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5.0 out of 5 stars Add some DEPTH to your "Recreational Mathematics", July 4, 2001
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This review is from: Chaos and Fractals: New Frontiers of Science (Hardcover)
I spent quite a bit of time looking for a good "fractals" book. For me, this is it. It is not a book for everyone, though. I'll try to offer guidelines to help you decide if it is for you. In summary: (a) its not just a picture book, but extremely visual, (b) its not math-intense but asks for math-comfort and offers options and (c) its not only for computer jockeys, but offers repeated links to that approach.

This book is doubtless great for a high-school or college course in fractals. But I think it is also a worthy buy, albeit a pricey one, for a certain type of layperson with a fascination for mathematics presented in some depth. If you enjoy math but find some of the "popularizations" a bit too shallow, then the realm of fractals and chaos is a great place to explore in depth. This is a fine guidebook for that exploration.

"Chaos and Fractals" is not a book for the reader who is primarily fascinated with the visual representations of fractals. BUT it i!s chock-full of b/w illustrations (686 by the authors count) and nicely sprinkled with gorgeous color plates. The visual element is not central, but is very strongly represented and I found that almost every important concept was enhanced by the addition of a diagram or illustration.

This is definitely a book that delves into the mathematics of fractals. It does so in a well-crafted dual-track form. The core of the book should be comfortable and enjoyable mathematical reading for anyone with a sound and fairly current familiarity with high school math (Not that such "currency" suggests its only for youngsters! This old-timer preserves essentially that level of math by regular exposure to recreational math and the like). On the second track, the book provides mathematically in-depth views of selected topics. This is really nice if you like to stretch your mathematical horizons since you can use the core to steady your foundation understanding of a topic and then dive int!o the advanced mathematical topics at will; mustering strategic retreat when necessary, without loss of face, but sometimes learning how more advanced mathematics can be used.

Finally, the book makes an effort to scaffold some computer exploration of fractal concepts that succeeded for me but might not for you. For every chapter the authors provide a "Program of the Chapter" which allows exploration of one or more of the fractal forms and concepts explored therein. These are usually quite short and are written in Microsoft BASIC. This latter might be a problem for some. Nowadays, users with more advanced operating systems might not know where to find their version of BASIC (and it might not even be supplied), much less how to fire it up.

I would not belabor the BASIC program element too much except that experimenting with such code is an excellent way for anyone to better understand an algorithmic process. A program is, after all, such a process - a sequence of !discrete steps. I'd urge you to search your Windows disk for something like an "oldmsdos" folder and dig out the Qbasic files found there and fire them up. Even if you've never written a program, this kind of applied-use is a fine way to learn!

For the right sort of reader, this is unquestionably a 5-star book.
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Daryl Anderson
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Location: Trumansburg, NY USA

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