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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A starter in untangling chaos
This book provides another overview of the development of Chaos Theory and the background to fractals.

The scene set, the book then focuses on its chosen area of interest, the role of chaos in the development of life and its evolution. In particular it focuses on what it describes as activity at `the edge of chaos', the point where things begin to get...
Published on 14 Feb 2009 by Steven Unwin

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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg of a Book
Gribbin writes in his introduction "..after about ten years of waiting for ...someone to write a book explaining (chaos theory) in language I could understand, I decided that if no one else was going to explain it in clear language, then I would have to." In one sense at least he achieves his goal - he really does make the mathematically complicated ideas that underpin...
Published on 31 Aug 2006 by Sw Foster


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A starter in untangling chaos, 14 Feb 2009
By 
Steven Unwin "Steve Unwin" (Preston, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
This book provides another overview of the development of Chaos Theory and the background to fractals.

The scene set, the book then focuses on its chosen area of interest, the role of chaos in the development of life and its evolution. In particular it focuses on what it describes as activity at `the edge of chaos', the point where things begin to get interesting - where outcomes are deterministic, but not predictable. It is in this apparent paradox that the fascination of chaos lies.

Though the answer to the question where did life come from still sits a little out of reach of this book and our understanding, the picture created provides an overwhelming case for the presence and importance of chaos not simply in the construction of our world through the shaping of trees or river estuaries for example, but also in the operation of our world. Here we are not simply interested in the ways that trees grow or river estuaries form, but throughout the whole range of processes of how things work from the orbiting of the planets, to the frequencies of electrical interference on telephone lines.

Indeed Beniot Mandelbrot, one of chaos theory's pioneers, developed many of his ideas attempting to solve precisely this problem whilst employed at IBM, He concluded that interference was inevitable the solution was to detect corrupted data and resend.

Somewhat startlingly this same pattern of inevitability of unpredictable events can be seen throughout the operation of many of nature's processes. For example the frequency and severity of earthquakes follows the same fractal pattern, as does the pattern of craters on the moon, and thereby on the Earth. This is leading geologists and seismologists to profoundly rethink their understanding.

When we begin to appreciate the universality of these ideas, we realise that they are no less profound for the rest of us. The neatly ordered way in which we perceive cause and effect and attempt to apply this to complex systems has to be rethought.

The book explores how the effects of chaos permeate all aspects of the life of the universe, even to explaining, with deference to Rudyard Kipling, how the leopard gets its spots.

The consequences of chaos create a new way of seeing and demand a new way of understanding. For me they begin to solve the riddle, felt intuitively, that at the heart of the explanation of all of the complexity we experience, is simplicity, or as the book is titled, deep simplicity.
As Einstein said "When the solution is simple, God is answering."

This book provides a first step in this process.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg of a Book, 31 Aug 2006
By 
Sw Foster (Maidstone, UK) - See all my reviews
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Gribbin writes in his introduction "..after about ten years of waiting for ...someone to write a book explaining (chaos theory) in language I could understand, I decided that if no one else was going to explain it in clear language, then I would have to." In one sense at least he achieves his goal - he really does make the mathematically complicated ideas that underpin complexity theory and chaos theory accessible to the general reader. The problem is however, that this has been done many times already by other authors, in a more interesting and lucid style. There are many books published that take the general reader from very simple introductions to much more advanced levels without the technical mathematics. So if you have not already read books by P. Davies, J. Gleik or S. Kaufmann and others then this may be a place to start. However, reader beware, because although Gribbin claims to have understood the concepts behind chaos and complexity he has certainly not grasped the implications that these ideas have for the sciences in general. This is evident in his chapters on earthquakes, extinctions and the facts of life. Here he is completely out of his depth as he struggles to interpret the patterns that emerge from the data using old fashioned approaches that have been made invalid by the material of the preceeding chapters. In short he can explain what chaos and complexity are about in mathematical terms - that is the easy bit, but he fails to show how these new ideas are causing a new scientific revolution.
In the chapter on the facts of life in particular his contrived arguments in support of neo-Darwinism simply cause one to ask if this is a really serious book. The mathematics of population genetics are linear in their construction, whereas the basis of chaos and complexity is non-linear mathematics. This is like comparing the surface of the moon (linear maths) with the surface of the Earth (non-linear maths): they are worlds apart. The former is dead and static, the latter is dynamic and constantly changing in unpredictable ways. It is here that we see the worst in a popular scientific writer - an author who has read about his subject but failed to grasp the implications of what he has read. What the new sciences tell us is that the natural world, including the one that Gribbin himself studies professionally - astronomy - will never be the same again. At last we can begin to understand life and evolution through real science, not a modified 18th and 19th century reworking of creationism and just-so story-telling. Similarly, the science taught at school and in some university courses is completely outmoded - fine for dealing with many relatively simple problems but not for the ones that really matter. Gribbin also fails to capture the excitement of these new discoveries because he fails to understand them, unlike the authors cited above.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A writer with deep and clear way of thinking., 20 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Chaos theory is said to be one of the most important governing theories of the function of Universe. It is believed that together with the Quantum Mechanics theory, which is nowadays grown, are the most powerful tools for explaining the way that Universe works.

