- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised ed. edition (April 30 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195111303
- ISBN-13: 978-0195111309
- Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 2.2 x 14.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 476 g
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #167,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity Paperback – Apr 30 1999
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The best treatment I have yet encountered about how order emerges naturally -- and possibly even necessarily -- out of chaos. Profoundly important, and considerably more informed than better-known pop-science treatments of chaos theory. Very highly recommended.
"Stuart Kauffman, backed by a remarkable erudition, a keen imagination and a sensitive perception takes a fresh look at who we are and how we got that way."--Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science
"Both passionate and personal, At Home in the Universe is a rigorously written argument that life is an inevitable result rather than a happy accident."--Across the Board
"This is a courageous book. It has a distinct spiritual focus, not in the religious sense, but in the sense of 'why are we here?' When coupled with an unorthodox message that is unavoidably critical of much mainstream science, the combination is dynamite.... Kauffman sings his song loud and long, from the origins of life to the emergence of a global civilization.... I guarantee that any reader whose imagination has survived an academic education--or has never been exposed to one--will learn a lot, and be changed forever."--Ian Stewart, Nature
"For anyone--including earnest 14-year-olds--interested in big questions about science, history, and our place in the cosmos, At Home in the Universe offers an unparalleled combination of graceful writing, clear exposition, respect for the reader's intelligence, and the thrill of seeing the world anew.... Stuart Kauffman has changed the terms in which thoughtful people will discuss the nature of evolution and natural law."--Steven Postrel of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Reason
"An important new argument on how the laws of nature extract order from chaos. Potential applications to almost all fields of knowledge."--Carl Sagan, The Washington Post
"Just as the known laws of physics dictate a snowflake's exquisite six-pointed symmetry, [Kauffman] suggests, this natural order explains everything from the superiority of democracy and the path of technological development to the existence of life itself.... What most excites Kauffman is the notion that life is the inevitable result of nature's hidden order.... A provocative quest."--Business Week
"One of the pioneers of complexity theory is Stuart Kauffman, who lays out its rudiments in an accessible way with this challenging and audacious book.... Mr. Kauffman is at work on one of the oldest puzzles in human thought: why is there order in nature?"--The Economist
"Offers a new and far-reaching theory of order in the universe, introduced by a pioneer in that theory's development."--The Washington Post Book World
"Complexity, the theory that sees order arising naturally from the most complex systems, is being further plumbed by Oxford's At Home in the Universe by MacArthur Fellow and member of the influential Santa Fe Institute Stuart Kauffman, who applies the theory to business, politics, and economics."--Publishers Weekly
"Kauffman has done more than anyone else to supply the key missing piece of the propensity for self-organization that can join the random and the deterministic forces of evolution into a satisfactory theory of life's order."--Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard University
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I was brought to this book by the excellent "Here Be Dragons" (by S. Levay and D. Koerner ), which had a complete chapter on self-organization theories and the origins of life. Based on this captivating first glimpse into the world of artificial life experiments, I decided that the book by Kauffman was worth a try. Well...
First, the good news: the book does explain all the generalities and details on self-organization and the possible applications, from the origins of life to economics and politics. The ideas are very innovative, and even if those theories may not correctly explain everything (a possibility wisely pointed out by the author), they do add something new and worth exploring. The chapters on autocatalytic chemical sets are the most interesting, and convinced me that luck and Darwinian evolution do not completely explain why life exists, and how it achieved such a complexity.
Now, the bad news. The writing style is a killer: egocentric, prophetic, repetitive, grandiloquent and lyrical. Egocentric, because the author keeps on talking at the first person, which is annoying and useless. Prophetic, because the author believes too much in the ultimate success of his own theories. Repetitive because having ten or more paragraphs in a row explaining the exact same thing again and again cannot be qualified differently. Grandiloquent and lyrical can be good when Sagan does it, but most of the time it's just clumsy. With this book, you will go even lower: ridicule.
Conclusion: 3 stars: 4 stars for the ideas and 1 star for the style. The subject deserves a better treatment. So, if someone knows of another book on the subject, please, contact me.
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