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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 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. In Chaos, 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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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 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. In Chaos, 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.

30 review for Chaos: Making a New Science

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Chaos: The Tip of a Giant Iceberg Gleick only gives an introduction about the actual science and beauty of Chaos. Instead he focusses on giving a poetic account of the scientists who first stumbled on it -- and their great surprise and their struggles form the narrative crux of the book. While some may say this makes it a less informative book, for me this made it one of the most intriguing non-fiction books I have read. Gleick's way of telling the stories makes the reader share in the wonder and Chaos: The Tip of a Giant Iceberg Gleick only gives an introduction about the actual science and beauty of Chaos. Instead he focusses on giving a poetic account of the scientists who first stumbled on it -- and their great surprise and their struggles form the narrative crux of the book. While some may say this makes it a less informative book, for me this made it one of the most intriguing non-fiction books I have read. Gleick's way of telling the stories makes the reader share in the wonder and incredulity of each pioneer as he stumbled upon this hitherto unguessed truth of nature. Each stumbling step, each misguided attempt and every remonstration expected in such a new endeavor is traced out in loving detail and these scientists come alive as insecure dramers daring to step beyond the realms of the possible. Gleick makes heroes out of Mandelbrot Benoît and the others and weaves an otherworldly charm around their ideas. This made the book pure poetry for me. The amazing pictures and illustrations and the quotes accompanying each chapter all add to the feeling of reading an art text book rather than a science book. And this ultimately was the real achievement of Gleick in writing Chaos - He manages to convey to us that this is the first foray of science into the realm of art - not just of explaining art but of being art. But ultimately none of this is going to be the lasting impact of this book. The reading pleasure and the hero worship of these daredevils is transient after all. For me, the real impact is that it has changed the way I look at the ordinary everyday world - the leaves, the trees, the pebbles, the pattern on the peels of an orange - everything is strangely magnified and beautiful now. I see the poetry of constant motion and evolution everywhere and I can feel the science of Chaos intuitively as I take my long walks. I can see Strange Attractors and Fractals and unstable equilibriums in the most mundane places. And this is the greatest gift of the book. P.S. Don't miss out on the exhaustive endnotes. They are indispensable.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "The future is disorder." ― Tom Stoppard, Arcadia “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 aroun "The future is disorder." ― Tom Stoppard, Arcadia “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 shoots the reader into 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    I'm totally in love with this book. Like, totally. Why? Because it GETS ME, MAN. Just kidding. I'm not anthropomorphizing a breakthrough in science. Although, if I was, I'd DEFINITELY be cuddling with this stream of seemingly random information that keeps repeating in regular ways, forming order from seeming chaos. Give me a seed and I will make you a universe. Or one hell of a trippy fractal. I think I'll leave butterflies out of this. Small changes affect great extrapolations. Our physics generator I'm totally in love with this book. Like, totally. Why? Because it GETS ME, MAN. Just kidding. I'm not anthropomorphizing a breakthrough in science. Although, if I was, I'd DEFINITELY be cuddling with this stream of seemingly random information that keeps repeating in regular ways, forming order from seeming chaos. Give me a seed and I will make you a universe. Or one hell of a trippy fractal. I think I'll leave butterflies out of this. Small changes affect great extrapolations. Our physics generators in video games relies on this. So do aeronautical research, weather forecasts, stock market prediction, presidential elections and the resulting public outrage, and the fluid dynamics of my creamer swirling in my coffee. Not to mention galaxy formation, fingerprints, shells, coastlines, or the thing that made the little dinos get the upper hand in those movies. :) Truly, though, this book does a great job at explaining and giving us the unusual history of the science that brought pure mathematics out of the clouds and back into the real world, dealing with our observable reality. Newton was okay for some things but all these new equations describe just HOW little uncertainties can create huge chaotic messes... and still be reduced back to first causes. :) Neat, huh? I'm totally stoked by these bad boys. Of course, we're all, yeah, we use those equations all the time now and it's old hat, but not so long ago, they were totally in left field and none of the big boys wanted to play with them. So, yeah, it's like a total paradigm shift, man. I'm FEEL'N it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    I did study a bit of Physics in a past life, but you don't need to have a background in science to get something out of this book. It sounds terribly difficult, but really it isn't. This book gives a wonderful explanation of the Butterfly Effect - one of those ideas in science that everyone thinks they know and understands, but that generally people have upside down and back to front. I really do like popular science books, particularly if they are well written, relatively easy to follow and don' I did study a bit of Physics in a past life, but you don't need to have a background in science to get something out of this book. It sounds terribly difficult, but really it isn't. This book gives a wonderful explanation of the Butterfly Effect - one of those ideas in science that everyone thinks they know and understands, but that generally people have upside down and back to front. I really do like popular science books, particularly if they are well written, relatively easy to follow and don't leave me feeling like I've been looking over an abyss for hours. Gleick never makes you feel this and takes you through some very difficult concepts with care and assurance. A wonderful guide through what would ordinarily be a very difficult and frightening landscape.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    This book, over two decades old now, is one of the great classics of science popularization. It was a blockbuster bestseller at the time, and it's still well worth reading, a fascinating, enjoyable introduction to one of the most important scientific developments of our time--the birth of chaos theory. One of the compelling features of the chaos story is that this scientific breakthrough wasn't a physics, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, or biology breakthrough; it was all of them. A mathematic This book, over two decades old now, is one of the great classics of science popularization. It was a blockbuster bestseller at the time, and it's still well worth reading, a fascinating, enjoyable introduction to one of the most important scientific developments of our time--the birth of chaos theory. One of the compelling features of the chaos story is that this scientific breakthrough wasn't a physics, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, or biology breakthrough; it was all of them. A mathematician turned meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, builds a "toy weather" on what's still a fairly early computer in the early 1960s, and in working with the parameters, concludes that long-term weather forecasting is doomed--a simple deterministic system is producing unpredictable results. Mitchell Feigenbaum, a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos in the early seventies, and two other scientists working together independently of him, are working on the problem of turbulence and.discover that it doesn't, as anticipated, build up gradually in an orderly manner. Reach the tipping point, and there it is. Beloit Mandelbrot, an IBM mathematician working with an equation that produces fractals, arrives to give a presentation to an economics class and finds "his" equation already on the board; the patterns he's found in pure math also apply in economics, the reproductive rates and numbers of animal populations, and countless other places. In each field, also, the initial work was most often either resisted or ignored. Precisely because chaos was popping up all over, with just a few people in each of many different scientific fields, it was easy for scientists in any field to notice a paper or presentation, note the fact that is was completely different from the methods, logic, math that had relevance for their own work, that much of the work was in fact being done in other fields--and dismiss it. For new doctoral students, there were no mentors in chaos theory, no jobs, no journals devoted to chaos theory. It completely upended ideas about how the natural world worked. It was heady, exciting--and much harder to explain than to demonstrate. Much of what the first generation of chaos scientists did is incredibly easy to demonstrate with a laptop computer today--but most of these chaos pioneers were working with handheld calculators, mainframe computers with dump terminals and limited and unreliable access for something so peripheral to the institution's perceived mission, computers whose only output device was a plotter. Gleick very effectively conveys the science, the excitement the early scientists working on it felt, and the challenges that faced them. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    Gosh, I was rather rude about this one, wasn't I? I'm moving the rating up a bit after my re-read (on audio) because it wasn't that bad, although I still think it's a bit overrated. ----------------------------------------------------------- James Gleick's Chaos is possibly one of the most overrated books ever written. The first two pages are quite good, before rapidly declining to dullness and staying there. The content consists of a few badly written half-biographies, a few pretty pictures and v Gosh, I was rather rude about this one, wasn't I? I'm moving the rating up a bit after my re-read (on audio) because it wasn't that bad, although I still think it's a bit overrated. ----------------------------------------------------------- James Gleick's Chaos is possibly one of the most overrated books ever written. The first two pages are quite good, before rapidly declining to dullness and staying there. The content consists of a few badly written half-biographies, a few pretty pictures and vignettes of science, and no worthwhile mathematics whatsoever. The result is neither interesting nor informative.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aurelia

