The Quark and the Jaguar
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The Quark and the Jaguar

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  658 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking described our attempts to formulate the physical laws of the universe. In this work, Nobel Laureate, Gell-Mann, argues that this is only the beginning of what we need to know about our world and ourselves. What if we know those laws? What next? Seeking a unified theory of all matter, whether it is the structure of galaxies or the...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 7th 1995 by Little Brown and Company (first published April 1st 1994)
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Aug 14, 2007 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: quarks, jaguars, quark/jaguar hybrids
Geared towards a general audience—albeit one with a certain intellectual tenacity—this book does two things very well: it reconciles quantum physics with our everyday world, removing much of the unecessary mystery surrounding the subject, and it puts the reader in touch with the penumbra of mystery that surrounds even the most sober reason.

Not only did the nobel-prize winning author take the time to make his science accessible to the non-specialist, he anticipated counterarguments to his present...more
Jul 18, 2008 DJ rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in information & complexity or an introduction ot modern physics
Shelves: popular-physics
Gell-Mann is a very intelligent man with wide-ranging interests but his attempts to treat so many of these interests at once really hinder ‘The Quark and The Jaguar’.

At times, this book presents fascinating and powerful new ways of looking at the world. Gell-Mann shines when he’s in his element. His introduction to complexity & randomness and complex adaptive systems is excellent and has given me a new lens to view the world through. Also, his introduction to modern physics (Gell-Mann is a N...more
I am re-reading this after about 10 years. Why hasn't anyone else checked it out of the library during that time. It is very provocative. Murray Gell-Mann is a theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize for predicting the quark. He also has a strong interest in biology, evolution, conservation, natural history, and anthropology. This book is linking all of these interests together. He centers on "complex adaptive systems", which can be bacteria developing immunity to antibiotics, a person lea...more
People make positive statements more often than negative ones and want to clearly distinguish between the two; therefore, it makes sense for a language to have a "not" morpheme. A language usually has 10 to 100 phonemes; even if there are some languages that go outside these bounds, no human language has a million phonemes: no one could ever learn it. Latin had three grammatical genders; most Latin-derived Romance languages have two, with the neuter merging into the masculine, and Romanian retai...more
Paul Brogan
Unless you're a whiz at maths and physics, the first part of this book was heavy going. Fortunately, I have always had a fascination for quarks and quantum theory, Einstein and Heisenberg, calculus and statistical theory, so I found great reward from getting inside the methodical brain of such a man as Gell-Mann, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Physics. (Indeed, it was he who coined the term 'quark', among others.)

By the time he moves onto to a discussion of the complex (biological evolution,...more
i picked up this book by Murray Gell-Mann because i thought i would get some interesting discussions on particle physics...after all, Gell-Mann won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969...he named the "quark"...

and maybe the middle 3rd of the book did discuss this sort of thing, along with cosmology, astrophysics and such. the 1st third focused mainly on Gell-Mann's theories about complex adaptive systems and his attempts to show that self-organizing structures, like galaxies, stars, planets, etc....more
Gell-Mann has a Nobel Prize in physics. He’s the co-discoverer of quarks, and the one who named them quarks. Quarks and jaguars represent simplicity and complexity, respectively. The book claims to be about the connection between the simplicity of the fundamental laws of physics and the complexity of the natural word – but I didn’t quite get the purported connection. The book, however, is full of interesting musings on a widely diverse set of subjects – from quantum physics to the preservation o...more
In the spirit of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle I'm not sure whether to give this book a 3 or a 5. Gell-Mann covers a lot of ground. He begins with adaptive complex systems veers to quantum theory QED and QCD and then to most other things in the universe language, creative thinking, rain forests and more.

In reading this book, it would be put to best use by trying to think in broad sweeps of the mind and see where Gell-Manns general concepts could be applied to your own discipline or comple...more
Un libro ambicioso que quizá se pierde un poco en sus propios meandros. La idea central del libro es explorar la relación entre lo simple (como un quark, cuyo nombre fue creado por el autor, premio Nóbel de física) y lo complejo (como el jaguar o todo otro sistema adaptativo complejo). Este último concepto es explorado ampliamente.

Un sistema adaptativo complejo lee su entorno, encuentra regularidades en el mismo, se adapta a estas regularidades y, a veces, modifica a su vez el entorno. Así hace,...more
I love to read science books. The kind that are written for non-scientists, like myself, in plain language with no, or very simple, mathematics. I do not profess to understand all that I read but over the years I have found that each author brings to his or her subject, whether it be quantum physics, cosmology, astronomy, or the biological sciences, a unique explanation which has allowed me to fill in, with each new book, a more complete understanding of that particular science. It was, therefor...more
Brian Godsey
I got this book as a prize from the math department of my college when I was a freshman or a sophomore. Though I liked the idea of learning more about quarks, I had a habit of not reading anything that wasn't required of me. So, The Quark and the Jaguar sat on my shelf for almost a decade before I took it seriously, and I'm glad for that---both that I took it seriously and that I waited so long.

I'm glad that I [finally] took the book seriously because there's a ton of good information and ideas...more
Excellent book. Covers a lot of interesting ground: complexity, chaos theory, quantum mechanics, string theory, thermodynamics, diversity, sustainability. I moved through the middle section about quantum physics more slowly than the other sections, which was strange because I like particle physics, so be aware if you've read Brian Greene books that the phys writing here is not *quite* as engaging. The rest of the book was, however, remarkably well-executed.

