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Frontiers of Complexity: The Search for Order in a Chaotic World Paperback – August 27, 1996

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (August 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449910814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449910818
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,446,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Accessible yet rigorous, this book goes far beyond most popularizations of "chaos" theory and presents the science of complexity, its historical origins, and current applications to cosmology, particle physics, ecology, evolution, and neurobiology. The emphasis on scientific computation and visualization as the microscope and lab bench of this new science is particularly welcome. Very Highly Recommended. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Coveney and Highfield, scientist and journalist, respectively, who collaborated on the acclaimed The Arrow of Time, have composed a marvelous and comprehensive work explaining recent insights into the genesis and analysis of complexity. "Within science, complexity is a watchword for a new way of thinking about the collective behavior of many basic but interacting units, be they atoms, molecules, neurons, or bits within a computer." The interactions can "lead to coherent collective phenomena"?profuse in the real world and ranging from human brain function to the setting of concrete? which the book considers in some depth. The authors emphasize interdependence of advances in computing, as well as in conceptualizing complexity, then describe a new generation of approaches for developing artificial intelligence and for viewing life itself. This articulate and exceptionally readable account elucidates a new field that transcends old boundaries between disciplines and that may have the most far-reaching impact of all contemporary basic research. Virtually any scientist or interested lay reader will find this book engrossing, edifying and inspiring. Illustrations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Wells on January 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book starts off well enough, with a fascinating chapter on the limits of mathematics, focusing on Godel's refutation of formalism (the idea that the whole of mathematics can be derived from a set of logical statements), followed by a brief history of computers and the computation. But once the authors begin their explanation of complexity, they come off as smug and overzealous about their field. They seem to take every opportunity to belittle other fields of science, and try to convince us that complexity will provide the ultimate explanaion of every facet of the universe, from biology to physics to chemistry to social sciences.
This may sound like an exaggeration, but it really isn't: at the beginning of their chapter on complexity in chemical reactions, they dismiss the idea that chemistry (and by extension, biochemistry) can be explanied by quantum physics because the calculations it requires are too complicated. I understand that it is difficult to use quantum physics, and that its effects are only significant on the atomic level, but that does not mean that quantum effects do not exist! The chapter on chemistry marks the end of any reasonable explanation of complexity, and by end of the book complexity is almost completely forgotten, as the writing gushes on about neural networks and aritficial life.
It is these later chapters on life and aritificial life that are the most poorly written. The authors commonly say things like "It is becoming clear that obstacles to creating aritfical consciousness may not be as formidable as we had thought", yet provide little proof of this.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 16, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Complexity is a new field that touches on almost every one of the sciences, and delivering a solid overview without being superficial is an exceedingingly difficult task; authors Coveny and Highfield have created a book that manages just that. They cover the physical, computational, biological and cognitive sciences, in each case with enough detail to really convey the essence of the field while still remaining very readable to the non-specialist reader. (There's a very detailed- and entertaining- annotated bibliography for those looking for more detail.)
While there are currently a number of very good non-technical introductions to complexity theory by such skilled authors as John Casti, Mitchell Feigenbaum and others, this particular volume may well be the best of an excellent lot. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a a non-rigorous, but non-trivial, introduction to the field.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Winterlights on April 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book will give you some genuine insight into the emerging (no pun intended) field of Complexity. It presents historical and current research in a way that allows both the researcher and informed layman to get a good grasp on the concepts presented. Both provocative and educational its only flaw is a perhaps too doctrinaire belief that Complexity is the "next step" in science instead of another branch. If you want a good in-depth view of the current state of Chaos and Complexity theories without having to learn all the math this book will give you what you need. It belongs on the shelf next ot Roger Penrose' "The Emperors New Mind" and Gleick's, "Chaos".
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