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Chaos: Making a New Science (English Edition) [Kindle Edition]

James Gleick
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Few writers distinguish themselves by their ability to write about complicated, even obscure topics clearly and engagingly. In Chaos, James Gleick, a former science writer for the New York Times, shows that he resides in this exclusive category. Here he takes on the job of depicting the first years of the study of chaos--the seemingly random patterns that characterise many natural phenomena.

This 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.

As 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. --Christine Buttery


"Fascinating... Almost every paragraph contains a jolt" (New York Times)

"Highly entertaining...a startling look at newly discovered universal laws" (Chicago Tribune)



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3.0 von 5 Sternen A good history, a bad book about chaos 12. Januar 2015
Von Bernhard
The book is exactly what one of the reviews said: A good history. If you want to learn something about chaos, you will probably be disappointed. Gleick has a way of jumping around between topics that never satisfies the curiosity of the reader.

To give one example: In one chapter he starts out with a story of some scientist submitting results to a journal only to get rejected because his discovery -- Julia sets -- have been discovered 50 years before. Gleick then continuous with fractality of the Newton algorithm, goes over to Mandelbrot and his set, which he developed with the goal in mind of indexing Julia sets, and ends the chapter with several nice and interesting anecdotes about fractals and their discoverers. At the end of the chapter one neither knows one single thing about Julia sets (other than they are fractal), one does not know whether Mandelbrot succeeded (and there is a relation between the Mandelbrot set and the Julia sets), nor does one know how the story about the rejected manuscript ended.

To summarize: If you are interested only in scientists rather than in science, this book is good for you (it has all the famous names in it: Mandelbrot, Feigenbaum, Lorenz, Ruelle, Yorke, May, etc.). If you know NOTHING about chaos theory, then the book might give you something, too: The concepts are explained in a very superficial, non-mathematical way to give you enough material to talk about during cocktail parties. If you already know concepts like strange attractors, sensitive dependence on initial conditions, and fractality, this book might not be the right one for you (unless you are interested in the history behind these concepts).
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Beeindruckend 11. Dezember 2012
Von Genji
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Hot Damn, dass war mal nen interessantes Buch.
Ich hab es im Rahmen meines Studiums gelesen und war echt beeindruckt, wie gut es Gleick gelingt diese schwierige Thematik runterzubrechen und verständlich zu erklären.
Allerdings kommt man hier mit Schulenglisch nicht sehr weit ;-)

Wer der Physik nicht abgeneigt ist und gerne mehr (viel mehr) über Chaostheorie erfahren möchte, wird von diesem Buch sehr gut begleitet.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.2 von 5 Sternen  29 Rezensionen
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Order from Chaos 29. September 2007
Von Mr P R Morgan - Veröffentlicht auf
We all know things that are not predictable. These can be everyday occurrences like the weather, or more specialised events (whether the stock market will go up or down). The unpredictable plays a large part in "normal life". Yet for some of these matters, there is a nagging feeling that if sufficient information were known, the unpredictable would indeed be able to be forecast with as much certainty as whether the sun will rise tomorrow. Thus James Gleick introduces the topic of `chaos' - there can be a "sensitive dependence on initial conditions". If we were to know the initial conditions in all their details, predictability would be brought within our grasp. Thus the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in China could result in rainfall in Indianapolis.

At times I was lost in the small detail, but the strength of this book is that it paints a big picture. The mathematics (and physics, and chemistry, and biology, and .....) is sometimes beyond me, but the overall story is that there is `chaos' all around. Some of the chaos is linked into classic Newtonian mechanics, but strangely enough, chaos almost has in itself an order and `predictability' about it.

The three of the most significant scientific theories of the 20th century are reckoned to be Einstein's General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and ...... Chaos Theory. Before opening this very historical account of the last mentioned, I knew nothing about the theory of chaos. Now I have an awareness of the subject, and how experimentation can play a part in mathematics. Experimentation and mathematics are not normally uttered in the same sentence.

Look for the big picture, and do not get lost in the people and places, which can be bewildering. If you read this book, please ensure that it has colour photographs within it - the pictures are both staggering, and help to bring home the message. Some areas of chaos have their roots in self similarity, and the pictures from Mendelbrot sets are both staggering and fascinating. Self similarity can be best summed up by the classic (and anonymous) ditty: "Big fleas have on their backs small fleas to bite them, small flees have smaller fleas and so ad infinitum"

Gleick is strong on the history and roots of chaos, and how the ideas were received when initially tabled. There was shock and disbelief that others from external communities could have something to say that would have relevance to (say) population growth models, from totally different scientific disciplines. There was also reluctance initially to publish some of the ground-braking ideas.

