Chaos: The Making of a New Science Paperback – Jan 26 1989
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Few writers distinguish themselves by their ability to write about complicated, even obscure topics clearly and engagingly. James Gleick, a former science writer for the New York Times, resides in this exclusive category. In Chaos, he takes on the job of depicting the first years of the study of chaos--the seemingly random patterns that characterize many natural phenomena.
This is not a purely technical book. Instead, it focuses as much on the scientists studying chaos as on the chaos itself. In the pages of Gleick's book, the reader meets dozens of extraordinary and eccentric people. For instance, Mitchell Feigenbaum, who constructed and regulated his life by a 26-hour clock and watched his waking hours come in and out of phase with those of his coworkers at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
As for chaos itself, Gleick does an outstanding job of explaining the thought processes and investigative techniques that researchers bring to bear on chaos problems. Rather than attempt to explain Julia sets, Lorenz attractors, and the Mandelbrot Set with gigantically complicated equations, Chaos relies on sketches, photographs, and Gleick's wonderful descriptive prose.
From Publishers Weekly
Gleick here adventurously attempts to describe the revolutionary science of "chaos," a challengingly abstract new look at nature in terms of nonlinear dynamics. "A ground-breaking book about what seems to be the future of physics," praised PW. Illustrated. 100,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book only touches on what Chaos actually is. I found myself wanting more - NOT because it was a good book, but because I knew it was poorly written book on a good subject.
I'm going to explain a few things first in this paragraph so you can understand the way the book is written. If my perception of the book is correct, the concept of Chaos itself, is that at first, an event appears as if it is purely random. But upon closer inspection, the underlying process is ordered, which makes the result only /seem/ random. Chaos is *not* the same thing as randomness; it is a special type of randomness. Change the parameters only slightly, and the order is revealed. "Order in chaos" is the appropriate phrase that is repeated throughout the book. The other phrase that comes to mind is "sensitive dependence on initial conditions", which simply means that the outcome of an event is extremely susceptible to the initial circumstances. You could say that our lives are like that. Another easy example of a chaotic system is the weather - it changes all the time, with no apparent direction. Who knows exactly where an individual cloud will be in the sky ten years from now? However, it is all caused by the interactions of the inherently simple processes like evaporation from the sea, gravitational forces from the moon, etc. It looks random, when in reality, it is only /extremely/ complex.
The book takes forever to convey these fundamental ideas, which I've essentially explained to you in one or two paragraphs.Read more ›
You can't always have the best of both worlds, though, and so at times, a more scientifically or mathematically reader will be frustrated with the lack of detail concerning some of the interesting concepts developed here. For example, Gleick mentions fractional dimensionality, but fails to really explain it well, probably assuming that it is beyond most of his readers. This is probably a safe bet for layman readers, but left me very frustrated in places. Also, Gleick's writing (praised as "novelistic") gets overly melodramatic in places, and the reader gets the distinct impression that he's trying too hard to make this book accessible.
But even despite these flaws, this is an excellent introduction to chaos theory, and worth reading for scientists and laymen alike. This book makes you want to learn more about chaos theory, and does a good job at making chaos accessible. It was written over fifteen years ago, though, so a more recent book on chaos would be a good supplement.
Personally when I first read this book an year ago, I was able to comprehend that non-linear dynamics and chaos present a new set of tools to describe systems in all realms of science. The study of chaos contains key to understanding our nature better. Complexity is beautiful in form and patterns in chaos both awe and fascinate! An year later I am still trying to understand the technical details and mathematicals of chaos and nonlinear dynamics, but I feel an excitement for which I must thank Gleick! And not surprisingly, I have now moved to research with an open mind about possibilities in domains of nonlinearty.
Like I Ching said, "Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos". Maybe as Gleick claims, Chaos will be rated just below relativity and quantum mechanics as the key discoveries of last century!! Read it: it is fun!
Gleick's logic is easy to follow and Appears complete. Though drawing from so many examples, I sometimes had the feeling that parts were repetitive. I did appreciate his thorough history of "Making a new science", it was written in a way such that I was able to keep the major players straight and made me appreciate their contributions. Sometimes the history of the idea is just as important and interesting as the idea itself, yet less written about.
The source notes are exhaustive and the index is complete. Make sure you read the prologue as Gleick prepares the reader for the material book and get his readers, at least me anyways!, excited to start dipping into his work. All in all I would say this book is a must-read and every working scientist and science student should have a basic background in chaos (aka nonlinear dynamics) in order to think more deeply and realistically about whatever subject they are studying, modelling or researching.
Most recent customer reviews
Read it. If you don't understand this topic, then you'll be mystified and confused by the world. Gleick explains it perfectly. Essential material.Published 3 months ago by J. Pooh
This book by James Gleick is an eye opener on the real world out there. It tries to tell us-in a sort of indirect way-that we need not worry about 'chaos', 'cause therein lies the... Read morePublished on Nov. 20 2012 by Paulo
The subject of the book is intriguing and fascinating. However, James Gleick seems torn here between writing a book about chaos and researching the lives of chaos scientists. Read morePublished on May 29 2012 by Anastasia Prozorova
This book is more of an history book than a science book by volume. It drags on and on over the history of the scientists, however when it gets to explain the chaos characteristics... Read morePublished on Jan. 20 2004 by Luigi
Chaos is a great book, however for an under-achiever (not passed calculus) person, it can and will be difficult in some chapters. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004 by kceezie
I'm on the heels of 72 other reviewers so there's not much sense saying more. I found the book understandable and enjoyable. A rare combination where physics is concerned.Published on Sept. 15 2003 by Jack Purcell
This book is an excellent book. It clearly explains the concepts and the history of chaos theory. This book shows the reader some very interesting and deep insights into the way... Read morePublished on July 14 2003
This is good coda and accompaniement to Gleick's recent book on Isaac Newton and is a classic chestnut in this subject, the 'later career' of the mechanics, born to such exactitude... Read morePublished on July 1 2003 by John C. Landon
The book provides insight into the science of complexity and chaos. The author presents the field in an easy to understand language and provides fascinating observations from real... Read morePublished on June 17 2003 by Anand Nair