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Publisher's Summary

The tendency to synchronize may be the most mysterious and pervasive drive in all of nature. It has intrigued some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Norbert Wiener, Brian Josephson, and Arthur Winfree.

At once elegant and riveting, Sync tells the story of the dawn of a new science. Steven Strogatz, a leading mathematician in the fields of chaos and complexity theory, explains how enormous systems can synchronize themselves, from the electrons in a superconductor to the pacemaker cells in our hearts. He shows that although these phenomena might seem unrelated on the surface, at a deeper level there is a connection, forged by the unifying power of mathematics.

©2003 Steven H. Strogatz (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Sync is a wonderfully lucid and thoroughly entertaining story of the emerging science of synchrony." (Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe, Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Columbia University)
"Inspiring... offers a real sense of what it's like to be at the beginning of Something Big." (New Scientist)
"Beautifully written and breathtaking in scope, SYNC tells both a personal and a scientific story." (Charles S. Peskin, Professor of Mathematics and Neural Science, New York University)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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  • Story
  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 05-26-12

Engaging, but maybe better suited for non-audio

Self-organization -- it's a profoundly self-evident quality of nature, but one that so far has eluded much deep understanding in science. Strogatz makes it easy to see why: nature, from atoms up to cells up to societies, is made up of many non-linear components working together, and non-linear systems, with their feedback loops, impulses, and fractal components, are fiendishly difficult to get one's head around, nothing like the idealized systems we encounter in Freshman Physics. Yet, their non-linearity is the key to... well, maybe everything?

Sync explores the synchronization phenomena inherent in many complex systems, the way they coordinate their actions with respect to time, building order out of seeming noise. From fireflies to circadian rhythms to swinging pendulums to brain neurons to orbiting bodies to Higgs boson fields, there's an eerie tendency in nature for things to fall in step.

Despite being free of equations, it's a book that delves into some pretty dense territory, and might not be well suited to audiobook form. In most chapters, I found that a moment of daydreaming or distraction would have me rewinding to get back on track with the lecture. Strogatz spends a lot of time explaining abstract models, which held my interest as an engineer (the runners-on-a-track metaphor actually mirrored a traffic simulation I’d developed, which had sync issues of its own), but might appeal less to other readers. There are also some rather esoteric topics in physics, which I didn’t understand very well. I kinda wish he'd put those chapters towards the end, because I almost quit listening after one frustrating section dealing with spiral waves, which luckily turned out to be followed by a much more interesting and accessible overview of Chaos Theory. I also liked the chapters that explore networks and their characteristics (think of the connections between film actors, exemplified by the party game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”).

If you're hoping for some grand unifying theory of synchronization, you won't find it here, just an examination of some different systems in which sync is present and praise for the work of several different researchers. I wouldn’t have minded more resonance between the separate parts (as it were), but I was curious about the topic and the book was worth my time. It’s always cool to learn about a field in which many key developments have happened within my own lifetime. Strogatz convinced me that the qualities that make self-organizing systems difficult to model with traditional mathematics might be the same qualities that are most important to understand. As a software developer, I found it exciting to think about how computers will be used to further exploration of the universe’s emergent interconnectedness, and how discoveries might feed back into how we think about software design. We might even find out something profound.

3.5 stars.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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a great primer on complexity

I enjoyed this book every bit as much as Gleick's book on chaos. Strogatz is an excellent writer. Able to convey complex concepts of chaos and synchronicity to the general reader, this book is for anyone with interest in the topic. If you don't fully understand chaos from one perspective, don't worry. Storgatz provides many.

With discussions of his own work as well as the work of mentors, students, and others in the field, Strogatz addressed the broad application of sync in the world and universe. Skilled at capturing the various personalities of people he has worked with, Strogatz also included interesting stories about many researchers in the field as well as interesting stories about the inner workings of academia. With examples from biology (ie., neurons, heartbeat, and sleep/circadian rhythm), to physics and engineering (ie., metronomes, super conductors, power grids, and the bridge in London), to social connectedness (ie., 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon/small world model), and the future of sync studies (consciousness, evolution, immune system, the universe as a computer, and more), there are many fun things to learn about. I was also happy to learn about the lesser known role of Stanley Milgram in uncovering the 6 degrees of separation principle.

Who knew what the study of fireflies would bring? Excellent book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jayram
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 10-25-11

Best math audio book

I would rate Sync as one of the best mathematics audiobook that can be enjoyed and understood (even in audio format). Steven Strogatz is a pioneering mathematics professor working on chaos theory and non-linear dynamics. He has successfully integrated his understanding of the principles of synchrony and emergence of synchrony in various natural phenomena and came out with a intuitive, entertaining book mixed with historical anecdotes. Must buy book for any science loving audible listeners.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 12-15-13

After listening, can't explain to others.

