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Chaos: Making a New Science | [James Gleick]

Chaos: Making a New Science

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

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4.2 (281 )
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  •  
    Ryan MURPHY, TX, United States 03-02-11
    Ryan MURPHY, TX, United States 03-02-11
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    "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.

    29 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jeffrey Lithia, FL, United States 11-08-11
    jeffrey Lithia, FL, United States 11-08-11
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    "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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill NOVA 05-19-11
    Bill NOVA 05-19-11 Member Since 2009

    Bill

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    "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

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 12-03-12
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 12-03-12 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-05-12
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-05-12 Member Since 2007

    50yrs old / audible member for 5 yrs library. 75% nonfiction, 15% classics and 10% fiction. History/Science/biography/Eng.18th cent fiction

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    "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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad GEORGETOWN, MA, United States 08-28-11
    Brad GEORGETOWN, MA, United States 08-28-11
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    "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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joy Boston, MA, United States 12-14-12
    Joy Boston, MA, United States 12-14-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Great overview of chaos"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Chaos to be better than the print version?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Redmond, WA, United States 05-21-11
    Joshua Redmond, WA, United States 05-21-11 Member Since 2009
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    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    peter Houten, Netherlands 07-12-11
    peter Houten, Netherlands 07-12-11 Member Since 2005
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    "more poetry than science"

    Not so interesting for those interested in hard science, but poetically brought. I thought the book sync by Strogatz was more interesting.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brady 05-11-11
    Brady 05-11-11
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    "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.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 13 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • jeremy
    London, United Kingdom
    7/9/13
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    "Riveting, but requires full attention"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Michael
    Hyde, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "Chaos, Making a new science James Gleick"

    Read this book way back when, loved it, nothings changed.Still a classic.But I wondered how the subject has move on since

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    ABERDEEN, United Kingdom
    2/26/13
    Overall
    "Amazing"

    I have never been so disappointed for a book to come to an end. Chaos is truly breathtakingly simple and unfathomably complex.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph
    BRIDGEND, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Excellent book!"

    Well written book easy to understand. Easy to listen to and a great all round buy!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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