99% of written books on Chaos theory are full of complex equations and as a result the every day reader has to expertize in Mathematics in order to be able to understand the meaning of them. Even then, it is difficult to gain insight to this theory.

THIS book, written by a gifted writer in the scientific field, reveals the basic ideas hidden in the theory without messing with difficult equations. In fact, too few mathematics and moreover simple to manipulate and understand, are used. Instead, John Gribbin, uses many simple examples of the every day life.

Overall, this book is an excellent introduction to the theory of Chaos both for those non-experts who just want to understand what is all about and for those who want to expertize in future.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the meaning of life?, 18 Feb 2004
By A Customer
John Gribbin does a brilliant job of pulling together different strands of science to come up with some startling conclusions about the origin of life and its place in the Universe. Just like his classsic Schrodinger's Cat, Deep Simplicity reviews a lot of stuff that you thought was familiar but hadn't really understood properly before. And his ultimate message is that while there may be no place for God in the Universe there is every chance of finding other life forms like ourselves. Who else could weave Newton, Poincare, Lovelock and Kaufman into one coherent story with sych a powerful message? Mind blowing.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating stuff!, 19 Feb 2004
By 
Dave (London, England) - See all my reviews
While it is true that there are now several books about complexity theory, what Gribbin has done here is, to my mind, truly exceptional - a fascinating, rollicking read that grounds contemporary thought in classical physics in a very unique way. I would recommend it to anyone seeking to understand the cutting edge of the area of chaos and complexity theory. As importantly, though, I would recommend it to those who are also seeking to understand the history behind this area. Because that is what Gribbin does so uniquely well - place in context cutting-edge ideas.
It certainly left me with the feeling not just that I vaguely understood current trends, but that I really understood where those trends and theories *came from*. And that, for me, is the hallmark of a very exceptional book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant exposition on the nature of self organized criticality, 12 May 2014
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This review is from: Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
The universe has some surprising commonalities. Earthquakes, piles of sands about to collapse, the beating of the human heart, Bach's Brandenburg Concerti.

John Gribbin makes the probability mathematics relating to chaos very accessible.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book: Power laws, fractals and nature, 28 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Interesting book. Gives a new perspective on nature and the evolution of life. I read it because Charlie Munger recommended it and he nailed it one more time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Explanatory, 1 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
An excellent follow up to Gleick's Chaos - Making a new Science, for the layman and student alike. Easy to understand explanations although in some areas he does seem to miss the point of the subject.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple - but effective!, 6 May 2004
By 
Mick Chaney (London, England) - See all my reviews
I got this book as a Christmas present to help me decide if I should do physics for A level (I asked for a gamecube!) and I have to admit by the time I had finished it I thought the answer was a definite yes. It can be difficult sometimes to read, though, but I always thought this was because of the Far Out science and not the writing. A great book for anyone trying to get their head around the crazy fundamentals of it all. (Although dad, if you're reading this, I'd still like a gamecube!)
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78 of 111 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Meaningless, 14 Feb 2004
By A Customer
Gribbin's 'Deep Simplicity' was, for me, deeply meaningless. Despite the author's previous literary successes, and his obvious personal fascination for the material covered in this book (he'd have to have that to write so much), its presentation left me cold.
The ineffective rambling over already well-covered terrain, explained and contexualised far better elsewhere in a plethora of sources, made me happy I'd purchased a used copy of this book from Amazon at the knock down price of £9.99, but very annoyed that I'd bought it at all.
Gribbin rakes over what are quickly becoming tired cliches among readers in the complexity community; Newton and Galileo, Lorenz and Poincare, etc - all of which wouldn't be so bad if Gribbin actually *made* a point. But, alas, he doesn't.
Setting out to make chaos theory and complexity science accessible, the author fails miserably, and in relaying formulas and numbers with too many decimal places to be of meaning to anyone without a math's degree, he actually only succeeds to make this book a real 'page-turner' in the worst possible sense - i.e. you keep turning to the next page in the vain hope that there will be something to read that doesn't bore you, that you haven't read more well-written elsewhere before, or that actually tells you anything of significance at all.
Sadly, like a writer cashing in on the reputation resting on the glories of his past successes, Gribbin seems to have written this 235 pager (hardback ed.) in the hope of making a few quid out of a gullible audience.
Readers who are genuinely interested in 'the question of how life could have emerged from non-life', or in the fact that 'smaller-scale entities such as individual atoms behave in a relatively simple way in their one-to-one interactions, and that complicated and interesting things are produced when many atoms are linked together in complicated and interesting ways, to make things like people', or that 'some systems... are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial 'push' you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behaviour'..., or that 'the complicated behaviour of the world we see around us - even the living world - is merely surface simplicity out of deep simplicity'... etc, etc... should not read this book.
These matters of interest, despite being outlined by Gribbin in his introduction, are not brought to any conclusion in this book. Instead, they are merely described in never-ending, waffly, pop-science, mathematical terms, in a string of clumsily-linked and badly-reported, historical anecdotes. Don't buy it!
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