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Chaos: Making a New Science Paperback – 24 Feb 1997


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Product details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (24 Feb. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749386061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749386061
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Few writers distinguish themselves by their ability to write about complicated, even obscure topics clearly and engagingly. In Chaos, James Gleick, a former science writer for the New York Times, shows that he resides in this exclusive category. Here he takes on the job of depicting the first years of the study of chaos--the seemingly random patterns that characterise 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. --Christine Buttery

Review

"Fascinating... Almost every paragraph contains a jolt" (New York Times)

"Highly entertaining...a startling look at newly discovered universal laws" (Chicago Tribune)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Optimistix on 24 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is called 'Chaos : Making a new science' - so it should hardly
surprise anyone that it deals with the history of Chaos, bringing forth
the elementary concepts of the field along the way.
This book isn't, nor does it pretend to be, a textbook on chaos theory,
so one shouldn't expect too much maths or technical details. On the other
hand, a little maths is unavoidable for discussing even the most basic
notions of chaos theory, so the reader should be prepared for some
(not very demanding) maths.
The style adopted by Gleick is to interweave the personal lives of the
major players involved in the birth of chaos with a description the
concepts, thus giving the book a feel of an interesting story while
introducing a plethora of dazzling ideas at the same time.
The idea of self-similarity, of patterns composed of infinitely-repeating
tiny replicas of themselves, is astounding, to say the least. And to
learn that nature is full of such patterns is revealing indeed. The
implications to science and technology are far-reaching and often
surprising - researchers in Computer Networking have discovered that
network traffic in large networks such as the internet may actually be
following self-similar patterns !!
Personally, i found this to be a delightful read - Gleick's writing is
racy, the ideas involved are mind-bending, and the vivid imagery will
stay with you for a long,long time. I fell in love with fractals at
first sight and can gaze at a collection of beautiful fractals for hours.
In brief, this is a light, breezy account of the history of Chaos, with
a gentle introduction to the basic ideas of Chaos without much technical
details and only a minimum of maths.
One of the best 'Science for everyone' books i've ever read!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By alephnulluk@yahoo.co.uk on 10 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book left me looking at the world in a radically different perspective. It seemed to suggest that in the late twentieth century we were begining to pin down the extremely subtle mathematics that underpinned almost everything and as a consequence were suddenly gaining an incredible insight into what's actually going on behind the scenes of the universe.
You enter this book knowing chaos as a buzzword occasionally touched upon by the media and gradually realise that it describes the 'forces at work' behind a whole array of things from something as trivial as the Newton-Raphson procedure (who'd have thought a simple piece of A-level maths could give rise to cutting adge research?) to matters as important as the weather, the interepherence in phone lines, the populations in an e-cology, indeed (without meaning to give away the book's climax) it's the very set of theories and idea's that keeps human beings alive!
An absolute must for anyone who's ever wondered why they wonder!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
This was the first book I ever read on chaos theory. I am not involved in chaos theory at all, but I was interested in finding out more about it as it was big news at the time.
While at times the concept can be difficult to grasp, the author does go to great pains to make things clear. I think this book is aimed at people with some kind of background in maths, science or engineering ho know nothing about chaos theory.
THe story of how chaos theory came to be is enlightening and a real insight into how such ideas evolve over time.
By the end of the book I was quite able to create and run my own (basic) chaos equations. Quite a feat, really.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mesomorphic Mesopotamian on 26 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
Delicately skirting round some complex mathematics and using physical reasoning instead, this book explores behaviour of physical systems: the way the intertwined populations of rabbits and foxes go through an intricate little dance, the rhythms of the human heart, the shape of leaves, the unpredictability of the weather. There are some beautiful pictures and some equally beautiful computer-generated graphics.

What links all these? There is some new(ish) mathematics which describes these patterns of behaviour. Chaos and fractals are two of the main courses on the menu, although the author avoids giving actual mathematics. (There may be a footnote or two with equations, or an appendix to follow up some more technical ideas.) James Gleick explores and discusses ideas which lie in a strange border zone, where behaviour is not so simple as to be purely predictable, but not completely unpredictable either. That fascinating border zone contains the jitters of the stock market, the population dynamics of all the species on planet earth, and the bursts and pauses in internet traffic. The fundamental ideas are very simple and surprisingly cross-disciplinary: for example, chaotic behaviour discovered by mathematicians turns out to describe the progress of an influenza empidemic. This explains why some of the ideas took so long to emerge and become accepted: biologists studying measles epidemics didn't have the depth of mathematical background, and mathematicians didn't realise that their ideas could be used to monitor the success of a vaccination programme.

James Gleick manages to describe all these fascinating systems, and the underlying ideas, without requiring the reader to get into deep mathematics.
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