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Games of Life: Explorations in Ecology, Evolution, and Behaviour Paperback – August 26, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0198547839 ISBN-10: 0198547838 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 26, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198547838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198547839
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,692,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'Karl Sigmund's Games of Life is a beautifully written and, considering its relative brevity, amazingly comprehensive survey of past and current thinking in "mathematical" evolution. Just as games (at least, the human variety) are supposed to be fun, so too is Games of Life - the witty section headings, the relaxed style and the clarity of the explanations make the book as enjoyable to read as a Marx Brothers film (to which there is a reference in the book) is to watch.' Times Higher Education Supplement 'I would place Sigmund's book somehwere between good and excellent ... The informal style of the book is brilliant ... the book is a success.' A. Kondrashov, Cornell University, TREE, vol. 9, no. 3, 1994 'an excellent introduction to what theoretical bioliogists get up to in trying to understand evolutionary and ecological ideas' Andrew Pomiankowski, University College, London, Nature, Vol. 370, 1994

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Customer Reviews

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For one thing, it's funny.
John S. Ryan
In "Games of Life" Karl Sigmund has written a game-theoretical approach to life and evolution that manages to be informative, thought provoking and witty as well.
Michael J. Edelman
A friend rated this as one of the 10 best books he'd ever read, and I'd agree.
Wayne B. Norris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on December 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm sorry to see that this book is out of print at the time of this writing. I hope it gets republished.
For one thing, it's funny. Karl Sigmund is a mathematician, and he has a mathematician's sense of humor. (I mean that as a _good_ thing.)
For another, it's very informative. The topics of the chapters are widely scattered -- John Horton Conway's game of Life; predator-prey systems; the Prisoner's Dilemma and the evolution of cooperation -- but what they have in common is their relevance to evolutionary biology, ecology, and psychology. And I don't personally know of any other single volume that introduces _all_ of them to the lay reader -- let alone that does so as well and charmingly as Sigmund's book.
I originally set out to review it because I had just written a review of William Provine's _The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics_. These two books work pretty well together: Provine gives a "diachronic" account of the historical development of the field (or at least one of its major subfields), and Sigmund gives a "synchronic" account of its present state (or nearly so; the book was written in 1993). Between the two of them, they ought to give the interested reader a pretty healthy sense of what's so intellectually captivating about this field.
Well, if that sounds good to you, pick up a used copy of Sigmund's book. Or maybe, by the time you read this, it will be back in print.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Scipio on August 12, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you found this book, you are probably either very persistant or very lucky - when I put in the title it doesn't even come up in the first several pages on Amazon's own search engine. In any case, you have come across a real gem.

This book is an amazing combination of mathematics, science, reason and wit. It is a great way for those of us who are not particularly well-versed in biology or math to learn a considerable amount of important knowledge in a short time. Sigmund manages the impossible in this very well-written book: to explain his rather complex subject thoroughly, but concisely, without becoming tedious or condescending.

I found it humbling that someone could be such a good natural writer (I believe English is not even his native tongue) and to have such mastery of a technical subject. While this is not a casual read, it is consistently intriguing and thought-provoking and is well worth the effort.

I also find it rather amazing that this book is not a best-seller (at least as far as any book dealing with mathematics and biology can be). It's hard to believe there is anything else out there that attempts to bring scientific knowlege to the uninformed with such profound success.

I would say that the best thing about this book to me was that it showed the inherent logic of life. In this regard, the chapter on the "prisoner's dilemma" was particularly enlightening as to the underlying cause of much of human behavior.

In sum, a brilliant, well-written book that might challenge you, but won't make you reach for your calculator.

As a p.s. years after my original review - while this is out-of-print, it is evidently still in demand. I was hoping to buy a used hardcover edition for my library and can't find any available. The cost of buying even secondhand paperback copies is astronomical. Perhaps another edition is in order???
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Esteban A.Fernandez (estadolfer@arnet.com.ar) on May 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
You'll learn a lot with this one! How can an Austrian Mathematician be so funny?A clear guide to the state of the art in biology.Sigmund makes connections with computer programming,human behaviour,sex, altruism.No unnecessary tedious explanations,complex only when it must be. In short a great book and a great teacher. Do not miss this one!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In "Games of Life" Karl Sigmund has written a game-theoretical approach to life and evolution that manages to be informative, thought provoking and witty as well. He has managed to pull together a number of areas into one cohesive thread; contemprary topics such as complexity in population dynamics, game theory as applied to natural selection and self-reproducing automata are discussed in a suprisingly clear and intuitive manner. In one particularly impressive chapter, he begins with John Conway's "Life," a cellular automata familiar to all computer programmers and hobbyists, and shows how even a computational machine this simple (Life has only three rules) can be used to create a self-replicating automaton. He builds it piece by piece in a way that's intuitively obvious, yet brilliant in its simple elegance.

Readers interested in artifical life, the dynamics of population, self organized complexity will find this a stimulating and entertaining read.
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