    Most of science as we know it, as it was made in the first place, and as we learned about it in school is linear. That is we have a problem, which was successfully translated into an equation where the outputs are obtained by multiplying the inputs by a certain factor, while keeping everything in the first degree. Now of course in real life, things are much difficult, in many cases there are parameters which appear in both sides of the equation, making it second degree, a famous example being fr Most of science as we know it, as it was made in the first place, and as we learned about it in school is linear. That is we have a problem, which was successfully translated into an equation where the outputs are obtained by multiplying the inputs by a certain factor, while keeping everything in the first degree. Now of course in real life, things are much difficult, in many cases there are parameters which appear in both sides of the equation, making it second degree, a famous example being friction in the pendulum problem, which we disregard so often to keep things simple. The paradox is that although nonlinearity is almost the standard form in which Nature manifests itself to us, the entire tradition of Science, is based on transforming nonlinear systems to linear ones, creating an arsenal of mathematical tricks to do that, even worse, these complexities are viewed as ‘noises’, ‘irregularities’, something which ideally should not be there in the first place. This book tells of the journey of these scientists who challenged this mindset, and went to venture in this unexplored territories of science. The research which will lead to the field the author calls Chaos appeared throughout so many disciplines, and spanned for the entire second half of the 20th century. From Meteorology, to Physics, then Mathematics, Astronomy, hydrodynamics, and finally Biology by the 80s. It started by individuals who pushed linearity to its limit. Now once the system is no longer periodic or predictable, we expect an erratic behavior which follows no pattern at all. The big surprise is that this was not the case, what we find instead is an order inside of disorder. Chaotic patterns which resembles each other but never repeat themselves identically, and thus the system never regains its periodicity. Another fascinating discovery is the extreme dependence on initial conditions, minor differences in inputs produce vastly different responses from the system, yet these responses preserves the same orderly chaotic pattern. This strange results were of great interest to mathematicians, especially topologists, who study shapes. Their work led to other new discoveries, the most important of them is their independence from scale. The more you zoom in, the more they repeat themselves in the same manner. They called them Fractals. They gravitate around a state of equilibrium which they called a strange Attractor. its Universality was also proven. Thus a fair mathematical description was achieved eventually, but it was not in the traditional sense. In fact, most of the mathematics was experimental, which means by computer. Since most of mathematics was done by proof, this was very new inside of the field itself, and quit the breakthrough. At the same time, it was received with suspicion, after all it lacked a solid link with the natural world, and some thought of it as some kind of geometrical shapes obtained by someone playing with a computer. To tackle this issue, physicists looked at Turbulence, being the complex phenomenon par excellence, an analogy between the start of turbulence in a stream and the phase transition of liquids provided a good start. With experimentation, finally a solid physical reality was given to this mathematical theorem. This would have not been possible without so many detours from other disciplines, such as Information Theory and Thermodynamics… Now that these kind of doing science was quit established, other disciplines began to join the league, looking for solutions to problems which they previously lacked the adequate tools. Economists studying prices fluctuating in stock markets, ecologists predicting population growth and explaining massive extinctions, and finally physiologists trying to cure abnormal heart arrhythmia. With this vast array of applications, it is only the dawn of the Science of Chaos. In the end, this was definitely a very light and fun read and that is quit the reason it is so popular. A great piece of journalistic popular science. However, the too many personal anecdotes and unrelated biographical details were too much for my taste. I which that time was invested in digging in more details on the subject.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brad Lyerla

