on 20 January 2012
For the most part though,it reminded me of James Gleicks' Chaos book in the way that the Sync story is conveyed with tales of maverick characters on the fringes of established science, making serendipitous discoveries that lay around waiting for someone to slot them into a framework.Within this there are numerous enlightening insights and quirky facts about the rhythm and harmonies that universally pervade the fabric of existence,which make it well worth the effort.
Although I did enjoy this book,I didn't find it as thrilling and inspiring as some other people seemed to do.It does roll along pretty well until it hits part 3,where the ability of language and metaphor to convey non linear concepts of encryption and 3D sync left me needy in some respects.Although I was able to follow the general principles,it was still frustrating not to be able to fully comprehend some of the finer points involved.
Overall an entertaining popular science book,with a few moments of conceptual difficulties for non mathematicians,which can be circumvented without any deleterious effects to the whole.
on 28 September 2003
This book is one of the best examples of popular science that I have read. The author is a scientist and knows his stuff but he also has the ability to explain his material in very simple terms. He does this by the use of relevant and well thought out analogies.
Sync is about things in nature that synchronize without any central controller. Strogatz starts with the example of Fireflies that flash on and off together in their thousands. The book then takes us on a journey through a surprisingly large range of natural phenomena that exhibit sync and the science that is revealing how sync works.
This is a relatively easy book to read. There are no equations. The writing style is as good as any I have encountered. There are real and interesting characters and just the right level of humour. It is not a text book and does not pretend to be. It is popular (but serious) science done very well.
Best of all for me is the genuine excitement which the book conveys about this subject. It has inspired me to seek out other books on the same theme and I would definitely read another book by Steven Strogatz.
Sync investigates the concept of universal harmony. The drive to synchronization is one of the most far-reaching phenomena in the universe, encompassing people, planets, atoms, animals and a whole lot more. But the laws of Thermodynamics seem to dictate the opposite - that nature should degenerate toward entropy. This is not so, as magnificent small and large structures like galaxies and cells keep assembling themselves in perfect harmony.
Drawing on Chaos & Complexity Theory, Strogatz examines the connections linking the phenomena of the mathematics of self-organization, where trillions of interactions result in order emerging from chaos. There is a steady and insistent pulse at the heart of the cosmos that resonates from the nucleus of the cell to the largest galaxy in a chorus of synchronized cycles that pervade all of nature.
The author refers to the work of scientists from many disciplines, including Einstein, Richard Feynman, Brian Josephson, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdos, Stanley Milgram, Boris Belousov Edward Lorenz and Arthur Winfree. Part One, Living In Sync, deals with these manifestations in for example human brainwaves and the behaviour of fireflies, whilst Part Two, Discovering Sync, looks at the universe as a whole and at quantum theory. Part Three, Exploring Sync, investigates synchronization, chaos and small world networks.
There are some black and white illustrations, copious notes and an index. This book is a fascinating journey through the strange and beautiful phenomenon of synchronization, the harmonious music of the universe that builds and sustains life.
on 28 December 2009
To put it briefly, "Sync" discusses exciting and original ideas in a very enjoyable manner (Strogatz is a natural!). Readers that like Popular Science will love it.
The subject is described by the subtitle: "The emerging science of spontaneous order".
From complex forms of life (human beings and our heartbeat or our sleeping cycles) to simpler ones (fireflies that synchronize their flashes in densely verdant environments so that they can attract their match), sync appears to be playing an important role.
Interestingly, it does so in inanimate things as well: London's Millennium Bridge almost collapsed because of a synchronizing feedback loop between pedestrian stepping and the bridge's swaying. The idea in fact penetrates a range of scientific areas: The quantum world, chaotic systems (systems ruled by a vast number of parameters). Even Small Worlds (networks structured in neighbourhoods so that each node distances from any other by at most 6 links. Social networks is an example, yes you are most probably just 6 people away from president Obama!).
Some chapters (few) are quite difficult to follow. If you find yourself in this situation, just read them fast or jump to the next chapter, they are independent. And from the Pop Sci point of view the easy ones contain the most fascinating ideas.
on 6 March 2013
The subject of the book is synchrony that is coupled phenomena which occur simultaneously. Synchrony is all permeating in nature and is encountered in both living and non living matter while the underlying entity that unifies all these disparate phenomena is mathematics.
More analytically the book is a study of 'coupled oscillators' - entities that cycle automatically, that repeat themselves over and over again at regular intervals. Fireflies flash; planets orbit; pacemaker cells fire. Two or more are said to be coupled if some physical or chemical process allows them to influence one another. Fireflies communicate with light. Planets tug one another with gravity. Heart cells pass electrical current back and fourth. Nature uses every available channel to allow its oscillators to communicate with each other. The results of these communications is often synchrony, in which all oscillators begin to move as one that is occur simultaneously.
But apart from the synchrony appearing in nature, we have synchrony with the invention of the marvelous oscillators of the twentieth century: electrical generators and phase-locked loops, lasers and transistors and superconducting Josephson junctions.
The underlying unifying entity of the preceding disparate phenomena - naturally occurring or invented - is the intractability of non-linear mathematics. But the reader should not panic. The author does not use even a suspicion of Mathematics but instead illustrates the key ideas relying on metaphors and images from everyday life.
