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Chaos: Making a New Science

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  31,947 ratings  ·  1,081 reviews

The highly entertaining New York Times bestseller, which explains chaos theory and the butterfly effect, from the author of The Information (Chicago Tribune).

For centuries, scientific thought was focused on bringing order to the natural world. But even as relativity and quantum mechanics undermined that rigid certainty in the first half of the twentieth century, the

Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Open Road Media (first published October 29th 1987)
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Ashish Singh Not to the extent that you will miss the point. Having said that it is highly advised to google the terms described in the book, like 'fractal…moreNot to the extent that you will miss the point. Having said that it is highly advised to google the terms described in the book, like 'fractal dimensions' and 'strange attractor' to actually visualize the mind of the god !!!(less)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  31,947 ratings  ·  1,081 reviews

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Riku Sayuj
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chaos: The Tip of a Giant Iceberg

Gleick only gives an introduction about the actual science and beauty of Chaos. Instead he focusses on giving a poetic account of the scientists who first stumbled on it -- and their great surprise and their struggles form the narrative crux of the book.

While some may say this makes it a less informative book, for me this made it one of the most intriguing non-fiction books I have read. Gleick's way of telling the stories makes the reader share in the wonder and
Aug 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"The future is disorder."
Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is.
Tom Stoppard, Arcadia


Half of what draws me to physics, to theory, to Feynman and Fermat, to Wittgenstein and Weber, is the energy that boils beyond the theory. The force living just beyond the push. I'm not alone. Many of my favorite authors (Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) and musicians (Mahler, Beethoven, etc) all dance around
I'm totally in love with this book. Like, totally.

Why? Because it GETS ME, MAN.

Just kidding. I'm not anthropomorphizing a breakthrough in science. Although, if I was, I'd DEFINITELY be cuddling with this stream of seemingly random information that keeps repeating in regular ways, forming order from seeming chaos.

Give me a seed and I will make you a universe. Or one hell of a trippy fractal.

I think I'll leave butterflies out of this.

Small changes affect great extrapolations.

Our physics
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maths, science
I did study a bit of Physics in a past life, but you don't need to have a background in science to get something out of this book. It sounds terribly difficult, but really it isn't.

This book gives a wonderful explanation of the Butterfly Effect - one of those ideas in science that everyone thinks they know and understands, but that generally people have upside down and back to front.

I really do like popular science books, particularly if they are well written, relatively easy to follow and
Lis Carey
This book, over two decades old now, is one of the great classics of science popularization. It was a blockbuster bestseller at the time, and it's still well worth reading, a fascinating, enjoyable introduction to one of the most important scientific developments of our time--the birth of chaos theory.

One of the compelling features of the chaos story is that this scientific breakthrough wasn't a physics, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, or biology breakthrough; it was all of them. A
Daniel Wright
Gosh, I was rather rude about this one, wasn't I? I'm moving the rating up a bit after my re-read (on audio) because it wasn't that bad, although I still think it's a bit overrated.
James Gleick's Chaos is possibly one of the most overrated books ever written. The first two pages are quite good, before rapidly declining to dullness and staying there. The content consists of a few badly written half-biographies, a few pretty pictures and
When reading science books, it's difficult to know whether what you're reading is current or not. Gleick's book was first published in 1987, so I imagine by now there have been many developments and modifications to the ideas and theories presented here. That being said, this felt like a good introduction to the early history of scientists' efforts to understand and explain nonlinear systems and the apparent chaotic behavior observed in natural and man-made systems.

If you haven't studied science
May 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My interest in chaos theory and butterfly effect has been purely philosophical. I guess the idea of alternate reality always intrigues me. May be fueled by its implication in popular culture, movies, or books. First time, when I read Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder", I was really moved by the idea how something very small might eventually affect something greater at later phases.

I also like two scenes from movies, one from "Mr. Nobody" that rain scene which washed away the address :
Brad Lyerla
I enjoyed this quick read, though in the end I did not like CHAOS very much. It is a breezy history of two decades of mostly disconnected work done by a number of different researchers in widely divergent areas of science. In an apparent coincidence, a small number of unrelated people became interested in studying aperiodic, non-linear problems arising in various fields of science all at roughly the same time. Their research had not advanced very far by the time this book was written in the ...more
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The greatest discoveries of the 20th Century physics include Relativity Theory, Quantum Theory and Chaos Theory. Of the three, the only one that we can see and play with is chaos. From the flight patterns of flocks of birds, to heart arrhythmia, to stock market fluctuation to the coast of Alaska, the underlying patterns can be revealed in this wonderful branch of science. There are newer books on the subject but none better for us lay people.
Paul E. Morph
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read. As much about the history of chaos theory and the scientists who pioneered it as the science itself. Contains the obligatory Jurassic Park references (in case you were worried).
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 Stars for Chaos: Making A New Science (audiobook) by James Gleik read by Rob Shapiro. I find it fascinating to see how science is progressing. Such a new idea is changing the way we look at the world.
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

This book was a disappointment. The author spent too much time in repeating the same terminology and concepts like 'strange attractors' and 'sensitive dependence on initial conditions' and not enough time making it tangible by using real examples that would have made it more meaningful. For instance, what does chaos theory/nonlinear science mean for weather forecasting, predicting asset class returns, crime statistics, economic growth, timing of natural disasters? The author mentions these
Donna Woodwell
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
When this book came out in the late 80s, I remember eating in the college cafeteria while my physics teacher and fellow students chatted about this mysterious thing called "chaos theory." When I finally picked up my own copy, I wished I'd read it sooner.

