Customer Review

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening moment by moment, December 16, 2003
This review is from: Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order (Hardcover)
Sync is like a report from the trenches. And you like this report because it's clear, fun, and brings good news. There's this undercurrent of activity in the burgeoning realm of complex systems that's more and more bubbling to the surface, and Sync is a big bubble.
There's been a quiet stream of books bringing this realm to our attention, showing novel methods, interesting results, and surprising ways our lives may be changed and affected by it, such as Waldrop's 1992 Complexity, Levy's 1994 Artificial Life, Gleick's 1998 Chaos, Barabasi's 2002 Linked, and now Steven Strogatz's Sync.
These are like threads pervading human culture of the kind that result in a quiet but huge revolution. These threads affect our outlook and, like a good journey, expand the mind to reveal so many new possibilities. Steven Strogatz identifies one thread in Sync, which seems to be moving in decade long spurts: 1960s Cybernetics, 1970s Catastrophe theory, 1980s Chaos theory, 1990s Complexity, and 2000s Synchrony.
I would add that other threads include: the partial elucidation of how the mind works (Pinker, Dennett); the increased understanding of Darwinian evolution, and its manifestation not just in biology but in, for instance, the economy, culture (memes), and business (Dawkins, Maynard Smith); the deeper entanglement in quantum theory (Greene); and our ever increasing perception of the cosmos (Rees, Barrow).
These threads are merely the warp of a fabric. The weft, which traditionally consisted of mathematics (as a tool to explore and describe our world), now also includes algorithms, whose power as an exploratory tool has been enabled by the computer revolution of the past few decades.
Adding lustre to the fabric, Strogatz colourfully tells us the amazing story of synchrony, along with his own unfolding career, all interleaved with related inside glimpses of other scientists and their fascinating contributions. His descriptions are so clear and engaging that you end up learning many details, like how lasers work, how superconductivity functions, and what makes bugs tick. Strogatz himself comes across like the nerdy neighbour that you one day discover is not only really cool, but he's built a time machine that actually works, and you can have a go. And like a good journey, you look back with delight, and can't wait for the next one.
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