Chaos: Making a New Science

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The million-copy bestseller by National Book Award nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist James Gleick that reveals the science behind chaos theory National bestseller More than a million copies sold A work of popular scie...
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The million-copy bestseller by National Book Award nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist James Gleick that reveals the science behind chaos theory
National bestseller
More than a million copies sold
A work of popular science in the tradition of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, this 20th-anniversary edition of James Gleick’s groundbreaking bestseller Chaos introduces a whole new readership to chaos theory, one of the most significant waves of scientific knowledge in our time. From Edward Lorenz’s discovery of the Butterfly Effect, to Mitchell Feigenbaum’s calculation of a universal constant, to Benoit Mandelbrot’s concept of fractals, which created a new geometry of nature, Gleick’s engaging narrative focuses on the key figures whose genius converged to chart an innovative direction for science. InChaos,Gleick makes the story of chaos theory not only fascinating but also accessible to beginners, and opens our eyes to a surprising new view of the universe.

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Editorial Reviews


“ Fascinating . . . almost every paragraph contains a jolt.” The New York Times
“ Taut and exciting . . . a fascinating illustration of how the pattern of science changes.” The New York Times Book Review
“ Highly entertaining . . . a startling look at newly discovered universal laws.” Chicago Tribune
“ An awe-inspiring book. Reading it gave me that sensation othat someone had just found the light switch.” —Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Chaos is a feast.” The Washington Post Book World

About the Author

James Gleick was born in New York City in 1954. He worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times, founded an early Internet portal, the Pipeline, and has written several books of popular science, including The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, which won the Pen/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. He lives in Key West and New York.   

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 84 people found the following review helpfulBy Paul Stevenson VINE VOICE on December 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am not a hard scientist, but I like to have some idea of what is going on in those fields. Books like this one are ideal for people such as me. This book tackles the fascinating field of Chaos Theory. It turns out that certain patterns recur over and over in many diverse areas of the universe, whether it is the patterning of galaxies in clusters or the price of cotton.

Specialists working in many fields independently discovered curious patterns, and eventually, starting mainly in the 1970's, they became aware of each others' work. This book takes physics as the field on which it focuses, but it mentions many others. Since some of these fields involve conscious human decision making (especially economics), I have begun to wonder whether I can find comparable patterns in languages, my own specialty.

There are many reviews of a previous printing of this book: Chaos: Making a New Science, so you can go there to check them out. Other books useful to non-specialists interested in the history of and current research in the hard sciences are The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of RealityA Briefer History of Time and Electric Universe: How Electricity Switched on the Modern World.
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Format: Kindle Edition with Audio/Video
(This review is based on the iBook version of Chaos: The Enhanced Edition, which I am assuming is identical to the Kindle edition)

In 1987 I got my Bachelors of Science in physics, Prozac was launched in the US, and James Gleick published Chaos. I don't think the middle one has any bearing on the other two. But the first and last are tentatively linked because, despite being completely jazzed on physics, I didn't read it.

Being a young physicist with a new-found appreciation of the universe and just how complex it is, I quickly found there was nothing thing quite so irritating as a popular science book. Just imagine, after three years of sweat and tears you begin to get a feel for the basics of your chosen subject, when some smart alec arts student comes along authoritatively sprouting stuff that you think you should understand, but don't - and all because they've read the latest best seller in the science charts.

Humiliating? Not even close!

But time and maturity help to break down the fragile arrogance of youth, so when I was asked to review the just-released enhanced e-edition of James Gleick's best-seller Chaos, I willingly agreed. And I'm glad I did.

For those who were too young, too disinterested or, like me, too arrogant to read the book when it first appeared, this is the story of how a group of scientists and mathematicians from very different backgrounds found a new way to describe the world. Traditionally, scientists had tried to understand natural phenomenon and systems as stable or almost-stable systems. And it was assumed that complex systems needed even more complex models and webs of equations in order to fully appreciate them.Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpfulBy Rama Rao VINE VOICE on July 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is the first of its kind, which introduces a new branch of science, the chaos or chaos theory from the historical point of view. This theory is widely applied in the transdisciplinary field of meteorology, mathematics, physics, population biology, cell biology, philosophy, astrophysics, information theory, economics, finance, robotics, and other diverse fields. The author has done a tremendous job of putting this book together with very little mathematics. I found this book highly engaging.

A brief summary of the book is as follows: Chaos physics along with classical and quantum physics are required to fully describe physical reality. Physical laws described by differential equations correspond to deterministic systems. In quantum physics, the Schrödinger equation which describes the continuous time evolution of a system's wave function is deterministic. However, the relationship between a system's wave function and the observable properties of the system is non-deterministic (quantum physical phenomenon). The systems studied in chaos theory are deterministic. In general for a deterministic system, if the initial state of a system were known exactly, then the future state of such a system could be predicted. However, there are many dynamical systems such as weather forecasting that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. This sensitivity referred to as the butterfly effect which suggests that small differences in initial conditions (for example, rounding errors caused by limiting the number of decimals in numerical computation), yield different results, rendering long-term prediction impossible, hence they are called chaotic systems.Read more ›


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