A fascinating, yet clear-sighted overview of one of the most bewildering frontiers of modern physics: Chaos.
James Gleick was born in New York City and graduated from Harvard College. For ten years he was an editor at the New York Times. Chaos: Making a New Science was a 1987 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize nominee, and has been translated into eighteen languages. His most recent book is Genius: Richard Feynman and modern physics. He lives in New York with his wife and their son.
Science readers who have gone through relativity theory, quantum physics, Heisenbergian uncertainty, black holes and the world of quarks and virtual particles only to be stunned by recent Grand Unified Theories (GUTS) will welcome New York Times science writer Gleick's adventurous attempt to describe the revolutionary science of chaos. ``Chaos'' is what a handful of theorists steeped in math and computer know-how are calling their challengingly abstract new look at nature in terms of nonlinear dynamics. Gleick traces the ideas of these little-known pioneersincluding Mitchell Feigenbaum and his Butterfly Effect; Benoit Mandelbrot, whose ``fractal'' concept led to a new geometry of nature; and Joseph Ford who countered Einstein with ``God plays dice with the universe. But they're loaded dice.'' Chaos is deep, even frightening in its holistic embrace of nature as paradoxically complex, wildly disorderly, random and yet stable in its infinite stream of ``self-similarities.'' A ground-breaking book about what seems to be the future of physics. Illustrations. QPBC alternate. (October 20)
Fascinating... Almost every paragraph contains a jolt * New York
Highly entertaining...a startling look at newly discovered universal laws * Chicago Tribune *
Chaos-theory, 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 to study. Philosophically, 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 scales. With 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.-Norristown P.L., Pa.