Making A New Science

Book - 2008
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Penguin Putnam
The million-copy bestseller by National Book Award nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist James Gleick—the author of Time Travel: A History—that reveals the science behind chaos theory

A work of popular science in the tradition of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, this 20th-anniversary edition of James Gleick’s groundbreaking bestseller Chaos introduces a whole new readership to chaos theory, one of the most significant waves of scientific knowledge in our time. From Edward Lorenz’s discovery of the Butterfly Effect, to Mitchell Feigenbaum’s calculation of a universal constant, to Benoit Mandelbrot’s concept of fractals, which created a new geometry of nature, Gleick’s engaging narrative focuses on the key figures whose genius converged to chart an innovative direction for science. In Chaos, Gleick makes the story of chaos theory not only fascinating but also accessible to beginners, and opens our eyes to a surprising new view of the universe.

Baker & Taylor
Explains the meaning and application of chaos--the study of patterns emerging from seemingly random phenomena--and introduces the scientists responsible for major discoveries in this field.

Book News
The 20th anniversary edition of Gleick's page-turner contains a new afterword by the author that speaks to the amount of attention now accorded chaos theory. His account tells the story of the scientists who pioneered the study of chaos, leading the reader along on their journey and explaining the science behind the questions and solutions as these unfold. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: New York : Penguin, 2008
Edition: 20th anniversary ed. --
ISBN: 9780143113454
Branch Call Number: 003 Gle
Characteristics: xiii, 360 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 23 cm


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Mar 26, 2017

I had no business reading this book, I with my fine arts focus and seriously dominant right brain. But I’ve always loved the ideas of quantum physics which to me overlap with philosophy, and chaos theory is supposedly the next wave of science, so why not? Gleik’s narrative writing style makes much of it interesting, relating bits of history behind groundbreaking mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists. And when my eyes glazed over the mathematical equations and explanations I skimmed forward to the next attention holding section.
What I distilled from the book was indeed interesting – the fascinating Mandelbrot Set that repeats itself in all nature, the concept that our world is always showing regular irregularity (“The Ice Ages may simply be a byproduct of chaos theory”), and the idea of chaos theory itself that sees events as order with randomness, and then a step away is randomness with its own underlying order. No, I don’t ‘get it’, but the ideas are certainly appealing to ruminate on and the visuals are pretty to look at!

Jul 03, 2015

Bought this book a few years after it was released, but only read occasional chapters. Today I finished a cover-to-cover reading (including a 2008 afterword by the author) and it was pretty darn good.

The book begins and ends with Edward Lorenz, a weatherman who understood why we can't have long-term weather forecasting. Along the way we touch on Mitchell Feigenbaum and his constants, and Benoit Mandelbrot and his fractal dimensions. Utilizing computers to plot what early mathematicians and physicists suspected was a fantastic breakthrough.

The last few chapters cover some of the fascinating ways an understanding of nonlinear systems translates to cardiac arrhythmia, eye movement and crystallization. The newer afterword barely touched on these, and I want to read more on how the math was applied to these and other facets of modern life (and perhaps quantum mechanics?). I would especially like to read more on turbulence.

Highly recommended for the history and background of this most compelling mathematical work.

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