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9780749386061

Chaos: Making a New Science

James Gleick Author

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9780749386061: Chaos: Making a New Science

This book brings together different work in the new field of physics called the chaos theory, an extension of classical mechanics, in which simple and complex causes are seen to interact. Mathematics may only be able to solve simple linear equations which experiment has pushed nature into obeying in a limited way, but now that computers can map the whole plane of solutions of non-linear equations a new vision of nature is revealed. The implications are staggeringly universal in all areas of scientific work and philosophical thought.

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

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Read by Michael Jackson (the radio host).

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