The mathemetics of chaos (and order) has literally remade our moder world. From weather prediction to materials production to medicine, there's not a realm of technology that hasn't changed with our new understandings of the patterns that
Nov 08, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, physics
Not so much a new science as an old obsession of a few mystics... :(

Gleick gives an unorganized overview some fun mathematical concepts like fractals, strange attractors, and chaos theory.
But he exaggerates the importance of these topics, presenting them as a holistic revolution in physics, overthrowing reductionism, which just isn't the case.
The last chapter was incomprehensible hippie mysticism, then the book just ended leaving me wondering what the whole point was.

It seems to me like this
Jeff HansPetersen
Sep 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally read the book that ought to have been required reading for freshman physics majors for the past 20 years! The other day when the radio announcer reported the length of the Florida coastline, I found myself wondering what length measuring stick was used. It is interesting to contemplate how much of the themes of this book have migrated into the modern cultural consciousness. Then, you may wind up contemplating how much of that migration was due to Jeff Goldblum's ham-fisted ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it quite informative, especially in communicating what it would perhaps be like working in science at an exciting time. However there were many sections that bored me and aperiodic jumps in his focus that left me lost a bit.

All in all I can say I have a better grasp of what chaos is all about... but on a bit of reflection... well, no, not really. A good history I guess, I'm now all fired up to read textbooks on this stuff (:
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The kind of book that just blows your mind with how cool it all is, and why doesn't anyone teach science like THIS. Because of this book, and the many delights that have followed, I am a lover of popular science writing. And also, I've learned way more than I ever did in school.
Huyen Chip
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is how popular science books should be.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome predictability of unpredictability, namely sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Wonderful bifurcations and pretty things abound... it'll make you realise why we'll never understand everything.
Andrej Karpathy
I read this a while ago but I can't remember it being a very spectacular or enjoyable read. Disclaimer: I took chaos mathematics at school so I was reasonably familiar with most presented concepts, which could have made it a little more boring.
Ami Iida
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This document is a basic book on chaos fractal theory.

  I prefer both text and its Illustrated.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
The only things that can ever be universal, in a sense, are scaling things. That idea is at the heart of James Gleicks book, and if you zoom in, there it is again!
Gleick is great at capturing the excitement of new discoveries, mainly be introducing the quirky contributors who wouldnt shut up, play nice and stay in their lanes. These men and women crossed academic disciplines of math, physics. biology and meteorology (is that a thing? oh, sorry) because the seeming chaos they all encountered in
Chaitanya Sethi
4.5 stars

James Gleick's Chaos is an introductory text that takes you through the development of this field of scientific inquiry from its origins to its current state in 1987, when the book was written. To be fair on Gleick, this subject feels so vast that one doesn't know where to start and how to start talking about it. With that in mind, this is a brilliant effort in *trying* to make a relatively new subject accessible to a large audience.

At 300+ pages, it is suspiciously dense. I could only
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book was epic! Chaos can be a tricky concept, but author James Gleick writes in a very effective way; conveying complicated ideas in an easy-to-understand manner.
I can only imagine how difficult this book would have been to follow, if it was plagued by the long-winded and dry writing that befalls many science books... Thankfully, it does not. The author relates conceptually complicated ideas in an easily-accessible style.
Gleick conveys the importance of Chaos early on:
"The most
The Lazy Reader
Informative, easy to understand, but too repetitive.
Arpita Das, the hundred-eyed human
oKaY, wait this is confusing. It challenged me and disturbed me and delighted me and I can't really explain what I read except it changed the wiring in my brain. I don't know what just happened but I KNOW it was good.
I read it now a page at a time some days as a bleak substitute of night prayers, trying to make it stick in my brain.

P.S. This was an assigned schoolwork. GAH! But I enjoyed it? I know, everything going loopy up here.
Chaos, the concept, is often explained in terms of a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world, which tips some indescribable balance, leading to rain falling in another part of the world. It's an overworn cliche by now, but one that still gets to the heart of a quality of nature that scientists and mathematicians prior to the 20th century didn't really grasp. It was hardly their fault. Living in the age of slide rules and tables (or before), they can't really be blamed for focusing ...more
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I truly enjoy the way James Gleick can take a complicated subject apart for the inexpert, I did not enjoy this book as much as I did The Information. I caught myself skipping, counting pages to the end of the chapter, even yawning and dropping off. Not a good sign for me.

Some chapters had me on the edge of my seat, or thinking "Ah ha! That's how that works." The overall sense that chaos has a sometimes deeply hidden pattern (that applies to all things) is interesting, but I didn't need
Aug 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
More a biography of an idea than an explanation of a theory.

Gleick's examination of the emergence of chaos theory is well written, and relatively easy to read (relative when one compares it to the technical and academic articles on the subject upon which he draws). However, his focus is not so much on explaining the theory of chaos than on telling the story of chaos's transition from the fringe to the mainstream. In this, his work is an excellent complement to Kuhn's work on the The Structure of
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James Gleick (born August 1, 1954) is an American author, journalist, and biographer, whose books explore the cultural ramifications of science and technology. Three of these books have been Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists, and they have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Born in New York City, USA, Gleick attended Harvard College, graduating in 1976 with a degree in

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