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Chaos: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Leonard Smith
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Feb 2007 Very Short Introductions
Chaos exists in systems all around us. Even the simplest system of cause and effect can be subject to chaos, denying us accurate predictions of its behaviour, and sometimes giving rise to astonishing structures of large-scale order. Our growing understanding of Chaos Theory is having fascinating applications in the real world - from technology to global warming, politics, human behaviour, and even gambling on the stock market. Leonard Smith shows that we all have an intuitive understanding of chaotic systems. He uses accessible maths and physics (replacing complex equations with simple examples like pendulums, railway lines, and tossing coins) to explain the theory, and points to numerous examples in philosophy and literature (Edgar Allen Poe, Chang-Tzu, Arthur Conan Doyle) that illuminate the problems. The beauty of fractal patterns and their relation to chaos, as well as the history of chaos, and its uses in the real world and implications for the philosophy of science are all discussed in this Very Short Introduction. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Chaos: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (22 Feb 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853783
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.5 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Leonard Smith's Chaos (part of the Oxford Very Short Introduction series) will give you the clearest (but not too painful idea) of the maths involved... There's a lot packed into this little book, and for such a technical exploration it's surprisingly readable and enjoyable."--

About the Author

Leonard Smith is a member of the Mathematics Faculty in Oxford and lectues on nonlinear dynamical systems and chaos.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The 'butterfly effect' has become a popular slogan of chaos. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not a very short introduction 1 July 2008
This book aims to introduce the key concepts of chaos in a readable way, including no mathematics. The title is a bit misleading, since there are over 160 pages and the book covers some quite advanced concepts. Overall, the book attempts to cover too much material for a short introduction, and I feel that readers who are not already familiar with the topic will be left confused.

The first chapter leaps directly into the concepts of deterministic nonlinear systems and sensitive dependence, and includes a wide-ranging discussion of the work of scientists including Laplace, Newton, Franklin and Darwin.

The second chapter explains exponential growth nicely, with several examples. Chapter 3 introduces examples of dynamical systems and their associated concepts. Here, new concepts such as state space, fixed points and attractors arise very rapidly and I wonder whether they have time to sink in for the reader who is not already familiar with them. Some of the new concepts are not clearly defined.

Chapter 4, 'Chaos in mathematical models', describes the universal period-doubling cascade, the Lorenz system, the Henon map, delay equations and Hamiltonian chaos. Again, too many models are introduced too rapidly. Chapters 5 and 6 cover fractals, dimensions and Lyapunov exponents, the measures of chaos, and the book then moves on to real numbers on a computer, statistics, predictability, weather forecasts, climate change and finance, ending up with some philosophical remarks.

Although I quite enjoyed reading this book, I would not recommend it as an introduction to the subject.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good. But you need a preliminary 11 Jun 2008
The book introduces the chaos theory relatively in details (compared with "the quantum world" J.P which introduces the entire structure of quantum physics less than 90 pages). The chaos is a very new and popular theory. It is based on the dynamical system, or dating back further, integral by I.Newton. The book itself produces nothing extremely exciting but progressively, makes you learn a lot. I find it really helpful to scan the dynamical system part in my financial math textbook before reading it. My suggestion is that you understand some concepts on integral and dynamical system first. They may be rather naive compared with the chaos theory but they at least give you a basis to develop your thoughts.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Assumes too much, confusing and badly written. 30 Dec 2009
By Dicko
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was left with the sense that Mr Smith needs to get out of his office a little bit more often so he may appreciate better what lay people do or do not already know. I'm a graduate engineer with a strong mathematical back ground who has already studied chaos for a while and I struggled to understand the concepts he was trying to convey, even ones that I am already familiar with, from his text. As well as his explanations being unnecessarily hard to understand and rather abstract, I was left with the feeling that he had originally written a much longer text that someone else has badly edited leaving large holes in the logic and explanation just so as to make this a small enough book to fit with the short introduction requirement. As a result, what is left is confusing and off putting. In essence, Chaos is not hard to grasp and is fundamentally the study of nature. Unfortunately Mr Smith seems to have managed to achieve otherwise.

If you want a book that covers the subject in both more depth as well as gets across the concepts in a way that is understandable, and that will encourage an interest in the subject then consider Chaos: Making a New Science. If on the other hand you want to be confused and put off, this book will be just fine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great little introduction to chaos 9 Feb 2013
I found this little gem in a bookshop in Exeter. It is an excellent introduction to the subject, and although a short book it covers a lot of ground. It is clear and concise. Where Gleick's book covers the history of chaos theory without getting into very much depth, this book explains some of what underlies the pretty pictures.
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