    I enjoyed this quick read, though in the end I did not like CHAOS very much. It is a breezy history of two decades of mostly disconnected work done by a number of different researchers in widely divergent areas of science. In an apparent coincidence, a small number of unrelated people became interested in studying aperiodic, non-linear problems arising in various fields of science all at roughly the same time. Their research had not advanced very far by the time this book was written in the mid- I enjoyed this quick read, though in the end I did not like CHAOS very much. It is a breezy history of two decades of mostly disconnected work done by a number of different researchers in widely divergent areas of science. In an apparent coincidence, a small number of unrelated people became interested in studying aperiodic, non-linear problems arising in various fields of science all at roughly the same time. Their research had not advanced very far by the time this book was written in the mid-80s. CHAOS was probably a little premature. It came too early which is reflected in the imprecision and shallow quality of Gleick's discussion, which can be frustratingly confusing at times. In any event, there is no reason to read it now. It is out of date. I picked it up now, only because it has been on my shelf forever and I have long meant to read it. It was very successful with a general audience back when it was new. I don't know if the leading thinkers on the subject would agree with this, but 'chaos theory' feels like a narrow slice of 'complexity theory'. For an elegant and comprehensive discussion of complexity theory, read Stephen Wolfram's ground-breaking work A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE published a decade ago and still making the news. It's the real deal.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    When reading science books, it's difficult to know whether what you're reading is current or not. Gleick's book was first published in 1987, so I imagine by now there have been many developments and modifications to the ideas and theories presented here. That being said, this felt like a good introduction to the early history of scientists' efforts to understand and explain nonlinear systems and the apparent chaotic behavior observed in natural and man-made systems. If you haven't studied science When reading science books, it's difficult to know whether what you're reading is current or not. Gleick's book was first published in 1987, so I imagine by now there have been many developments and modifications to the ideas and theories presented here. That being said, this felt like a good introduction to the early history of scientists' efforts to understand and explain nonlinear systems and the apparent chaotic behavior observed in natural and man-made systems. If you haven't studied science or mathematics beyond the basics taught in U.S. high schools, this book will be a challenge, but if you have an understanding of equations, geometry, and scientific research methods, you should be able to understand everything Gleick discusses here. I enjoyed this investigation of the order underlying what we perceive as disorder, especially fractals. If I had the time, I'd like to run the calculations myself, as they seem within the reach of anyone with a laptop. Maybe this summer....

