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Crashes, Crises, and Calamities: How We Can Use Science to Read the Early-Warning Signs Hardcover – March 29, 2011
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Scott M. Cooper, MIT Research Affiliate, co-author of Coolhunting
“With this third book in his trilogy of exploration into how to address some of society’s most complex and vexing problems, Len Fisher challenges us to rethink how science and mathematics is used in what might be called ‘crisis prediction and management.’ This book is getting me to rethink some of my own work.”
Simon A. Levin, Moffett Professor of Biology, Princeton University; author ofFragile Dominion
“Fisher is a master story-teller, making difficult scientific concepts seem simple through elegant exposition. Crashes, Crises, and Calamities addresses the challenge of disaster prediction in socio-economic, ecological, and physical systems by a brilliant and engaging integration of diverse scientific perspectives.”
Ian Stewart, author of Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities
“Len Fisher is a natural storyteller, and his tales about the mathematics of crashes, crises, and calamities keep the pages turning. A great way to find out what the world’s mathematicians are doing to forecast and prevent disasters of all kinds.”
Yaneer Bar-Yam, Professor and President, New England Complex Systems Institute
“Excellent discussion of the most important problem of our time.”
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Top customer reviews
Fisher's presentation is well done, with entertaining diversions into other methods of prediction, such as consulting oracles. The book is not for those who want a rigorous introduction to the mathematics, but the extensive notes should be helpful for those interested in the details. My main criticism is that business forcast economists, who would seem (next to weather forcasters) our closest modern parallel to soothsayers, were oddly absent from the discussion. Are they so bad they have nothing to contribute ? Are their techniques that different? I also wondered about his discussion of how managers in large organizations should be sensitive to weak signals of impending disaster. As I work for a large bureaucracy myself, I find it highly unlikely that high-ranking managers will take the risk of advocating policies based upon ambiguous information.
Overall, the writing style is friendly, often light-hearted and generally clear (although I did have to re-read a few passages for them to sink in). Occasionally, unfamiliar jargon would creep and slow me down, but most of the time, the terms used are well defined. The book contains forty seven pages of endnotes. Most of these simply contain references. However, several also contain further information on a particular topic or some interesting side stories. So, in order not to miss anything, I found myself continuously flipping back and forth as I read through the main text. For me, this was a bit annoying.
This book, or at least parts of it, could be of benefit to anyone; but I suspect that those with a particular passion for the methodologies used in disaster prediction would likely enjoy the book the most.
For his next book, I suggest he leave Physics to the Physicists and write about the lives of the deportees to Australia. Then I could listen to the beautiful Australian Soprano, Mirusia Louwerse, singing her song "Botany Bay", if the book should turn out to be similarly boring.