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Frontiers of Complexity: The Search for Order in a Chaotic World Paperback – August 27, 1996
The Amazon Book Review
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Accessible yet rigorous, this book goes far beyond most popularizations of "chaos" theory and presents the science of complexity, its historical origins, and current applications to cosmology, particle physics, ecology, evolution, and neurobiology. The emphasis on scientific computation and visualization as the microscope and lab bench of this new science is particularly welcome. Very Highly Recommended. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Coveney and Highfield, scientist and journalist, respectively, who collaborated on the acclaimed The Arrow of Time, have composed a marvelous and comprehensive work explaining recent insights into the genesis and analysis of complexity. "Within science, complexity is a watchword for a new way of thinking about the collective behavior of many basic but interacting units, be they atoms, molecules, neurons, or bits within a computer." The interactions can "lead to coherent collective phenomena"?profuse in the real world and ranging from human brain function to the setting of concrete? which the book considers in some depth. The authors emphasize interdependence of advances in computing, as well as in conceptualizing complexity, then describe a new generation of approaches for developing artificial intelligence and for viewing life itself. This articulate and exceptionally readable account elucidates a new field that transcends old boundaries between disciplines and that may have the most far-reaching impact of all contemporary basic research. Virtually any scientist or interested lay reader will find this book engrossing, edifying and inspiring. Illustrations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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While there are currently a number of very good non-technical introductions to complexity theory by such skilled authors as John Casti, Mitchell Feigenbaum and others, this particular volume may well be the best of an excellent lot. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a a non-rigorous, but non-trivial, introduction to the field.
Coveny and Highfield define complexity as a new way of thinking about the behavior of interacting units, be they atoms, ants in a colony, neurons firing in a human brain, or people in a society. Complexity reaches far beyond the concept of chaos and represents a profound shift away from the reductive principle that has guided science for centuries.
As Coveney and Highfield brilliantly illustrate, the rise of the electronic computer provided both the key and the catalyst to our exploration of complexity. With the promise of a new generation of computers that runs on light, manipulates fuzzy logic and exploits the bizarre properties of quantum mechanics, the authors reveal how we are set to witness a huge expansion in the efforts to unravel the mysteries of complexity.
Frontiers of Complexity takes us inside the laboratory where scientists are evolving the genetic molecules that enables life to emerge on Earth, and reveals universes in cyberspace where organisms compete for resources as they reproduce, mutate and evolve. We witness the utterly realistic behaviour of a school of virtual fish, and encounter scientist who have accurately modelled the one million neurons that make up the brain of a bee.
Compelling in its clarity, vast in its scope and vibrant with the excitement of new discovery, Frontiers of Complexity is an arresting account of how far science has come in the past fifty years, and an essential guide to the science of the future.
--- from book's Prologue
The authors examined the concept of complexity in such scientific disciplines as mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics.
The authors traced and illustrated the evolution (from reductionism) of complexity in the works of such scientists as:
Charles Babbage - English mathematician, a celebrated icon in the prehistory of computing. Invented Difference Engine No. 1. The Charles Babbage Institute is an historical archive and research center of the University of Minnesota.
George Boole - Better known for the algebras named after him, and as one of the pioneers of modern logic.
Kurt Godel - First to demonstrate that certain mathematical statements can neither be proved or disproved.
Richard Feynmann - Nobel laureate, introduced "universal quantum simulator".
Stuart Kauffman - Author of At Home in the Universe: The search for the Las of Self-Organization and Complexity.
The authors also emphasized the beginnings and advances in computing through the pioneering works of:
John von Neumann - Invented a self-reproducing automation to show how machine could perform the most basic function of life - reproduction. He is known as the "father of artificial life."
Allan Turing - His work on computers and their relationship with brains made him the "Father of Artificial Intelligence."
John Hopfield - Showed that there is a mathematical mapping of the Sherrington-Kirkpatrick spin-glass model onto a simple type of fully connected neural network model called Hopfield network.
What I got from this book:
Nothing interests me more than artificial intelligence in my brief exposure to the science of complexity. This book dealt with neural networks so much, I just loved it. On the other hand, its too little - just enough to keep me craving for more!
The foreword by Baruch Blumberg, Nobel laureate, left me with a robust and distinct message that I would like to share with you, and I quote: "Each time an experiment is performed to test a hypothesis, more questions are revealed; there is no limit to the mysteries of nature and to our desire to understand them. The study of complexity offers an opportunity to stand back and consider the global interactions of fundamental units - atoms, elementary particles, genes - to create a synthesis that crosses the borders of scientific disciplines, to see a grand vision of nature.