This book is full of fascinating anecdotes brought together under the tent of mathematics. The presentation is very fun and accessible to even the mosThis book is full of fascinating anecdotes brought together under the tent of mathematics. The presentation is very fun and accessible to even the most math-phobic lay reader. I enjoyed it too (which says a lot). Some topics, like sports statistics, I found a little dull. But the message of the book, that we can and should be mathematical skeptics, in everyday life, came across clearly throughout....more

Phi has some surprising mathematical properties, which are eventually discussed here and there throughout the book.

Mostly, this book is a history of mPhi has some surprising mathematical properties, which are eventually discussed here and there throughout the book.

Mostly, this book is a history of mathematics. From the etymology of numbers, to the Pythagorean brotherhood, and the discovery of incommensurability, and finally, to modern day mathematics.

The book dispels myths of Phi's use in famous works of art, construction of the pyramids, etc.

I find Livio to be a trustworthy author, who prefers demystification over hyperbole, which I respect. But sometimes the drawn out history lesson left my interest to wander. Happily, he would always tie it back to them mathematics, which kept me interested....more

This book gives the reader a look into the times of Newton and Leibniz. There is lots about plague, god, hell, etc. The physics isn't complicated but itThis book gives the reader a look into the times of Newton and Leibniz. There is lots about plague, god, hell, etc. The physics isn't complicated but it takes imagination to put one's self in a 17th century frame of mind. This book gave me the feeling of being able to peer down at the root of the tree of knowledge....more

One of those anti-reductionist, complexity-obsessed, nonsensical collections of persuasive anecdotes and loose (useless) analogies.

The main critique oOne of those anti-reductionist, complexity-obsessed, nonsensical collections of persuasive anecdotes and loose (useless) analogies.

The main critique of reductionism is that it not always useful. Some problems can't be easily solved from 1st principles. The author points out the solution would be a departure from reductionism.

But this straw-man strict reductionist doesn't exist in the first place. Rocket scientists don't model engines on the quark-scale! Barabasi works hard to hide the freedom and utility of model-dependent realism.

Topics discussed: * 6 degrees of separation * Almost everything from the book Sync * Power laws * Renormalization (actually a quite good overview) * Phase transitions * Scale-free network topology * Internet search engines (for n00bs, very out of date and superficial) * Internet networking (for total n00bs)

Barabasi shows no reserve in abusing nonsense words like "order" and "complexity" outside any mathematically defined context.

I laughed out loud when he asks, in all seriousness, "when will the internet become self-aware?" as though it was only a matter of time. Oh, no, not another singularity nutcase!

His thesis applied to the web uses an outdated idea of a web "document". Now a days, the web is made up of "apps", and the "document" is a rarity if not altogether unimportant.

This book contains a lot of exaggerations and outright false claims to the end of defending the thesis, which is that network theory is NECESSARY for understanding certain systems. For example, "the behavior of living systems can seldom be reduced to their molecular components". This is a disconcertingly ambiguous statement, but if taken at face value, it seems to imply that "behavior of living systems" cannot be described bottom-up from the "molecular components". Molecular biology is a hugely important and productive field in biology which does just this all the time! What I understand the author truly means to argue is that biological problems take a lot of work to solve. There is no single gene for bipolar disorder, for example. Any study where you attempt to find the genetic cause of the heritability of bipolar disorder will involve many tests and lots of data on lots of genes. The steps of scientific reasoning will be voluminous, involved, and the results diluted by huge uncertainties. But slapping the words "genetic network" on the problem is a meaningless extra step. Using fetishist terminology doesn't make the solution to the genetic origin of bipolar disorder any easier. It's a nice framework for talking about abstract high-level concepts, but it's hardly the groundbreaking and necessary future of bio-technology that he author claims.

The grandiose presentation in this book is a turn off to me, and the thesis is, to a computer scientist like myself, a lot of hoopla. Read this book if you enjoy listening to a semantics-obsessed bandit taking pot-shots at the proverbial bandwagon and peddling feel-good new-age verbiage....more

Even for a popular science book, it's pretty terrible because there is so much wrong with the "science", which is mostly buried beneath mountains of jEven for a popular science book, it's pretty terrible because there is so much wrong with the "science", which is mostly buried beneath mountains of jargon. Also, rhetorical arguments and hyperbolic, bogus claims pervade the meandering prose drenched in soft language and philosophy. The thesis is not very unclear, and the majority of claims are totally bogus. See my full review for (way more) details: http://thephysicspolice.blogspot.com/...

Cool stuff: evolutionarily stable strategies, the red queen effect, genetic algorithms, self-modifying code, simulated annealing, the founder effect, game theory, the traveling salesman problem, the P vs. NP problem, auto-catalytic sets, strange attractors, fitness landscapes, and peptide chains....more

This is a great multi-disciplinary science book! The reader is introduced to phenomena from many disciplines. These phenomena are well-modeled by similaThis is a great multi-disciplinary science book! The reader is introduced to phenomena from many disciplines. These phenomena are well-modeled by similar mathematics using non-linear oscillators. The book requires little math knowledge, but it helps. I plan to write my own computer simulations for some of these phenomena, and will link them to this review when I'm finished! :)

I do have one heated criticism of this book: Strogatz defends Josephson's regurgitation of the most certainly incorrect view that quantum mechanics can somehow explain the para-normally supposed (and repeatedly experimentally verified to be non-existent!) phenomena of telepathy. There are so many things wrong with this digression, I hardly know where to start. Josephson did good work and was awarded a Nobel Prize. He's wrong about telepathy and all the other pseudo- and anti-science he's been dabbling with since. Strogatz argues that the "allergic" response by the scientific community is a fault. He couldn't be more wrong. It's a virtue, and an important one. To use a hyperbolic analogy (the likes of which Strogatz seems quite fond of), this reaction by the scientific community is indeed analogous to an immune response. In this case, however, it is the body of science fighting off the infection of the cancerous mysticism. So, reader beware, Strogatz has made a huge mistake here!...more

The first half is a stale history of mathematicians, lacking in actual math. The second half is more interesting, when it gets into topology and non-EThe first half is a stale history of mathematicians, lacking in actual math. The second half is more interesting, when it gets into topology and non-Euclidean geometry. Much of the philosophy in the book suffers from the too common disease of struggling to define terms instead of presenting substantive arguments. However, the last chapter has some real gems in it, so I'd say this one's worth a read!...more

Sort of interesting, but not much more more so than a perusal of the Wikipedia page on the topic. Simon Singh suffers from a mild case of Math ElitismSort of interesting, but not much more more so than a perusal of the Wikipedia page on the topic. Simon Singh suffers from a mild case of Math Elitism which is sort of annoying to listen to. Considering it's length, a worthy read for the math-minded....more