  10. 5 out of 5

    Farhana

    My interest in chaos theory and butterfly effect has been purely philosophical. I guess the idea of alternate reality always intrigues me. May be fueled by its implication in popular culture, movies, or books. First time, when I read Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder", I was really moved by the idea how something very small might eventually affect something greater at later phases. I also like two scenes from movies, one from "Mr. Nobody" that rain scene which washed away the address : https://w My interest in chaos theory and butterfly effect has been purely philosophical. I guess the idea of alternate reality always intrigues me. May be fueled by its implication in popular culture, movies, or books. First time, when I read Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder", I was really moved by the idea how something very small might eventually affect something greater at later phases. I also like two scenes from movies, one from "Mr. Nobody" that rain scene which washed away the address : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOCoJ... And the car accident scene from "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldoHL... And I have one favorite comic story "Daytripper" which depicts so many alternate deaths a man can die in his life. Actually, really we never know, how many alternate lives we are living every time we have been able to cross one of the busy roads successfully ! I know this implication of butterfly effect in popular culture is often erroneous. Because it's almost always impossible to know what factors actually tipped off a particular system. But there are always chances that changes in initial condition might accumulate into something different. Or they may not - maybe things happen inevitably. However, we have no way to learn! And somehow I have developed my own version! I don't know when I started this thing, quite unconsciously, I guess. From time to time, on rare occasions, I would form a binary event tree of life and would try to figure out the initial events that accumulated into current condition of life. Obviously, there is no way to know! And obviously I am not trying to figure out what else could have happened! Maybe I am just trying to figure out the initial conditions of a Hidden Markov Model with life's current visible outcome. It's kind of fun! And there is no fixed rule. And you would always end up with a different answer based on where you decide to stop! You could stop looking for answers at personal level or at an impersonal level. It's just fun! However, apart from all these philosophical implications about life, I really wanted to learn a bit of science behind chaos theory. This is my 2nd attempt at this book almost 2 years later and the book is still uninteresting as it was before. I believe this is one of the most "overrated" books out there. The book is hugely popular, always comes at first when you are looking for recommendations about chaos theory books. So, first time I really had doubts about myself. I thought maybe I am not doing justice to this book. I still had my doubts this time. So, I spent substantial amount of my time behind this book. And I think I have done enough and cannot do anything more for this book. This is not actually a science book on Chaos thoery, rather a scientific history book about people who worked on Chaos theory. Bits of biographies from here and there and merged in little chapters which actually don't tell you anything useful/ informative about the science of chaos theory. The book is not rigorous at all! And it's really a disappointment! That's it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    The greatest discoveries of the 20th Century physics include Relativity Theory, Quantum Theory and Chaos Theory. Of the three, the only one that we can see and play with is chaos. From the flight patterns of flocks of birds, to heart arrhythmia, to stock market fluctuation to the coast of Alaska, the underlying patterns can be revealed in this wonderful branch of science. There are newer books on the subject but none better for us lay people.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

    This was an interesting read. As much about the history of chaos theory and the scientists who pioneered it as the science itself. Contains the obligatory Jurassic Park references (in case you were worried).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    4 Stars for Chaos: Making A New Science (audiobook) by James Gleik read by Rob Shapiro. I find it fascinating to see how science is progressing. Such a new idea is changing the way we look at the world.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    This book was a disappointment. The author spent too much time in repeating the same terminology and concepts like 'strange attractors' and 'sensitive dependence on initial conditions' and not enough time making it tangible by using real examples that would have made it more meaningful. For instance, what does chaos theory/nonlinear science mean for weather forecasting, predicting asset class returns, crime statistics, economic growth, timing of natural disasters? The author mentions these conce This book was a disappointment. The author spent too much time in repeating the same terminology and concepts like 'strange attractors' and 'sensitive dependence on initial conditions' and not enough time making it tangible by using real examples that would have made it more meaningful. For instance, what does chaos theory/nonlinear science mean for weather forecasting, predicting asset class returns, crime statistics, economic growth, timing of natural disasters? The author mentions these concepts but without going into lucid examples of what chaos theory implies for them. Because of this, I found the book frustrating - both too complex to really grasp, and too superficial to really provide useful insight into the concept. In fairness, there was a long gap where I put this book down after having read the first half, so I recognize that I lost the continuity of the narrative. And maybe, just maybe (highly doubtful!!)I'm just not smart enough to get it. Still, a whole lot more could have been done to illustrate the application and implications of the subject. I also didn't care for the tone of the brief profiles of the various physicists and mathematicians - it felt like name-dropping to me. The few things that kept being used as examples were the motion of water in a stream (fluid dynamics), or air tubulence. The most interesting chapters were the final two, about the possible application to physiology and then a summary of the concept. Maybe those should have been the first two chapters.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Donna Woodwell

