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Chaos: Making a New Science

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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  27,750 ratings  ·  868 reviews
Few writers distinguish themselves by their ability to write about complicated, even obscure topics clearly and engagingly. In Chaos, James Gleick, a former science writer for the New York Times, shows that he resides in this exclusive category. Here he takes on the job of depicting the first years of the study of chaos--the seemingly random patterns that characterise many natural phenomena.

Thphenomena.

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Paperback, First Edition, 352 pages
Published December 1st 1988 by Penguin Books (first published 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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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 t
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Darwin8u
Aug 17, 2015 rated it liked it
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

description

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
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Bradley
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.

Smal
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Hadrian
A series of extremely interesting and well-written biographies and anecdotes which don't really explain directly what chaos theory really is. No equations and lots of graphs, but that's just to make sure the general public isn't scared away.

Still, Gleick conveys the 'appeal' of chaos theory, or at least what people think it is about. In a complex system, the most minuscule change in initial conditions leads to drastic or unpredictable changes in the output. It is important not just in p
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Trevor
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, maths
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 fol
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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.
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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.
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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 picture
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Jim
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 stu
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HBalikov
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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).
Brad Lyerla
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 mid- ...more
Farhana
May 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
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Jonathan Chuang
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Donna Woodwell
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 connec
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Gendou
Nov 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jeff HansPetersen
Sep 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 illustration ...more
Victoire
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
This document is a basic book on chaos fractal theory.

  I prefer both text and its Illustrated.
Lemar
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction
“The only things that can ever be universal, in a sense, are scaling things.” That idea is at the heart of James Gleick’s 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 wouldn’t 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 encountere
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Ryan
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
Bruce
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 conce
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Trav
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
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Stephie Williams
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I first read this book back in what I think was 1992, I would have rated it 5 stars, but now if I would reread it, which I do not plan on doing, I would give it only 4 stars because of the lack critical analysis. Not because he gave bad information, but because chaos is a lot more difficult to prove in any particular case, especially outside of the physical sciences, which he does not reveal. This could have been because back when it was written a lot of researchers assumed the applicabilit ...more
Sookie
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A great introduction to new readers of the subject. If one is keeping up with physics for last decade or so, the content of Chaos doesn't offer anything new. With the introduction to chaos theory, Gleick gives a wide variety of historical anecdotes involving various scientists across borders and scientific disciplines who have observed the phenomenon but haven't been able to nail it.
Chaos brings these stories together and puts them under an umbrella. The narration becomes easier to follow and t
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Cav
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 passiona
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Huyen
Jul 16, 2009 rated it liked it
in the spirit of chaos, JG writes this strangely attractive book in an unpredictably aperiodically chaotic fashion, I never understand the messy structure of this book. sometimes he follows through the development of an idea very thoroughly, sometimes he randomly introduces something and then moves on to another guy who seems to be totally unrelated to the previous guy. There's not enough math for my liking and too much rambling about the scientists rather than what they actually did. Although I ...more
Gayle
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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 to be told
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Paul
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Another personality-driven popular science book, about as I expected. This seems like a good way to build up hype around chaos to get people to get interested in figuring out what it is, but I feel like I do not understand chaos and its implications any better now than when I started, and I think that the use of sort of vague language to describe fundamentally mathematical concepts is probably misleading.

Even if I didn't get an understanding of the mathematics involved, I'm also not
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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
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“Ideas that require people to reorganize their picture of the world provoke hostility.” 55 likes
“You don’t see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it” 36 likes
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