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The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,622 ratings  ·  81 reviews
From one of the architects of the new science of simplicity and complexity comes an explanation of the connections between nature at its most basic level and natural selection, archaeology, linguistics, child development, computers, and other complex adaptive systems. Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann offers a uniquely personal and unifying vision of the relationship between ...more
Paperback, 392 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by St. Martins Press-3PL (first published April 1st 1994)
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Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 Nobel
Paul Brogan
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Unless you're a whiz at maths and physics, the first part of this book will be heavy going for you. 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 a man such 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 (biologica
Czarny Pies
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one. This work has had its rendez-vous with destiny and it is over.
"The Quark and the Jaguar" is an engaging account of the life-long intellectual pilgrimage of Murray Gell-man , winner of 1969 Nobel Prize for Physics. Gell-mann was the first person to postulate the existence of Quarks and ranks as one of the all-time greats in the field of quantum mechanics. In 1984, he co-founded the Santa Fe institute which is dedicated to the physical, computational, biological, linguistic and social components of complex adaptive systems. The jury is still out on the accom ...more
Brian Godsey
Sep 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Two Readers in Love
This is the book that goes the farthest to disprove John Wheeler’s quote “if you are not completely confused by quantum mechanics, you do not understand it.” Accessible and yet profound, Mr. Gell-Mann takes the ‘mystic’ out of quan*t*u*m* ph*ysic*s.
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!
The Quart & the Jaguar presents as a collection of philosophical views derived from a lifetime commitment to a chosen discipline, in this case Murray Gell-Mann presents his views & personal insights in the context of his personal commitment to quantum physics.
Fascinating man, brilliant insightful book.

This is my favourite 'book genre' if you will - that of an individual outlining their philosophical & metaphysical views in the context of a discipline of which they have committe
Iancu S.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
Many interesting individual chapters, but this particular jaguar has bitten off more than he can chew. An erudite author with far-reaching interests, but who does not fully tie them all together coherently in the book. Some of the technical discussions on quantum mechanics are too hard for a lay reader (and, I would venture a guess, too easy for the specialist). One example: we're being told that it's the *heterotic* variety of string theory that is a good candidate for a grand unified theory, b ...more
Buddy Don
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this fascinating reading until the final two chapters, when Gell-Mann attempts to describe what should be done to maintain a stable world for complex adaptive systems to thrive. It took me weeks to get through those chapters. The others were truly fascinating, creating an amazing world-view.
I wish this book had notes and a bibliography. It would have benefited greatly.
Juan Luis
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful travel throughout the diverse coarse-graining of existence, from the simple to the complex ones. Truly enlightening and inspirational as to get more involved on more collaborating science realms and encompass a better perspective about the present and future of humanity with nature. Loved it!
Brian Knoblauch
While it touches upon a great many areas of interest for me, and brings it together pretty well, I did not find it an enjoyable read. Unfortunately I felt as if I was reading a textbook, and that pain overshadowed what really ought to have been a wonderful book.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a bit of a slog. A brilliant man with brilliant thoughts still needs careful editing.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Autographed copy. Found at Powell's. Contained two photos of children. Are they yours?
Dec 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
I stopped reading about a third of the way through. This book made my brain hurt. It was too esoteric for a lay reader.
Karim Kadry
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
5 stars for physics
4 stars for complexity
3 stars for that awful ending
Jo-jean Keller
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The amount and variety of information in The Quark and the Jaguar is literally mindblowing. I will spend a great deal of time thinking about and attempting to more clearly understand what I've read!
Tim Sharp
Mar 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I encountered this book after reading Daniel Dennett's offhand reference to it as one of the clearest explanations of the quantum world. Having finished it I would have to agree, but with some qualifiers.

You can't deny Murray Gell-Man's unimpeachable knowledge of quantum physics and the structures of the cosmos, nor his overwhelming appetites as an intellectual omnivore. Throughout the book we zigzag through dozens of disparate fields, from linguistics to computer science to logic to history to
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Upon publishing "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid," Hofstadter found that many readers were failing to appreciate the unifying theme of the book, instead viewing it as several quite disparate topics all slapped together in a desultory way. While I didn't get that AT ALL from G.E.B., I do feel this way about "The Quark and the Jaguar."

Gell-Mann, far-famed physicist and quantum theory pioneer, presents many wonderful ideas here; he emphasizes the fact that biological evolution is just
Jun 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Franc by: Cormac McCarthy
I read this book because it was referrenced in an interview with Cormac McCarthy. The author, Murray Gell-Mann is the founder and grand poobah of the Santa Fe Institute where McCarthy is sort of writer in residence and where he's been composing his next novel. I scribbled a lot in the margins and did a lot of underlining and I will be interested to see if any of the themes from this book find their way into McCarthy's "The Passenger" whenever it is finally released.

For the most part (the quantu
Georgia Roybal
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is an interesting book discussing lots of physics concepts. One particular concept emphasized was the distinction between simple and complex systems. This gave me another framework to define what I look at in the world. He repeatedly emphasizes that the tendency is toward complex systems. At times the book was a little difficult, but not often enough to stop reading it. Here are some quotes I particularly liked from the book:

"The rich lore, as well as institutions and ways of life, of
A very good book on quantum physics, evolution and - above all - Complex Adaptive Systems, however, in need of better editor. But, what do you want of a book from the early '90's, when sustainability (and writing for the internet - he is talking about "electronic mail", like we did in the beginning) was still a long way out.

Because he is a genial scientist as well as a perfectionist, he makes himself hard to understand. He will not cut corners to make it easy understandable. For instance his re
Oct 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
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
Glen Engel-Cox
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: amazon
I picked this up because I thought it was going to have some information about Ecuador (the Jaguar section) in it. It does--about one whole pages worth. The rest of the pages concern Gell-Mann's ideas on the inter-connectedness of things. Gell-Mann, for those of you who don't buy the Nobel prize-winning scientist collector cards, was the identifier of the Quark, that object that is smaller than what had previously been thought of as the smallest element (electrons are made up of a collection of ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Too long ago, when I was still a student, I was an admirer of Dr. Gell-Mann's work. Not too long ago, after reading his paper, "The Origin and Evolution of Word Order," I was reminded that I had not yet read this book. I meant to do so when it first came out, but I was then going through a career change, so I put off reading the book. The paper brought about an intersection of careers that prompted me to remedy my neglect. Now, almost twenty years after its original publication, the book seems a ...more
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American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles. He was the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, a Distinguished Fellow and co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute, Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of New Mexico, and the Presiden ...more

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70 likes · 34 comments
“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.” 15 likes
“The world of the quark has everything to do with a jaguar circling in the night.” 2 likes
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