    When this book came out in the late 80s, I remember eating in the college cafeteria while my physics teacher and fellow students chatted about this mysterious thing called "chaos theory." When I finally picked up my own copy, I wished I'd read it sooner. The mathemetics of chaos (and order) has literally remade our moder world. From weather prediction to materials production to medicine, there's not a realm of technology that hasn't changed with our new understandings of the patterns that connec When this book came out in the late 80s, I remember eating in the college cafeteria while my physics teacher and fellow students chatted about this mysterious thing called "chaos theory." When I finally picked up my own copy, I wished I'd read it sooner. The mathemetics of chaos (and order) has literally remade our moder world. From weather prediction to materials production to medicine, there's not a realm of technology that hasn't changed with our new understandings of the patterns that connect us all. Though a popular science book can only gloss a highly technical subject, Gleick does it well. But I found this book even more engaging for the narrative tale of a moment in history -- a virtual paradigm shift in mathematical thought -- that happened in our lifetimes. It's a case study in political factions and egos, sometimes cooperation and always wonder at seeing the world in a new way.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gendou

    Not so much a new science as an old obsession of a few mystics... :( Gleick gives an unorganized overview some fun mathematical concepts like fractals, strange attractors, and chaos theory. But he exaggerates the importance of these topics, presenting them as a holistic revolution in physics, overthrowing reductionism, which just isn't the case. The last chapter was incomprehensible hippie mysticism, then the book just ended leaving me wondering what the whole point was. It seems to me like this boo Not so much a new science as an old obsession of a few mystics... :( Gleick gives an unorganized overview some fun mathematical concepts like fractals, strange attractors, and chaos theory. But he exaggerates the importance of these topics, presenting them as a holistic revolution in physics, overthrowing reductionism, which just isn't the case. The last chapter was incomprehensible hippie mysticism, then the book just ended leaving me wondering what the whole point was. It seems to me like this book represents a time in history before people had gotten accustom to handling complexity and information theory in computers. Having grown up with a computer, I found most points argued in this book painfully obvious common sense.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeff HansPetersen

    I finally read the book that ought to have been required reading for freshman physics majors for the past 20 years! The other day when the radio announcer reported the length of the Florida coastline, I found myself wondering what length measuring stick was used. It is interesting to contemplate how much of the themes of this book have migrated into the modern cultural consciousness. Then, you may wind up contemplating how much of that migration was due to Jeff Goldblum's ham-fisted illustration I finally read the book that ought to have been required reading for freshman physics majors for the past 20 years! The other day when the radio announcer reported the length of the Florida coastline, I found myself wondering what length measuring stick was used. It is interesting to contemplate how much of the themes of this book have migrated into the modern cultural consciousness. Then, you may wind up contemplating how much of that migration was due to Jeff Goldblum's ham-fisted illustrations in "Jurassic Park".

  18. 5 out of 5

    J C

    I found it quite informative, especially in communicating what it would perhaps be like working in science at an exciting time. However there were many sections that bored me and aperiodic jumps in his focus that left me lost a bit. All in all I can say I have a better grasp of what chaos is all about... but on a bit of reflection... well, no, not really. A good history I guess, I'm now all fired up to read textbooks on this stuff (: I found it quite informative, especially in communicating what it would perhaps be like working in science at an exciting time. However there were many sections that bored me and aperiodic jumps in his focus that left me lost a bit. All in all I can say I have a better grasp of what chaos is all about... but on a bit of reflection... well, no, not really. A good history I guess, I'm now all fired up to read textbooks on this stuff (:

