- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Books; Reprint edition (April 14, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786887214
- ISBN-13: 978-0786887217
- Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 131 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life Reprint Edition
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". . . If SYNC is, well, out of sync with global news, it's certainly in tune with the scientific world." -- Newsweek
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"Compulsively readable." -- Science
"Describes dozens of sights and sounds that arise from collective, synchronized behavior . . . Delightful." -- Discover
"Every now and then you come across a science book that's just fun and amazing to read." -- Leader-Post [Regina]
"Offers a real sense of what it's like to be at the beginning of Something Big." -- New Scientist
"Strogatz . . . is a first-rate storyteller and an even better teacher . . . SYNC is a great read." -- Nature
"The most exciting new book of the spring . . . Masterful . . . A gem." -- Popular Science
About the Author
Steven Strogatz received his doctorate from Harvard University and served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT before becoming a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell Universitty in 1994. Widely recognized for his groundbreaking discoveries in chaos and complexity theory, he has received numerous awards throughout his career, including MIT's highest teaching prize and a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the White House. He lives in Ithaca, New York, with his wife, Carol, and their two daughters, Leah and Joanna.
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That said, I enjoyed the book very much and highly recommend it. Some of the more interesting things in the book are the core discussion of how coupled oscillators tend to synchronize and, in general, how one gets the phenomena of synchronization. This is described for simple two body systems such as earth and moon (tidal locking), two nearby pendulums or two electric generators in parallel. The discussion of synchronization naturally leads to the topic of chaos and strange attractors. I found the discussion of the Lyapunov time and the degree of predictability particularly intuitive and enjoyable.
There is also a lot in the book about non-physical applications, especially those related to biological systems. I found the discussion of sleep cycles interesting as I had never realized that our natural REM sleep cycle is synchronized to an internal clock that does not necessarily have to follow the 24-hour light/dark rhythm of the day. There also is a nice discussion of the history of how this was discovered and the practical ramification that it is often difficult for people to fall asleep right before their usual bedtime and sometimes after staying up very late they sleep much less than might be expected. Finally, there is a good overview of some of the interesting connected effects in social networks including the famous paper on small world networks, showing how having a few random links within a network dramatically cuts down the shortest path for communication.
Overall I found this a very enjoyable book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who falls in that niche between pop science and textbooks.
I must say that all of us without a strong academic science background found the class difficult. The book was always fascinating but also complex and at times quite difficult to follow. The hardcore scientists in the class were often very frustrated with the book’s lack of supporting math and graphs. But I’m sure everyone in the class would agree that the book did provide a suitable framework for learning about this topic in a mixed group from different academic backgrounds. Personally, coming from a humanities background, I found it extremely useful that our class contained a number of Ph.D. scientists who were able to explain some of the more difficult concepts in a manner that enhanced my understanding.
I found the book enjoyable to read but definitely challenging. It opened my mind to a whole new world on nonlinear mathematics. I love to stretch my mind and this book and class did exactly that.
Each of us had to do a forty-five-minute PowerPoint presentation for the rest of the class on a topic related to the book. I choose the synchronization found within the pacemaker cells of the heart. I was thrilled by this independent study topic and learned a great deal that was useful to me in my personal life. I would never have taken the time to explore in detail the detailed functioning of the human heart had it not been for the challenge of reading this book and taking this class. I am very grateful I did both.