Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity” as Want to Read:
Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  948 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Over the past two decades, no field of scientific inquiry has had a more striking impact across a wide array of disciplines–from biology to physics, computing to meteorology–than that known as chaos and complexity, the study of complex systems. Now astrophysicist John Gribbin draws on his expertise to explore, in prose that communicates not only the wonder but the ...more
Hardcover, 279 pages
Published April 5th 2005 by Random House (first published 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Deep Simplicity, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Deep Simplicity

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  948 ratings  ·  82 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity
Josh Hamacher
Dec 01, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is about chaos and complexity, how the interaction of simple rules can result in complex behavior.

The first quarter of the book is a remarkably readable history of math. Starting with Galileo and moving forward to modern times, Gribbin mentions most of the major discoveries that led to the modern understanding of chaos. I was very much looking forward to the rest of the book after finishing this second chapter.

Unfortunately the rest of the book was a minor disappointment. Without a
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read a few John Gribbin books and loved them all. His book about quantum theory, 'In Search of Schrödinger's Cat', is a classic. I have had 'Deep Simplicity' with me for a long time. I thought it was time to take it out and read it for 'Science September'.

In 'Deep Simplicity', John Gribbin talks about Chaos theory. I remember during my student days one of my classmates was reading about it and he was planning to apply it in his research on business cycles. I don't know whether he was able
Nyamka Ganni
Aug 17, 2018 is currently reading it
I don't really get why this book is not popular enough! This is amazing!!
Sajith Kumar
Jul 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: popular-science
Noted science writer, John Gribbin, is on to a little known aspect of science related to chaos theory and self-organized complexity that is the basis of life and other complex systems. The book is organized as to be helpful for the initiate, and is a good attempt to bring this new concept into the public domain. Mathematics breaks down when the systems move from simple shapes or manipulations to complex objects and repetitive interactions begin on a large scale. Future states of such systems ...more
Deniz Cem Önduygu
This was my first Gribbin and the first few chapters made me regret not reading him before: a delightful historical summary of our theories for gravity and thermodynamics with patiently explained mathematics, accompanied by a careful discussion of determinism – a real page-turner.

The latter part of the book however didn't live up to my expectations – especially the way he handles the issue of life, endorsing a metabolism-first approach without explaining how RNA-DNA integrated into it, and not
Abraham Dabengwa
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Still reading the book. My opinion of the book is imperfect but I worry that James Gleick's Chaos was a better presentation. Gribbin does dig up a lot of historical facts to piece together a story, however, most is partisan to the old world. It's a useful book on complexity or chaos science... This is a more accessible book compared with others out there. As bonus, it's not pretentious.
Manoj Joshi
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are some rare texts that invite your thinking and even challenge it one step ahead of what you contemplate . Assorting complex dimensions round one self directed by the existence of physics in ones life the author has done great justice in thought provoking chapters well gardened for novice and advanced readers . As of now it has entered in my shelf of all time favourite and will analyse its content once I read few more books . Must for thinkers
Richard Ash
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
Overall good book:
- Some parts are too long
- author jumps around a lot (though I guess that's expected given the topic)
- main point of the book is fascinating, I'm curious to see where this research goes in the future, especially regarding the origin of life
Jan 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting and mind-stretching though the material is, this book suffers from some British Academic Stuffiness that made my eyes glaze over time and again. Gribbin tries to make the underlying science accessible, but there's a bar there that even I couldn't quite hurdle over. This book could have used a more populist editor, I think, to trim the fat of biographical trivia, hair-splitting details that don't affect the larger ideas, and over-engineered sentences that run on and barely hold up ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book took me a lot of focus to be able to finish it. So much information from evolution, computer science (Turing machine), cosmology...etc.
It starts from the chaos, thanks to the chaos with patterns, everything follow the law of physics in a predictable way: power law. Earthquakes, economic..,etc. What caught my eyes in this book was about the connection of Alan Turing and evolution on animal fur/ skin color patterns.
"In fact, one overarching theory of how biological patterns form comes
Sagar Acharya
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science admirers and investors
Recommended to Sagar by: Charlie Munger
In an excellent non-mathematical language, John goes on to explain the prerequisites required to understand life generating systems.

He explains power law on how positive feedback loops give exponential function equivalents in real life, fractals, some very important entities to understand complexity generating out of simplicity, evolution to show how today's life forms have been created by simple changing factors and shows the real life examples to understand complexity with simplicity. He also
Martin J
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It took me a long time to read this book, mainly reading small sections and intermittently. Not necessarily an easy read, but full of fascinating ideas and covering in effect the broadest possible spectrum of life, the universe and everything. For me it’s another book which I know I’m likely to read again. What’s more I’m sure I’ll get even more from it the next time I read it. The principle theme is initially difficult to grasp, but once the penny drops I think you have a ‘aha’ moment (or ...more
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book on a dare from Charlie Munger.

I understood about 3/4 of it and what I understood was pretty fantastic. There are some amazing ideas about how life and the universe work.

I especially liked the explanation of how the sun is much larger now than it was a billion years ago and yet the Earth's temperature remains the same.

And the bit about how life on another planet can be identified simply by the presence of significant amounts of Oxygen and Nitrogen in the atmosphere.