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    The kind of book that just blows your mind with how cool it all is, and why doesn't anyone teach science like THIS. Because of this book, and the many delights that have followed, I am a lover of popular science writing. And also, I've learned way more than I ever did in school. The kind of book that just blows your mind with how cool it all is, and why doesn't anyone teach science like THIS. Because of this book, and the many delights that have followed, I am a lover of popular science writing. And also, I've learned way more than I ever did in school.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Huyen Chip

    This is how popular science books should be.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

    Although I truly enjoy the way James Gleick can take a complicated subject apart for the inexpert, I did not enjoy this book as much as I did The Information. I caught myself skipping, counting pages to the end of the chapter, even yawning and dropping off. Not a good sign for me. Some chapters had me on the edge of my seat, or thinking "Ah ha! That's how that works." The overall sense that chaos has a sometimes deeply hidden pattern (that applies to all things) is interesting, but I didn't need Although I truly enjoy the way James Gleick can take a complicated subject apart for the inexpert, I did not enjoy this book as much as I did The Information. I caught myself skipping, counting pages to the end of the chapter, even yawning and dropping off. Not a good sign for me. Some chapters had me on the edge of my seat, or thinking "Ah ha! That's how that works." The overall sense that chaos has a sometimes deeply hidden pattern (that applies to all things) is interesting, but I didn't need to be told that over and over. It is obvious that Mr. Gleick enjoys the subjects that he writes about and it is difficult to not become affected with his enthusiasm. However, in Chaos, his excitement about the subject, tends to cause him to wander, attempting to get every single detail in that he can. When the first sentence of a chapter tells you that so-and-so showed up at the front door of someone's lab, I like to know who that person is and why he might be there fairly quickly, not 10 pages later. By that time I'm rereading pages thinking I must have missed who this person is and why he's standing at the door of someone's lab. I've also forgotten whose lab! Overall, I did enjoy the book and will probably watch for more by this author. But The Information is my favorite so far.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Koen Crolla

    Too heavy on human interest, too light on maths, and Gleick has read more Kuhn than is good for him. It's another journalist writing about mathematics, though this one anticipated the Wikipedia Age by two decades. While he does exhibit a fair degree of sloppiness (``unbounded'' is not a synonym for ``infinite'', ``infinite'' does not mean ``quite big''), Chaos actually isn't all that bad as a fairly shallow introduction to chaos theory. It's not what I was looking for, but exactly what I expecte Too heavy on human interest, too light on maths, and Gleick has read more Kuhn than is good for him. It's another journalist writing about mathematics, though this one anticipated the Wikipedia Age by two decades. While he does exhibit a fair degree of sloppiness (``unbounded'' is not a synonym for ``infinite'', ``infinite'' does not mean ``quite big''), Chaos actually isn't all that bad as a fairly shallow introduction to chaos theory. It's not what I was looking for, but exactly what I expected, and a complete layperson could realistically enjoy it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Victoire

    Awesome predictability of unpredictability, namely sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Wonderful bifurcations and pretty things abound... it'll make you realise why we'll never understand everything. Awesome predictability of unpredictability, namely sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Wonderful bifurcations and pretty things abound... it'll make you realise why we'll never understand everything.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrej Karpathy

    I read this a while ago but I can't remember it being a very spectacular or enjoyable read. Disclaimer: I took chaos mathematics at school so I was reasonably familiar with most presented concepts, which could have made it a little more boring. I read this a while ago but I can't remember it being a very spectacular or enjoyable read. Disclaimer: I took chaos mathematics at school so I was reasonably familiar with most presented concepts, which could have made it a little more boring.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ami Iida

    This document is a basic book on chaos fractal theory.   I prefer both text and its Illustrated.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lemar