Chaos is about non-linear dynamics, fractals, fractal boundary basins and much more. As `chaos' as a concept (and almost as a discipline) spread, rather than bringing order when chaos had existed before (and this could be described as one of the main purposes of `science'), evidence of more chaos emerges.

From study, it could be that there is more evidence of chaos than we thought hitherto. There could be chaos in space, and the onset of cardiac arrhythmias (heart attacks) seems chaotic. Gleick speculates that `evolution' is chaos with feedback. He has made me more aware of randomness. Classic determinism generates randomness. Perhaps, just perhaps, chaos is a way to reconcile free will and determinism. All in all, unlike the pure scientists of old, I now find myself positively looking for chaos.

Perhaps that is a mark of a well presented book.

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Great Overview 24. Juli 2012
Von Andy in Washington - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
I was prepared to hate this book, and it sat on my Kindle for about a year before I finally read it. I am an Electrical Engineer, a group not normally enamored with mathematicians, since Engineering is, almost by definition, the avoidance of pure math.

I ended up loving the book. Probably proof right there that Chaos exists.

While the book is certainly "technical", it is well within the range of anyone who is not afraid of math and willing to spend a little time considering what it says. I ended up spending about a week or so reading the book, a long time for me, because it takes time to digest some of the material and understand what it is saying.

A very good example is Gleick's discussion of a common mathematical formula x(next)=rx(1-x). This formula, where R is a constant governs many common phenomena, including biological populations. (r is a constant, and x represents a level of population from 0 to 1). Just looking at the equation, you would expect it to be fairly well behaved, probably some sort of exponential or sinusoidal looking function with a nice regular period to it. In fact, as Gleick suggests, if you spend a few minutes playing with the equation in a spreadsheet, you see that it is anything but a neat, orderly function. Depending on the starting conditions and the value of the constant (scaling function R) that you use, the graph takes on numerous random shapes.

In other words, even for populations with can be modeled with a simple formula, the math predicts that there will be occasional booms and crashes INDEPENDENT of any external influences. To put it another way, bald eagle populations might crash every once in a while, seemingly at random, whether anyone invents DDT or not- just because of the chaotic nature of how the universe works. (I am not trying to defend DDT, just using it as an example).

I found this to be a startling revelation. It certainly goes against my engineering mindset, where things work the way they do, first time, every time, and randomness is really caused by some error or external force you don't quite understand. Chaos theory proposes that randomness is inherent in nature, and even the most carefully controlled conditions may result in unexpected results.

No doubt Gleick has just scratched the surface, and watered down the math to the point where an average person could have a glimpse of concepts that trained mathematicians spend their careers on. From that standpoint, the book is a success. I walked away with an understanding of what chaos really means, how it influences real-world events, and why those fractal images aren't just pretty pictures, but actually have real meaning.

The only criticisms I have of the book are its attempt to relate chaos and the works of philosophers (Goethe) and artists. While I am sure there is a high-level connection to be made, I found the comparisons tedious. Also, because the book is a very limited overview, it can get a little jumpy and choppy. It is really more of a series of essays than a complete narrative. Finally, in some cases I found the mathematical simplifications overdone, and it took a while to realize what Gleick was talking about simply because it was so oversimplified.

All that said, I enjoyed the book, learned something, and walked away with at least a slight understanding of what all the chaos fuss is about. If you are at all interested in how the world works, some of the ideas put forward will amaze you. And while chaos theory is very much about the math behind it, don't let is scare you off. If you understood the first chapter of your algebra book, you are well on your way.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen The stories that switch on the lights! 26. Mai 2007
Von J. H. S. Roodt - Veröffentlicht auf
Gleick introduces chaos in an easy and understandable way, not relying on lots of mathematics. His descriptions of deterministic chaos are accurate and he recounts several stories to help the reader understand the context of the discoveries. Not a book for mathematicians, but rather a book for everybody else that loves a good story about where our current science views are coming from. Read this before you get into Holland and the rest of the manic gang.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Chaos Theory made relevant 22. Januar 2013
Von Hassan K Najjar - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
This book really made me see why Chaos is relevant, and what makes it stand out among the many theories of the century. The theory's beauty and simplicity is especially appealing for those wishing to escape reductionism, and get a holistic view of the world and nature. This book gives life to the theory by mentioning stories of 'converts' to Chaos, and discussing its evolution in various disciplines.

I recommend this book for those looking for a non-technical book on Chaos Theory, and for those that have no clue what the theory is all about but want to understand its importance to the sciences and the world.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Fascinating - highly recommend! 13. Juni 2011
Von FMW - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Really simple review: A fascinating book - interested in it after reading Gleick's book on Isaac Newton (which was also great). A great choice or gift for anyone who enjoys any aspect of science since "chaos" affects everything... don't have to be a science buff to enjoy it, neither do you need to have a degree to understand it. Well-written and I can't wait for more books by James Gleick.
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