This is
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Bought many years ago and day on the shelf as I don't read many hardbacks. Finally got round to this though and glad I did. 4 stars as some parts are fairly dry and, even in their simple form, are helped out by a bit of a background in maths and other theory.

But there are some points in here which absolutely blew me away, and indeed changed my life. The emergence of order, of systems (planetary, life, intelligence etc) and its *inevitability* turned my world on its head.

So a must read if you're
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Good overview of Chaos Theory as it applies to our world, though perhaps a little preoccupied with the question of the origins of life. It's a wide, deep topic and at 253 pages some parts feel a little short-changed, so perhaps it could be considered a good starting point to explore outward in areas of interest. Accessible to the interested amateur with, say, Algebra and a smattering of Calculus.
Daniel B-G
This was a bit of a slog, but with a lot of interesting stuff in there. It made some sense of the whole story from Newton to modern chaos and complexity in a coherent and interesting manner, which is a huge achievement. It was just a little hard to make progress at times, though that may be more a reflection on me and my sleep deprived toddler addled brain.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gribbin goes from describing the spectroscopic analysis required to provide evidence of life on a planet to summarizing his whole book in the swoop of one paragraph. If you desire to think briefly about many intricately scientific and mathematical topics, this book is for you. If you want that summary after each topic, choose something less grand in scope.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Started the book last year ad couldn't get through it. Demanding book, but made it through it the second time.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this book. If finding out that seemingly abstract mathematical principles apply to all sorts of situations in nature gives you satisfaction, this is the book for you.
Deepak Saxena
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
An accessible and relatively recent (Compared to Gliek's Chaos, 1988) book on Chaos and Complexity theory discussing the edge of chaos and the emergence if life.
Johannes Marks
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly written, absolutely stunning tour de force through some of the most coherent sets of theroies of how life emerged and how likely theres more of it elsewhere.
Tim Van Kemenade
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A mesmerizing read on how vast complex systems emerge from incredibly simple elements. Makes one wonder about our own existence. I am bedazzled!
Brian Motyka
May 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
Didn’t even finish it
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Liam by: Saw as other books by the author from the Shadow of a Giant
Interesting facts, particularly about Gaia and Lovelock, but the claims are not well-supported. Author jumps from one interesting fact or claim to another with inadequate support for sweeping claims. For example, he claims the arrow of time steps from gravity, but doesn't explain how. In some cases, he refers to his previous books. More often, he brings in some fact and then dismisses it with "but we won't talk about that any more" and moves on to another, seemingly unrelated topic.

Chapter 5
Deep Simplicity is a popular science book about the theory of chaos. As always, John Gribbin presents the subject in a remarkably accessible way - the educated layperson will be able to tackle this book. However, it is not without drawbacks.

(view spoiler)
Sofia Hou
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
First half was better than second half. Writing style a little dry.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it
John Gribbin is a polymath science writer, but his background is as an astrophysicist. His earlier works on quantum mechanics (In Search of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics And Reality and Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality: Solving the Quantum Mysteries) were accessible, entertaining, as well as educational.

This book opens some deep wells of difficult-to-comprehend ideas, which I'm sure were just as difficult to translate to a popular science audience. In the Introduction,
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
How did the zebra get its stripes? We've all come across the stories that provide us with some answer or another, mostly involving paint, scorching fire, or the animal in question standing quietly in the shade of some long grass blades. I thought they were beautiful stories, all of them, but none of the explanations were quite as convincing as the one we find in Deep Simplicity.

Gribbin takes us through the history of discoveries in the fields of physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology that
Sean Goh
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For a book that's supposed to be readable, I found it rather dull and boring.
If you're looking for something on emergent behaviour, Critical Mass by Phillip Ball was a lot more interesting (especially the bit about how traffic jams form).

The underlying simplicity from which chaos and complexity emerge - simple laws, non-linearity, sensitivity to initial conditions and feedback are what make the world tick.

It is the absence of chaos in the changing obliquity (angle of tilt) thanks to
Bryan Higgs
I have many John Gribbin books, and have enjoyed every one of them so far.

I found it interesting that this book covers material such as the emergence of life, chaos theory, thermodynamics and the arrow of time, and much more. I have read books on the arrow of time, and found them less satisfying than this one. I have read Richard Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth", which powerfully argues for Evolution, but I found parts of this book to be more interesting than Dawkins' descriptions.

This book
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger
  • Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin To Munger
  • Damn Right!: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger
  • The Warren Buffett Portfolio
  • The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor
  • Chaos: Making a New Science
  • Three Roads To Quantum Gravity
  • Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos
  • Models of My Life
  • Only the Paranoid Survive. Lessons from the CEO of INTEL Corporation
  • The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success
  • The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
  • Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders
  • How the Scots Invented the Modern World
  • Living Within Limits
  • Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
  • Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street
  • Sonho Grande
See similar books…
John R. Gribbin is a British science writer, an astrophysicist, and a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex. The topical range of his prolific writings includes quantum physics, biographies of famous scientists, human evolution, the origins of the universe, climate change and global warming. His also writes science fiction.

John Gribbin graduated with his bachelor's degree in
“Earth as our home in space, a single blue-white oasis of life surrounded by a black desert.” 1 likes
“As I understood it, what really mattered was simply that some systems (‘system’ is just a jargon word for anything, like a swinging pendulum, or the Solar System, or water dripping from a tap) are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behaviour.” 0 likes
More quotes…