    “The only things that can ever be universal, in a sense, are scaling things.” That idea is at the heart of James Gleick’s book, and if you zoom in, there it is again! Gleick is great at capturing the excitement of new discoveries, mainly be introducing the quirky contributors who wouldn’t shut up, play nice and stay in their lanes. These men and women crossed academic disciplines of math, physics. biology and meteorology (is that a thing? oh, sorry) because the seeming chaos they all encountere “The only things that can ever be universal, in a sense, are scaling things.” That idea is at the heart of James Gleick’s book, and if you zoom in, there it is again! Gleick is great at capturing the excitement of new discoveries, mainly be introducing the quirky contributors who wouldn’t shut up, play nice and stay in their lanes. These men and women crossed academic disciplines of math, physics. biology and meteorology (is that a thing? oh, sorry) because the seeming chaos they all encountered in real life situations started showing eerily similar patterns. “They had an eye for pattern, especially pattern that appeared on different scales at the same time.” So what’s so exciting that a person should read this whole book? It’s optimistic and trippy! Newton’s depressing 2nd law of thermodynamics, which says ‘well eventually we’re all fucked because everything cools off and moves inexorably toward disorder’ is not the whole story. In that dissipation new forms are born. “Pattern born in amid formlessness: that is biology’s basic beauty and it’s basic mystery.” “Of all the pathways of disorder, nature favors just a few.” It’s life on the edge, on the boundaries, where “chaotic and near chaotic systems bridge the gap between macro-scales and micro-scales, chaos was the creation of information”, “randomness with its own underlying order.” So in place of Newton’s death spiral, (sorry Newt) which btw gives no insight into how order, life, people got appeared in the first place, Chaos Theory reveals that, “at the boundary, life blossoms”! The ambitious move to use math in describing irregular shapes like leaves or human arteries meant going beyond the bounds of math that worked only on the kind of nice clean polygon shapes that, actually, never occur in nature. This is nonlinear geometry. It turns out that math, which has hinted that it is the pathway to understanding (insert name or concept here) when used in nonlinear geometry, equations that iterate rather than resolve, that math is on the fruitful path because, “odd shapes carry meaning.” “Evolution is chaos with feedback.” - Joseph Ford, a quote Jimi Hendrix might have dug. I suggest putting on some Jimi and a video of the Mandelbrot fractal set. There’s meaning there. And, not coincidentally, it’s fun!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chaitanya Sethi

    4.5 stars James Gleick's Chaos is an introductory text that takes you through the development of this field of scientific inquiry from its origins to its current state in 1987, when the book was written. To be fair on Gleick, this subject feels so vast that one doesn't know where to start and how to start talking about it. With that in mind, this is a brilliant effort in *trying* to make a relatively new subject accessible to a large audience. At 300+ pages, it is suspiciously dense. I could only 4.5 stars James Gleick's Chaos is an introductory text that takes you through the development of this field of scientific inquiry from its origins to its current state in 1987, when the book was written. To be fair on Gleick, this subject feels so vast that one doesn't know where to start and how to start talking about it. With that in mind, this is a brilliant effort in *trying* to make a relatively new subject accessible to a large audience. At 300+ pages, it is suspiciously dense. I could only read 20-30 pages at a go, even lesser sometimes. So what works against it is that the language isn't as easy to follow as it could have been. For those who don't have a background in Science, it will be hard to follow as it employs technical jargon that it could not avoid. Some descriptions and concepts are written in a dry manner which makes you lose interest. Why am I ranking it a 4.5 then? Well, firstly for ambition. It does an appreciable job of introducing a fascinating idea. It is successfully able to spark joy about the subject. Secondly, it treats the scientists involved (over 200, as mentioned in the notes) as people and not just prodigies. It is able to highlight the ups and downs of charting a new field. Thirdly, for what it emphasizes - that knowledge, and discovery of knowledge, is an iterative process that builds on itself over years and years of effort. That Science doesn't exist in a vacuum, in labs and equipment. It may be understood there but it exists in the world around us. In the sky above, the water dripping from the faucet, the heart beating over a billion times just to keep you alive, the snowflake forming as it falls, epidemics withering and boosting populations. It exists as complex behaviour in simple systems, as simple behaviour in complex systems. Generations of human curiosity birthing knowledge. It's hard to call a book eye-opening without coming across as cheesy or over-the-top but this subject really makes you look at the world with a fresh eye. It's not an easy read and by all means, I will immediately move to other resources to understand this topic better. But to be able to spark that curiosity - that is an achievement in itself. For that, it deserves to be read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cav

