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Phase Transitions (Primers in Complex Systems) Paperback – 14 Aug 2011

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"Solé has compiled an interesting overview of the vast amount of real world systems in which phases play a role. It is a good introduction to the topic and the great variety of applications is inspirational. Phase Transitions is a good read for the JASSS audience interested in if, how, and when abrupt changes may occur--either as risks for collapse or as opportunities for salvation."--Emile Chappin, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation

"Mean-field approaches constitute an elegant and considerable contribution to complex systems studies, and I commend Sole for his rigorous presentation."--Lael Parrott, BioScience

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"This ambitious book provides an elegant and much-needed synthesis to many of the ideas that have come to define the field of complex systems and their applications to nature and society. It makes an important contribution to the field, especially for researchers and students looking for an overview of the literature and entry points for research."--Luis Bettencourt, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Santa Fe Institute

"This clear and easy-to-follow book is a valuable compilation of systems showing phase transition phenomena that have become more and more important in understanding natural and man-made complex systems. It is a useful addition to the already existing literature."--Stefan Thurner, Medical University of Vienna

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful Book Waiting for a Much Wider Audience 7 May 2013
By Let's Compare Options Preptorial - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an electronics engineer, I'm an "armchair scientist" -- using that term without any disrespect. In my context it means I love studying math, physics, chemistry, etc. even though my field is harmonics, and much narrower than scientists like Sole who grasp wonderful big as well as small pictures. Recently, a number of outstanding books have come out on complexity theory and dynamical systems-- most notably the p vs. np series that includes Fortnow's excellent book: The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible.

You know the old saying that publishers who allow even a few math symbols in a text, let alone a sigma or derivative, are condemning the book to an exponential decay in sales. It thus takes a courageous or detached author to insist on not removing the "meat" of the math. Sole is such an author! While phase transitions (and boundary value problems in general) are at the heart of most field and phase work at the cutting edge of complexity theory and dynamical systems research today, very few books have been written that are accessible to the educated but non professional mathematician reader. Where the few exist, they cover only one of two applications of the research (sometimes unfortunately to "make a point") like ecology or sociology.

What about physics, cancer, human language development, computer networks, ant behavior, economics, day trading, genetics, monte carlo, decision theory, neurons... ok, we can see why only ONE book (this one) attempts to survey the entire field with sufficient depth to elicit deep enjoyment and further curiosity without being $190 and 600 pages!

The author is extremely intellectually honest in admitting that keeping the calculus (and dynamic systems, even in Neurology, for example, is filled with partial differential equations) at a basic undergrad level oversimplifies the picture. He tells us right up front that he will be focusing on mean field theory and leaving out fluctuations and local "tipping point" interactions that require a LOT of postgrad math, including advanced topology.

This concession is ostensibly to allow undergrads to survey the field with a career eye, and advanced researchers to see enough depth to decide on focus for further research. Sole also gives a HUGE bank of recent references, online, articles and books, so it is quite easy to "drill down" into deeper math if you like. I'd like to break that pattern and suggest that the book is now equally appropriate for non complexity specialists to get a grasp of possibly the most important area of complexity research going on today.

You will be richly rewarded by this book. Our lives, from the tiniest quantum micro fields and phases, to our own deepest relationships, are continually undergoing phase transitions, and we're often the victims of forces just outside our grasp! We, literally, ARE a dynamical system living in other networks of dynamical systems. The author points out that the "big bang" events like meteors and wars "seem" to precipitate sea change, but far less "rare" events can have the same effect! Citing (not exactly the butterfly wing) gradual temperature change in the lush Sahara "rainforest" Sole describes the shockingly quick change to a desert at the tipping point that required no meteor at all!

A twitter message that causes a revolution, an underground nuke test, a certain debt/equity ratio in GDP... and... revolution! I'm not a big global warming type, so was truly thankful that the author stayed scientific and didn't stray into a bunch of political warnings, but between the lines... a LOT of wisdom and insight that causes against the odds rethinking of our future as a social species. The biomass of ants here is a great reminder... like the biomass of neurons voting in our moment by moment phase decisions! Highly recommended, and certainly not only for complexity theorists or dynamical systems/ chaos/ fractal lovers, though they are warmly welcomed by this author too. If you're into finding hidden gems like I am, this one is a must.

Library Picks reviews only for the benefit of Amazon shoppers and has nothing to do with Amazon, the authors, manufacturers or publishers of the items we review. We always buy the items we review for the sake of objectivity, and although we search for gems, are not shy about trashing an item if it's a waste of time or money for Amazon shoppers. If the reviewer identifies herself, her job or her field, it is only as a point of reference to help you gauge the background and any biases.
Very good book but not for the fainthearted! 31 Dec. 2014
By Gustavo Riestra R. - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Through this volume, Ricard Solé takes us in a very interesting journey across multiple topics, all linked together by the concept of Phase Transitions. The reader will be exposed to many themes ranging from ecosystems, cancer dynamics and civilizations collapse and it will get familiar with many of the mathematical methods that are used to understand the concept of phase transitions. There are however some watch-outs before you embark in this reading:
1. You have to have more than a basic knowledge of differential calculus and differential equations (at least the ordinary type). The author will go into the details, which is much appreciated if you are like me, but could get difficult for someone who is looking more for a "written explanation" that by the way, I think it is very difficult to provide in this area without going into the math.
2. I would not recommend to read this in the Kindle edition since there are many typos with the symbols that are used in the formulas and those used in the main body text.
3. The other problem is that at least in my Kindle, the magnification capabilities are not so good and therefore the diagrams, which are an integral part of the text, are difficult to analyze and understand.

Net, this is a book I would of course recommend but do not expect an easy ride.

Gustavo Riestra
Four Stars 10 Oct. 2014
By Dr. Gabor Korvin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I liked it but found it a bit superficial. For a better understanding, much additional reading is needed.
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