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The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex Paperback – September 15, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books (September 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716727250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716727255
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,352,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this sweeping synthesis, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gell-Mann ponders the universe's mix of simplicity and complexity, regularity and randomness, as he ranges from quarks (the fundamental subatomic particles which he discovered) to complex adaptive systems like bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics, mobile robots, jaguars, and people interacting with and learning from their environment. Along with often technical chapters on information theory, time, biological evolution and the workings of the subatomic zoo of particles, Gell-Mann devotes special attention to superstring theory, the first viable candidate in physicists' search for a grand unified theory encompassing all the elementary particles and forces. Stressing the urgent need to control population and to preserve biological and cultural diversity, he advocates a multidisciplinary research agenda geared toward a sustainable future for the human race and the biosphere. $50,000 ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and a pioneer in the science of complexity, here examines that important concept, focusing on complex adaptive systems. Such systems are capable of learning and are able to adapt or evolve successfully. The intricate processes used by a child to learn a language, for example, constitute a complex adaptive system, as do the processes used by bacteria to develop resistance to drugs. These systems provide a context or framework for a stimulating discussion of quantum mechanics and the unified theory. Gell-Mann also explores topics such as natural selection, species diversity, and the evolution of human culture in relation to complex adaptive systems. While the topics are technical in nature, Gell-Mann's presentation is clear and will be readily understood by scholars and informed lay readers. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
Donald G. Frank, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, Mass.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Things like quantum physics and the general theory of relativity.
Duwayne Anderson
In this he fails, for his main points (which he has a hard time presenting concisely) are -- quite frankly -- rather obvious.
Erik Schimek (daedalus@skypoint.com)
The problem is that this book has little focus and apparently does not know what it wants to be.
doomsdayer520

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Duwayne Anderson on June 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
How do you file a book like "The Quark and the Jaguar?" I could file it with books discussing quantum physics. That would certainly be appropriate. Then, again, I could file it with books on evolution. That would be equally appropriate. But then I might decide to file it in the section on public policy toward the environment, and environmental protection. Certainly, that is an appropriate place for this book. But wait. It also belongs in the section dealing with artificial intelligence and complex adaptive systems. So, where would you put it? I'm still not sure.
Murray Gell-Mann's "The Quark and the Jaguar" takes us on a whirlwind tour from the "simple" construct of quantum physics to the complex adaptive system in a coat of spots moving stealthily through the forest in search of game. Through all this, Gell-Mann ties the entire tapestry into the unifying concepts of complex adaptive systems leaving the reader in awe at the wonder and complexity that arises from the natural evolutionary processes governing the universe in which we live.
The book is organized in four parts. The first is a general-purpose section that discusses everything from information theory to the scientific method and the power of scientific theories. It's always a pleasure to read a description of science and the scientific method from a leading scientist such as Gell-Mann. The sections dealing with falsifiability, selection pressure on the scientific enterprise, unifying characteristics of scientific theories, and the power of theory give a clear and illuminating explanation of the essence of science.
The second part of the book deals with quantum physics.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Camara on April 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a little strange, and tries to cover a lot of ground without gaining miles. The question is if it is worth it to buy and read. I think it is, if only because of the excellent review of particle physics and the fact that Gell-Mann is one of the smartest men alive. But the book is much more ambitious, what in some cases is actually a good thing. Not in this one, however.
The main subject of the book is the study of "complex adaptive systems" carried out in the Santa-Fe Institute. Gell-Mann tries to review the topics studied there, but not because he glorifies the place, or think that it is unique, but because he knows the territory well (He helped found it). So the first section deals with the definitions of complexity, of adaptation, and of a system. There are good explanations of things like Algorithmic information content, and effective complexity, among other things. So far, Gell-Mann adds to the then-ever-popular issue of complexity. Not much can be said that is terribly wrong or innovative so far.
In the second section Gell-Mann goes into what he knows best, and it shows. The standard model of particle physics has very rareley been as well explained as in this book. Superstring, a little cosmology and the arrow of time are given space. But in the third section, things start to fall appart. Suddenly Gell-Mann gives inadequate discussions of evolution, useless talks of "memes" and the complex origins of theorizing, superstition and things like that. Economics is swiftly introduced, only to add to the confusion. The last section of the book, is was unecessary and downright strange. (som may object). It dealt with social issues and possible solutions. This part seemed to belong to another book, or writer, altogether.
So the book is not a lost case. It is interesting, reads well, and has some good ideas and explanations. But it is by no means what one would normaly expect coming from a Nobel prize winning physicist.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Oliver Harris on February 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Gell-mann is, quite simply, an expert in more fields than most people have a passing interest in. Added to this is a lucid, entertaining writing style, and the ability to knit together seemingly disparate concepts from the fields of physics, cosmology, genetics, information theory, evolution, behavioural psychology, sociology...you name it.
It seems a few people have been criticising Gell-mann for overextending himself, boasting about his own achievements or simply writing a dislocated, jumbled book. My advice to these people is to 'look for the patterns behind the apparent randomness', as Gell-mann might have put it (because they are there, all right), give him his due for his own (considerable) contributions to physics and admire his courage in even attempting to connect so many ideas, let alone succeeding as well as does.
I loved this book, and I think anyone interested in just about any aspect of science ought to like it too.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Hrvoje on November 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Saving money by buying this book? How can that be? The answer is very simple.
1) For instance, you want to buy a book about thought experiment involving Schrödinger cat, because you are interested how is it possible that cat can be simultaneously both, live and dead. Well, quantum mechanics doesn't imply that cat is live and dead at the same time, so there is no such a problem.
2) Say, you want to buy a book about parallel universes which suppose to emerge from strange quantum mechanical laws. Don't, because those parallel universes doesn't emerge from quantum mechanics (or from any other known physical law!)
3) Likewise, don't buy books which wants to 'explain' spooky affects of one photon on the other in the distance. That is not what happening after all.
4) Also, some books covers the subject about how biological evolution violate the second law of thermo-dynamics (because in biological evolution order tend to increase with the passage of time). Truth is that this is not truth.
All these, and many other questions Gell-Mann clearly explain in 'Quark and the Jaguar', so don't waste your time and money on those books.
You may ask your self: But, maybe Gell-Mann is wrong? Maybe he is, but it is extremely unlikely. He is the greatest living authority on quantum mechanics you can find around, so it is very wise to take seriously what he wants to tell us. Gell-Mann is, by all means, a far away from popular speculation and misunderstandings. His goal is not to take your money by writing what most people want to hear - a kind of misticism in science.
'Quark and the Jaguar' covers really wide range of subjects, which is not very surprising considering his brilliant mind. If you want to open up your mind this is the book for you. After reading it, you can start studying subjects you are especially interested for. 'Quark and the Jaguar' is must for any intelligent individual.
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