James Gleick explains the theories behind the fascinating new science called chaos. Alongside relativity and quantum mechanics, it is being hailed as the 20th century's third revolution.
©1998 James Gleick (P)2011 Random House
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of how Chaos developed as a science. Gleick writes lucidly about the set of characters who contributed to making Chaos Theory what it is today; from man trying to control the weather to dynamic biological systems... I have an interest in discarded sciences and the power structure of knowledge development, which was the reason I bought 'Chaos: Making a New Science'.
This book is an interesting and easy to follow account of how science as a field works - how hard it can be to have new radical ideas accepted and how bad communication can be between the sciences. A problem which is still very present today.
There a very romantic element to this chronological walkthrough of chaos, Gleick presents to us. We hear how Chaos was received with hostility, how certain eccentrics were working with it alienated from society and how it took around half a century before it found its way into the mainstream of science. It made me wonder how many unacknowledged 'chaos theories' we have floating around at the moment.
If you're looking to get to know the actual science of Chaos and already have some knowledge about mathematics, physics and biology, you're probably better off finding some hard literature - that is not the aim of this book. This book is about the history of a science.
Shapiro narrates really well. He has a pleasant voice and makes just the right amount and length of pauses when needed. He manages to maintain my attention. I didn't drift off as I sometimes do with other audiobooks.
I mostly walk and listen to books. Some books are too heavy on facts for this way of experiencing, since they require you to take notes in order to keep up with what is being said. This book had a clear story line which made it easy to follow even though some theory is mentioned every once in a while.
a good introduction tothe topic. providing interesting coverage of evolution if the topic without getting bogged down in complexity. a sound foundation and springboard to further investigation if desired
I like to learn interesting stuff on midnight runs. And I need absorbing children's audio to stay sane on long car journeys.
This one had me reading around the subject afterwards. A good listen, but quite demanding on the attention. I think I'd have preferred to read it.
"Best AudioBook on Math/Physics yet"
Wow. What a great book. I had no idea that this was a book about both math and physics. I'm a math major and a calculus two student and this book has helped me to get inside the thinking of a Mathematician. It helps to show what types of problems they work on and how they think as they attack the problems. It introduces one to the culture of Math and the real world applications of physics.
As with any audio math book, there are some parts where you might have trouble visualizing the shapes being described. I dealt with this by looking them on online later. but that was only about three times during the nine hour book. Overall, there were not too many parts where I could not keep up with the math. Maybe one or two times; however, it wasn't really needed to keep up with the flow of the story. The book is more like a story. I enjoyed the real world examples and the journey through much of the research that led up to choas theory. The book doesn't just introduce the people who's research led to choas theory; it takes one through the basics of thier experiements and results. You share in the triumphs and problems. Overall a great book for people who like physics, math, theory, and thought.
"Still a consciousness-expanding introduction"
Chaos, the concept, is often explained in terms of a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world, which sets off a long chain of consequences leading to rain falling in another part of the world. It's an overworn cliche by now, but one that still gets to the heart of a quality of nature that scientists and mathematicians prior to the 20th century didn't really grasp. It was hardly their fault. Living in the age of slide rules and tables (or before), they can't really be blamed for focusing on phenomena that were predictable, linear, and led to stable outcomes, and ignoring those that seemed too noisy, erratic, and error-prone to be represented with an equation.
Yet, as the age of computers dawned, it became clear that the "noise" in many natural systems wasn't error at all, but held its own elusive underlying order. The feedback loops in these systems would magnify initial discrepancies over time, but they would also perform a sort of self-correction, giving rise to repeated patterns and patterns-within-patterns -- similar, like the shape of clouds, but never exactly the same. It's now apparent that this complex dance between coherence and instability, between the macroscopic and the microscopic, drives many of nature's most interesting phenomena, from the branching of blood vessels into smaller ones, to how particles of smoke curl around each other, to the way a snowflake's shape reflects its journey through the atmosphere. Human consciousness itself seems to be an example of a chaotic, endlessly self-referential system.
Chaos, the book, though written in 1987, still does an excellent job of connecting the discoveries that opened the door to Chaos Theory. Gleick introduces us to figures like Edward Lorenz, whose work in weather prediction revealed that tiny differences in input in even simple mathematical models could lead to vast differences in output over time; Robert May, who discovered chaotic patterns in population dynamics; and Benoit Mandelbrot, now considered the father of fractals. Along the way, he touches on fundamental concepts like strange attractors, fractal dimension, bifurcation, complex boundaries, and the Mandlebrot set (whose astonishing visual representation you've seen if you’ve set foot in a poster shop in the last 25 years).