The book is not an easy listen. Be prepared for statements like "the coherence of the neurons in our brain are best thought of as solving a differential equation to determine the equilibrium solution involved in the non-linear system....".

The book covers many diverse topics, from why does the face of the moon always face towards us to how does a laser work. The author ties all of the topics together by showing how each of the constituent parts acts to produce the whole system.

Each of the different topics was exciting, but I did not understand the topic well enough to explain it to others after having listened to the topic. That probably means he didn't explain the topic at a simple enough level for me to understand.

Any high school student or college beginner who is thinking about majoring in mathematics should listen to this book. The author presents the exciting diverse fields available for the math practitioner.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • HB
  • 10-15-12

Fascinating topic - Strogatz de-math's well

Any additional comments?

Kevin T Collins did a good job of narrating the book, except for one word used in multiple places: capacitors. They are pronounced as they are spelled, not "capacitators". Mr Collins added an extra "TA" in there that was distracting. To an electrical engineer, it was like nails on a chalkboard.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Not as intriguing as I expected.

Would you try another book from Steven Strogatz and/or Kevin T. Collins?

no.

Would you ever listen to anything by Steven Strogatz again?

no.

What about Kevin T. Collins’s performance did you like?

He showed enthusiasm for the subject.

Could you see Sync being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

no.

Any additional comments?

Not a read for fun. Educational, but not intriguing.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • jason
  • Smyrna, TN, United States
  • 07-18-12

If you suffer from insomnia, the cure is at hand!

What disappointed you about Sync?

Monotonous delivery of an intermittently interesting book. I've read Rise and Fall..., Decline and Fall,... and everything from Wuthering to Principia Mathematicus. This was dry, boring, and more of an autobiographical overview of what the author has done than anything else.

Would you ever listen to anything by Steven Strogatz again?

No

How could the performance have been better?

Any variation in tone would have been welcome.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It was relatively easy to understand give the subject.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Joshua
  • Tempe, AZ, United States
  • 03-10-11

Listen before you buy

This is my first review, I haven't ever felt compelled to write one before, but this time was different.

The content is great, or at least I'm sure its great had I been able to get through the first couple chapters. But the reader is boring and unenthusiastic, to say the least. Books like this require a conversational, realistic tone that this reader did not provide. My suggestion, pick up the physical copy of this one, the audiobook is disappointing.

14 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Tyler
  • St. Louis Park, MN, United States
  • 05-23-11

One Dense Book

Maybe I'm dense, but I sure thought this book was a bit on the dry and hard to follow side. Good information to be sure, but a lot of the book goes into excrutiating detail about math experiments. If you're fond of reading academic math journals, this book is for you.

10 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • RS
  • 11-02-12

The . . . .Narration . . . . . Is . . . . . Awful

Would you try another book from Steven Strogatz and/or Kevin T. Collins?

No . . . . . Never

Would you recommend Sync to your friends? Why or why not?

No

Would you be willing to try another one of Kevin T. Collins’s performances?

The . . . . . . Narrator . . . . . . Kevin . . . . . T . . . . . Collins . . . . . .Appears . . . . . To . . . . . Have . . . . . Some . . . . . . Sort . . . . . . of . . . . . .Reading . . . . . .Disability. . . . . . . . . . . . .I'm . . . . Not . . . . . Exaggerating . . . . . . When . . . . . I . . . . . Say . . . . . . That . . . . . .Listening . . . . . to . . . . . . Him . . . . . . Read . . . . . . This . . . . . . Book . . . . . . Is . . . . . . Like . . . . . Trying . . . . . . . To . . . . . . Read . . . . . . .This . . . . . . .Sentence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The . . . . . . .Cadence . . . . . . . And . . . . . . .Tonality . . . . . . .Are . . . . . . . Both . . . . . . .As . . . . . . Mind-numbing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . This . . . . . . . . . .Is . . . . . . . . . The . . . . . . . . . .Worst . . . . . . . . . .Audio . . . . . . . . Book . . . . . . . . Narration . . . . . . . . I . . . . . . . . Have . . . . . . Ever . . . . . . . .Heard.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

A . . . . . .Strong . . . . . . Desire . . . . . .To . . . . . . Shove . . . . . . .My . . . . . . Head . . . . . . Through . . . . . . .A . . . . . . Plate . . . . . . . Glass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Window.

15 of 24 people found this review helpful