is not a purely technical book. Instead, it focuses as much
on the scientists studying chaos as on the chaos itself. In
the pages of Gleick's book, the reader meets dozens of extraordinary
and eccentric people. For instance, Mitchell Feigenbaum, who
constructed and regulated his life by a 26-hour clock and watched
his waking hours come in and out of phase with those of his
coworkers at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
for chaos itself, Gleick does an outstanding job of explaining
the thought processes and investigative techniques that researchers
bring to bear on chaos problems. Rather than attempt to explain
Julia sets, Lorenz attractors, and the Mandelbrot Set with gigantically
complicated equations, Chaos relies on sketches, photographs,
and Gleick's wonderful descriptive prose.
Review at Amazon.com
touted as the third revolution in 20th-century science after
relativity and quantum mechanics, uses traditional mathematics
to understand complex natural systems with too many variables
it counters the Second Law of Thermodynamics by demonstrating
the "spontaneous emergence of self-organization." In this new
science apparent disorder is meaningful; the structure of chaos
can be mapped by plotting graphically the calculations of nonlinear
mathematics using "fractal" geometry, a brainchild of Benoit
Mandelbrot in which symmetrical patterns repeat across different
jocular descriptions of eccentric characters such as the "Dynamical
Systems collective," (a.k.a. Chaos Cabal) of the University
of CaliforniaSanta Cruz, Chaos offers an absorbing look at trailblazers
on a new scientific frontier. Laurie
Tynan, Montgomery Cty.
From Library Journal
humans,by nature, desire order and predictability in our world.
Perhaps this partly explains the apparent negligence of non-linear
systems and aperiodic phenomena and the stubborn resistance
to attempts to explain or model them. In his book, Chaos, James
Gleick chronicles the emergence of chaos theory from the first
romantic insights to the dire ordeals endured by a few courageous
scientists Gleick presents weren't quite as comfortable following
the well-trodden paths. They realized the shortcomings of science
in explaining nature's most elusive behaviors and were driven
by the desire to understand them. These brave and curious few
listened to the voice of these neglected behaviors and heard
a strangely magical song that entranced them, and they could
not turn away.
explains how Edward Lorenz's first computer weather model demonstrated
the unpredictability of aperiodic systems like the weather.
Previously, modern science held that very small influences had
little effect, a belief perhaps arising form the successes like
the accurate forecasting of missile and spacecraft trajectories.
But Lorenz discovered simple systems that were not predictable.
His waterwheel is one. The other he produced by putting a simple
three-equation system into motion. It never repeated itself,
defying predictability, but it produced an image of order.
by Lorenz's paper "Deterministic Nonperiodic flow," James Yorke
and Robert May cried out for recognition of nonlinear systems
and a re-thinking of the linear mathematics education that misleads
students and scientists about the true nature of our world.
explains how Benoit Mandlebrot's study of a perplexing noise
in a telephone line transmission led him to the development
of a new geometry that mirrors nature's complexity. His work
culminated in the book Fractals: Form, Chance, and Dimension.
The book provides a way of thinking about the irregular shapes
of things and appreciating the wildness of nature.
the way, Gleick leads the reader through a journey into theories
of turbulence that includes a discussion of phase space and
strange attractors. This section is a bit obscure and hard to
understand, but perhaps that just reflects the nature of the
discussion of Feigenbaum's universality theory is long on history
but short on explanation. It does, however, give the reader
a clear impression of the stubborn dogmatism and resistance
to change exhibited by the scientific community.
Thompson makes an appearance as a neglected biologist who wrote
eloquently on the constrained unity of all things, shaped partly,
he believed, by physical forces. His views were largely rejected
by his contemporaries who clung to Darwinian notions and teleology,
asserting that shape arose solely from function or purpose.
But it seems the more we learn, the more valid Thompson's speculations
devotes a significant portion of the book to the tale of the
rebellious graduate students at Santa Cruz. This section alone
is so interesting and entertaining that it could be made into
clear voice, radiating from these pages of struggle and discovery,
advocates reform of a dogmatic and compartmentalized scientific
community that resists change and ignores that which appears
difficult, unexplainable, or seemingly unimportant.
book also calls on scientific education to provide instruction
that reflects the full complexity of things. For by continuing
to resist wrestling with challenging ideas and implementing
educational reform, we only act to thwart new discoveries that,
like the ones of chaos theory, may help us understand and control
such things as the human malady of epidemic disease.
that, by our actions, we can make infinite or reduce to zero.
--- Shaun Calhoun