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Chaos: Making a New Science [Paperback]

James Gleick
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
Price: 7.69 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

24 Feb 1997
This book brings together different work in the new field of physics called the chaos theory, an extension of classical mechanics, in which simple and complex causes are seen to interact. Mathematics may only be able to solve simple linear equations which experiment has pushed nature into obeying in a limited way, but now that computers can map the whole plane of solutions of non-linear equations a new vision of nature is revealed. The implications are staggeringly universal in all areas of scientific work and philosophical thought.

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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 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful read ! 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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Book 30 Jan 2003
By A Customer
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a book! 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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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little chaotic 21 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
It should be noted from the beginning that this is not a "Layman's guide to Chaos theory ". It is in fact a "Once upon a time" account of the birth and development of this fascinating science. The problem is, who this book is trying to fascinate.

The first half is certainly handled well, with Gleick balancing the building up of Chaos Theory with the lives and characters of its pioneers. It does however prelude what is to come in the book: At times, though the language is clear, the concepts become obscured, especially as the author tries to keep things broad and general.

It gets worse in the second half of the book, as it becomes less and less clear who the author is talking to: People with a background in Chaos theory, or people who know nothing about it? The first group would find nothing interesting here apart from happy memoirs, while the second would be left scratching their heads as they go over and over the same paragraphs, trying to decipher the deeper meanings.

As an Introduction to Chaos, the book suffers from over-generalisations and fast pace: Gleick seems happy to glide from the surface of tough concept to the surface of tougher concept and then get poetic with the conclusions, before an ordinary reader realises that there were actually any conclusions to be made. In his own comments the author even "winks" to those in the know, providing "inside jokes" that only the people he has interviewed would probably get. The rest of us outsiders are left baffled and frustrated.

However, as a documentation of Chaos, the book is decent. Well-researched and well-planned, if you already know the specifics of Chaos theory, you 'll enjoy reading a general review of how this breakthrough way of thinking came to be, survived "persecution" and eventually influenced everything it touched.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaos made orderly!
This is one of the most educatingly and absorbingly enjoyable books to read.. I am a duffer at mathematics... Read more
Published 3 months ago by movedbymortensen
5.0 out of 5 stars How to quantify apparent randomness
A great read. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when I picked this one up - I just liked the title, so I picked it up and having gone a few pages in, I could'nt put it... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Gareth
5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff.
Quick delivery, and the book is in pretty much perfect condition. There's no maths at all in the book, personally I thought it could have done with some, but hey, I'm no expert.
Published 5 months ago by stan_mcc
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaos
From simple order comes complexity, yet complexity contains hidden order. Fractals, strange attractors and butterflies causing hurricanes. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Malhen27
5.0 out of 5 stars a birthday present
My son wanted a science book for his birthday and I knew he would like something on chaos theory. I was not wrong, I think he has read this a few times already and has pride of... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Nutrocker
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, if overly wordy, but sadly glosses over the most...
This was my first look at chaos. It is as noted by others, a history, which is interesting but I felt that it dwelled a little too much on the whys and wherefores of the numerous... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ofeliawotsits
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a present...
... for my father-in-law, and it set me up with a reputation as a fantastic gift-giver to maintain. Good for anybody who likes science, history or people. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Rebecca /Liz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, fast delivery
Item arrived quicker than expected and in great condition. The book is awesome and a must read for anyone wanting some knowledge of Chaos without being bamboozled
Published 15 months ago by james davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-described insights linking real-world systems and mathematics
Delicately skirting round some complex mathematics and using physical reasoning instead, this book explores behaviour of physical systems: the way the intertwined populations of... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mesomorphic Mesopotamian
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
This is a wonderful read and I am completely captivated. Mr Gleick explains with a certain lightness of touch the often difficult and complex ideas inherent in all this. Read more
Published 17 months ago by thomas coffey
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