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Patterns in the Sand: Computers, Complexity and Everyday Life Paperback – 25 Aug 1999


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The date was 5 May 1961. Read the first page
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Rather frustrating book, needs to go deeper 29 Jun 2005
By Wriddle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What a frustrating book - it never seems to get to the point!

I can't understand why the authors feel it's okay to write at such a high level about chaos and complexity, without delving into their subject in any depth. For example, they open with the contribution of Alan Turing and his Turing machine but they don't give enough detail for you to appreciate why this is important. Sadly this happens again and again in this book. I was often left thinking, "What is the significance of this?" as they skipped from one idea to the next in a disjointed manner. They tend to introduce an idea or individual contributor, mention too briefly what they did and then move on.

It's a bit like reading lots of road signs on the freeway at speed: you can't really claim you've visited those places or know what they're about.

The title of the book suggests a much stronger link to computing than is actually achieved. They use a few computing terms (which they don't define) and despite using the term 'algorithm' they don't actually explain many of these.

I felt the authors weren't in touch with their audience. It's quite possible to write a fascinating book that deals with a technical subject despite your audience not have a technical background (e.g. try "Fermat's Last Theorem" by Simon Singh). By contrast, "Patterns in the Sand" avoids depth in its explanations, almost as if to 'spare' its readers, which instead produces a sense of annoyance.

I'm sure their purpose was to introduce the emerging field of chaos and complexity, but in the end I was unconvinced. I will look elsewhere to get more depth and a better read - I was glad to finish this book so I could move onto something else!

The graphics in the book are rather sparse and of poor quality.

I give this book one star because it did remind me about StarLogo, a tool for playing with parallel worlds, and also FRACTINT, a fractal generator. Both are available on the internet.
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