Personal note: I'm glad that Gell-Mann'...more
Murray Gell-Mann is a hero of mine - he was one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century - or any century. However while I agree with the basic ideas - sometimes you need to take a crude look at everything around you and not just focus on the details. He makes this point mostly through physics - with a basic, but poorly worded, description of quantum mechanics (circa 1994)

I also enjoyed how the last section dealt with humanity and how we need to look at the big picture; pulling in people fro...more
Tom Bane
I'd like to blow the trumpet for this book as it is not very well known, it's an awesome discussion of quantum theory for the intelligent layman, with good coverage of quantum decoherence. This book is not easy-peasy physics for dummies but it needs to be experienced as it is accessible and comes from a different perspective to other popular science books, by delving deeper and exploring the mystery that is quantum physics.

Best read over the course of a couple of days with a good cup of coffee,...more
David Zugman
Not as dynamic or engaging as Feynman's writings, but more genuine. He seems humble even though he's a nobel L and a main contributor to the standard model.
Lou Rera
Quantum physics--and mechanics. Not for the technically "faint of heart" but a great read non-the-less
After a raft of popular physics books made connections between quantum physics and eastern philosophy, it was becoming difficult for the lay-physicist to see anything else. This book came as a welcome relief from that particular quasi religious angle, while still adopting an ideological tone.

I enjoy Gell-Mann's writing very much. He makes you feel very "close" to the subject, by not underrating his audience's ability for comprehension. Leaving room for inspiration, this book resonated for weeks...more
Katherine Collins
Many readers will know that Gell-Mann is a pioneer in complexity science and complex adaptive systems: his work provides the scientific basis for much of the other complexity-related work that we admire. We should all know about him and his work.
Jishnu Bhattacharya
This is a good book, no doubt. Murray Gell-Mann knows what he is talking about, and it's always a pleasure to hear a noble laureate speak about his favorite topic. The parts about coarse graining were really illuminating. However, some parts did seem like a bit of a drag, maybe because I have read Dawkins and others speaking about the same things over and over again.
Nonetheless, if you're a popular science enthusiast, you should read this.
Okay, so anybody's who's ever seen my LJ interest list knows I'm predisposed to like this book, "chaos, order, simplicity, complexity", plus a healthy dose of systems theory, quantum physics, an understanding for the need to not treat all subjects as reductive, as well as an awareness of the need to engage with the real world... The book is definitely not easy going for sections, but it nevr felt like a chore to read.
Joshua Smith
Never really finished it. Now that I'm like a scientist I want to re-read it. A quark is like a sub-sub-atomic particle (quark - proton/neutron - atom - molecule - organism/matter). It's a good book to help you realize that much of what you know/believe is based on the point at which you stopped looking deeper. Helpful if you're still deciding on whether or not issues like stem cell research are moral.
Miguel Ángel Moreno
Como libro de divulgación científica me ha parecido aburrido y poco novedoso. Hay muchos otros que tratan los mismos temas de manera más interesante y amena. La parte más original, la que trata de sistemas adaptativos, me pareció muy simple para ser interesante. Reconozco que me he leído más de la mitad del libro en diagonal.
The chapter on quantum dynamics/chromatics is the best, clearest explanation I have read and I highly recommend it. The rest of the book is an amalgamation of name dropping and speculation on how theories of complexity might be useful.
A profound book. Gell-Mann writes simple sentences that are like compressed zip files, you read a line or two then you sit back and let what you have read unfold. A book like this can take months to read, not recommended for light readers.
I'd never before actively hated a book, to the point of wanting to yell at the author, for being boring. Maybe writing popular books is yet another place where Feynman beats Gell-Mann :)
This was one of my first popular science level books to read. Murray Gell-Mann has long been a hero of mine and I really like his philosophy of combining bottom up with top down methods.
Did not hold my attention. If you are looking for a good book to explain quarks and all that good particle and quantum physics stuff, try Elegant Universe.
Some good sections, but overall bogged down by the author's ego. Just because one has a Nobel Prize for theoretical physics, doesn't mean one can write.
Alex Bigney
i enjoyed parts of the book, but found the author more than a bit pretentious and dry--i get tired of scientists who think they know it all.
Locke Mackenzie
As the the title of the book partially states nature is simple and at yet complex. The author shows this in a beautiful way.
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“In 1963, when I assigned the name "quark" to the fundamental constituents of the nucleon, I had the sound first, without the spelling, which could have been "kwork." Then, in one of my occasional perusals of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, I came across the word "quark" in the phrase "Three quarks for Muster Mark." Since "quark" (meaning, for one thing, the cry of a gull) was clearly intended to rhyme with "Mark," as well as "bark" and other such words, I had to find an excuse to pronounce it as "kwork." But the book represents the dreams of a publican named Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Words in the text are typically drawn from several sources at once, like the "portmanteau words" in Through the Looking Glass. From time to time, phrases occur in the book that are partially determined by calls for drinks at the bar. I argued, therefore, that perhaps one of the multiple sources of the cry "Three quarks for Muster Mark" might be "Three quarts for Mister Mark," in which case the pronunciation "kwork" would not be totally unjustified. In any case, the number three fitted perfectly the way quarks occur in nature.” 14 likes
“The world of the quark has everything to do with a jaguar circling in the night.” 2 likes
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