The author concludes the book with a speculative but profound insight. He points that even mainstream scientists begin to acknowledge that reduction-ism may not be powerful enough to solve all the great mysteries we are facing: cancer, consciousness, the origin of life, AIDS, global warming, the functioning of the cell, the ebb and flow of the economy. And believes that nonlinear dynamics is central to the future of science. As one of the oldest and most elementary parts on nonlinear science (dealing, as it does with purely rhythmic units), synchrony has offered penetrating insights into everything from cardiac arrhythmias to superconductivity, from sleep cycles to the stability of the power grid. It is grounded in rigorous mathematical ideas; passed the test of experiment; and it describes and unifies a remarkably wide range of cooperative behavior in living and nonliving matter, at every scale of length from subatomic to the cosmic. Aside from its importance and intrinsic fascination, the author believes that synchrony also provides a crucial first step for what is coming next in the study of complex nonlinear systems, where the oscillators are eventually to be replaced by genes and cells, companies and people.
I found it amazing that a book that is already ten years old would ring so remarkably modern.
As my own epilogue may I add that only weeks ago I listened here in the university of Cyprus a compellingly fascinating lecture by professor Focas who is also the chair of the recently established line in nonlinear Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.
on 15 January 2014
Steven Strogatz brings together real-world applications of scientific insights in an utterly absorbing manner. OK, so much hyperbole has been written and superlatives used about many other one-word title books (eg, Blink, Linked, Prey, Chaos, Bursts etc). But he is one of the true masters of his craft. Superbly knowledgable, skilled in his use of science and maths, and yet fully in tune with their limitations and the essentail importance of the human element. His examples are astounding!
on 27 July 2015
This book has three chapters,
1/ Living Sync covers such things as Fireflies, Brainwaves, Sleep and the Daily Struggle fo Sync. The Conditions for Sync.
2/ Discovering Sync covers Sympathetic Universe, Quantum Choruses and Bridges.
3/ Exploring Sync covers Synchronised Chaos, Sync in 3 Dimensions, Small World Networks and The Human Side of Sync.
Scientists are interested in the many ways studies may help us understand many things dealing with Non linear Science a and there is a long way to go so it could be many years before there is a big breakthrough but Sync is moving forward slowly. Charlie Perkin has started exploring the mechanics of flapping flight in insects, he is also refining his computer
Charlie Perkin has started exploring the mechanics of flapping flight in insects.He is also refining his computer models of blood flow in the heart with David McQueen. Their simulations have already helped design better artificial valves. Chuck Cr eisler is always in the news with important results about human sleep and circadian rhythms.He and his colleagues recently refuted an earlier study purporting to show that bright light applied to the back of the knee could reset the human circadian pacemaker. A year or two before that NASA asked him to study John Glenn's circadian rhythms during a flight on the space shuttle to provide information about how ageing affects his sleep-wake cycle.
In future Sync might explain global warming, the ebb and flow of the economy and many other things.
I found the book very interesting but it is not for those that are not interested in the current thinking of scientists.
This is a fantastic book packed with insights and wonderful ideas. Its subject is the power of synchronisation, or as the book's subtitle puts it, `the emergence of spontaneous order'.
Our approaches to managing pretty much anything, including organisations is based on increasingly complex structures of processes and control, yet this focus on plans, objectives and goals appears to be absent elsewhere in the universe.
The book provides a history of the growing realisation that self-organisation is a powerful and inspiring force that can be found throughout almost all natural processes, from those of sub-atomic particles, through to those that span the universe.
Entwined beautifully with the history and progress of this area of science, Steven interleaves his personal experiences in the field which not only illuminate the bigger picture but also injects the sense of adventure and joy of discovery involved in the pursuit of new ideas. In doing so it provides insights into how mathematics, simulation and imagination can be entwined to explore new ideas. The result gives a real sense of fun to be had.
Skilfully Steve paints the picture of fascinating ideas whose core is fundamentally mathematical, without recourse to equations. Indeed the imagery he uses to create clear understanding is very impressive.
The book covers a lot of ground from the behaviour of massed fireflies, electronic circuits, the functioning of our hearts. All these sources of synchronicity are explained beautifully and lead to numerous insights that will be of great value for anyone seeking an alternative to the current focus on increasing use of control as the basis for managing our people, organisations and society.
The epilogue to the book points to a new dawn for science with an end to reductionist thinking.
on 25 October 2013
A great introduction to a the concept of synchronization. Very interesting and educational. Many references for follow up (like Kuramoto's model).Strogatz does an excellent job in describing a rather complex concept in simple terms. I am interested in the area of non-linear systems but was totally unaware of its existence until I watched by chance a TED talk by Strogatz on Sync.(highly recommended easily found on the net). The talk was fascinating.. the book takes you deeper into the world of synchronization. An eye opening experience.
on 21 December 2006
This book and the ideas it introduces are rather like going skydiving for the first time. Thrust into a whole new world of knowledge it is at first unnerving, later exhilirating, and then enthusing and encouraging. It gives you a different view of the world from which you will never quite recover. The writing is both clear and erudite, uncluttered with jargon and wonderfully informative. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to see things just a little bit differently from the masses.