    Wow, this book was epic! Chaos can be a tricky concept, but author James Gleick writes in a very effective way; conveying complicated ideas in an easy-to-understand manner. I can only imagine how difficult this book would have been to follow, if it was plagued by the long-winded and dry writing that befalls many science books... Thankfully, it does not. The author relates conceptually complicated ideas in an easily-accessible style. Gleick conveys the importance of Chaos early on: "The most p Wow, this book was epic! Chaos can be a tricky concept, but author James Gleick writes in a very effective way; conveying complicated ideas in an easy-to-understand manner. I can only imagine how difficult this book would have been to follow, if it was plagued by the long-winded and dry writing that befalls many science books... Thankfully, it does not. The author relates conceptually complicated ideas in an easily-accessible style. Gleick conveys the importance of Chaos early on: "The most passionate advocates of the new science go so far as to say that twentieth-century science will be remembered for just three things: relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos. Chaos, they contend, has become the century’s third great revolution in the physical sciences. Like the first two revolutions, chaos cuts away at the tenets of Newton’s physics. As one physicist put it: “Relativity eliminated the Newtonian illusion of absolute space and time; quantum theory eliminated the Newtonian dream of a controllable measurement process; and chaos eliminates the Laplacian fantasy of deterministic predictability.” Of the three, the revolution in chaos applies to the universe we see and touch, to objects at human scale. Everyday experience and real pictures of the world have become legitimate targets for inquiry. There has long been a feeling, not always expressed openly, that theoretical physics has strayed far from human intuition about the world. Whether this will prove to be fruitful heresy or just plain heresy, no one knows. But some of those who thought physics might be working its way into a corner now look to chaos as a way out" Chaos theory has been instrumental in modelling. Before chaos theory, engineers were unable to model things like friction and turbulence, instead using perturbation theory. Gleick talks at great length about the founding of chaos theory and the butterfly effect, by meteorologist Edward Lorenz. "One day in the winter of 1961, wanting to examine one sequence at greater length, Lorenz took a shortcut. Instead of starting the whole run over, he started midway through. To give the machine its initial conditions, he typed the numbers straight from the earlier printout. Then he walked down the hall to get away from the noise and drink a cup of coffee. When he returned an hour later, he saw something unexpected, something that planted a seed for a new science. THIS NEW RUN should have exactly duplicated the old. Lorenz had copied the numbers into the machine himself. The program had not changed. Yet as he stared at the new printout, Lorenz saw his weather diverging so rapidly from the pattern of the last run that, within just a few months, all resemblance had disappeared. He looked at one set of numbers, then back at the other. He might as well have chosen two random weathers out of a hat. His first thought was that another vacuum tube had gone bad. Suddenly he realized the truth. There had been no malfunction. The problem lay in the numbers he had typed. In the computer’s memory, six decimal places were stored: .506127. On the printout, to save space, just three appeared: .506. Lorenz had entered the shorter, rounded-off numbers, assuming that the difference—one part in a thousand—was inconsequential. It was a reasonable assumption. If a weather satellite can read ocean surface temperature to within one part in a thousand, its operators consider themselves lucky. Lorenz’s Royal McBee was implementing the classical program. It used a purely deterministic system of equations. Given a particular starting point, the weather would unfold exactly the same way each time. Given a slightly different starting point, the weather should unfold in a slightly different way. A small numerical error was like a small puff of wind—surely the small puffs faded or canceled each other out before they could change important, large-scale features of the weather. Yet in Lorenz’s particular system of equations, small errors proved catastrophic." Gleick continues on with explaining fractals, and talks at great length about The Mandelbrot Set: "The Mandelbrot Set is the most complex object in mathematics, its admirers like to say. An eternity would not be enough time to see it all, its disks studded with prickly thorns, its spirals and filaments curling outward and around, bearing bulbous molecules that hang, infinitely variegated, like grapes on God’s personal vine. Examined in color through the adjustable window of a computer screen, the Mandelbrot set seems more fractal than fractals, so rich is its complication across scales. A cataloguing of the different images within it or a numerical description of the set’s outline would require an infinity of information. But here is a paradox: to send a full description of the set over a transmission line requires just a few dozen characters of code." The Mandelbrot set: He also dives deeply into strange attractors, Universality, and many other related topics. All super-interesting and highly informative! I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in chaos theory, or even the sciences in general. It is exceptionally well-written, researched, illustrated, and delivered.

  29. 4 out of 5

    The Lazy Reader

    Informative, easy to understand, but too repetitive.

  30. 5 out of 5

    the hundred-eyed human

    oKaY, wait this is confusing. It challenged me and disturbed me and delighted me and I can't really explain what I read except it changed the wiring in my brain. I don't know what just happened but I KNOW it was good. I read it now a page at a time some days as a bleak substitute of night prayers, trying to make it stick in my brain. P.S. This was an assigned schoolwork. GAH! But I enjoyed it? I know, everything going loopy up here. oKaY, wait this is confusing. It challenged me and disturbed me and delighted me and I can't really explain what I read except it changed the wiring in my brain. I don't know what just happened but I KNOW it was good. I read it now a page at a time some days as a bleak substitute of night prayers, trying to make it stick in my brain. P.S. This was an assigned schoolwork. GAH! But I enjoyed it? I know, everything going loopy up here.

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