This is one of those books I'd recommend to people who already have some familiarity with the topic. While its purpose is introductory and there's little math, per se, I think the underlying profundities will be more obvious to readers who have taken a college-level math course or two or three. That disclaimer aside, I found Gleick's writing articulate, and seldom had much trouble visualizing what he was talking about, even listening to the audiobook. It's worth having the print edition on hand for the pictures and diagrams, but if you don't, the internet should suffice.
Despite being 25 years old, Chaos remains an invigorating read, offering a sense of discoveries and inventions yet to be made, and demonstrating that separate fields like physics, chemistry, biology, information theory, computing, cognitive science, climatology, and economics aren't as separate as we might think. As bonus, a 2000s-era afterward in the audiobook provides a brief update of progress in some areas since the book's original publication, and some thoughts on its cultural impact.
"VERY IMPORTANT WORK"
Chaos is seen as one of the 3 known pillars in our understanding of the universe, along with quantum physics and Einsteins relativity work. That being the case it behooves you to check out this amazing work. The fact that Gleick isnt just able to clearly convey the structure of such an un-intuitive idea like chaos but makes it a highly readable book shows stunning skill. I was so impressed with his writing in this book that I sought out all his other books. He is a remarkable science writer!
Obviously a book of this density requires your full attention, but so what, the fact is we would glean far more from whatever we read if we always gave it our full attention. I think that your attention is the only prerequisite for reading this. I found it to be an amazing eye opening ride and truly one of those enlightening books were always searching for.Me anyway.
"FRACTALS, SETS, & 4.6692"
Exceptionally informative. Well written and narrated. My only complaint is I, like many others, am a kinesthetic learner. So I could manipulate the sets or draw fractals whilst listening, but I'd rather have a visual of the material. Too esoteric for audio alone. Worth buying, but you'll find yourself on wikipedia, YouTube, or a .edu site connecting the topics to a visual. The butterfly effect is best seen as 3D, for example.
"Must read to catch up with how things work"
When I first started looking at Chaos, my boss dismissed it as bad science and trick math. James Gleick walks you through the proof that my boss was wrong. The further you go in this book, the more you will see how "Choas" is all around us. Thought provoking and drives you to want to know more
"The future is disorder"
“The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is.”
― Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
Half of what draws me to physics, to theory, to Feynman and Fermat, to Wittgenstein and Weber, is the energy that boils beyond the theory. The force living just beyond the push. I'm not alone. Many of my favorite authors (Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) and musicians (Mahler, Beethoven, etc) all dance around this same wicked fire. This burn of the natural world, this magic of the unknown, is what draws me to read physics and philosophy as an absolute amature. There are pieces and fractures in these books that actually DON'T escape me. They hit my brain and spin and keep spinning forever. I imagine this is something felt also by Gleick, one of the top tier science writers out there.
My big grievance with this book is it falls too short. His narrative is compelling, yes, the stories are interesting, sure, but he doesn't grab the central characters as well as a new journalist like John McPhee does. He floats too far above the actual science and complexity. He shows you pictures and dances around the pools of chaos and clouds of complexity, but never actually puts the reader INTO the churning water or energized, cumuliform heaps.
This is a book for an advanced HS senior or an average college Freshman. It is pop-science and definitely has its place. This is a book that is more about translating the story of the science (not the science) for NOT the layman, but really the lazy layman. That is probably one of the reasons it did so well. Anyway, I'm glad I read it, but just wish it was deeper, thicker, and way less predictable.
"Great overview of chaos"
It's convenient to listen to, and the narrator is great. However, there are occasionally figures in the book that I had to look up to visualize (e.g. period doubling). If I had the printed version, I would not have been able to finish it as quickly as reading on the subway gives me a headache. So, while the audio is not necessarily better than the print version, it's definitely complementary.
Don't need a rigorous math background to understand the concepts. The historical context from Chaos made my nonlinear dynamics textbooks much more interesting! Chaos covers fascinating examples from economics to biology. The book makes it easy to look up references and original research papers. The narrator was great as well. Highly recommended for both casual readers and those who would want to delve deeper into the concepts afterwards.
"Great book; Great narrator"
I really enjoyed this book and the narration. Not only will I listen to additional books by Gleick, I will also listen to other books by Shapiro.
"This was painful to listen to"
This was painful to listen to. I'm an engineer by profession and I love all of the stuff about the "butterfly effect", fractals, etc. But after giving this my best shot and grinding through listening to it for about 6 hours - I finally stopped. I could not bear to go on. It simply was not written in a way to hold my interest. Too many mundane facts. Too dry. Too technical. This was a great opportunity for the author to bring something really cool to the masses and get people interested. Instead, it was written more like a college math text book with dropping a lot of names over and over.
"Review of Chaos"
Bring your wits--you're gonna need them. Excellent overview of the movers and developments within this branch of science. Be prepared to listen... and re-listen... then maybe just one more revisit at another time. A dense subject well-handled.
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