. I prefer my evolution with rather more biology. I hope someone will write another book (preferably many books) that goes deeper into applying these ideas to living systems (yes, the chapter on HIV was compelling and the chapter on cancer interesting).

I was disappointed by the Further Reading section. It did not provide enough context about the books mentioned or thread them together into a story. In fact, it seemed a bit rushed - and I had set aside some time to read it carefully.

On to the books strengths.

This is one of the best examples of expository prose I have read in a long time. Martin Nowak can make complex ideas clear and not waste a lot of words doing so. Anyone writing about complex topics where it is important to link the math and ideas could benefit from studying this book. As an example, the description of the Chomsky hierarchies of formal languages is the best I have read.

The presentation of the key equations is exemplary. The components of the equation are all labeled and explained. All books that need to explain equations should take this approach.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By PST on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author picks a variety of sunjects related to evolution (HIV, cancer, language....), and mathematically shows, why it has to be that way!
The mathematics involved is simple (I am an engineer, and I had absolutely no problems understanding the math), yet rigorous enough.

In my opinion, mathematics is not necessary to understand the principles of Darwin's Great Theory (unlike Quantum Theory and Relativity Theory, where without math, you are lost), it greatly helps to make it unassailable.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in the Theory of Evolution, who is not totally afraid of mathematics.
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