Book Review: Chaos - Making a New Science

Chaos: Making a New ScienceChaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got interested in reading this book after hearing about this from Robert Sapolsky in one of his lectures. He had a very high regard for this book and states it had a tremendous influence on him.

For me, I had to struggle reading this book. This introduces the field of Choas and presents the story and anecdotes of about 200 scientists who were involved with Choas. It's a challenge to present a cohesive story when someone is dealing with 200 investigators. I felt frequent disconnects between one paragraph after another. I could not follow the trail of the story, and in fact, I wondered if there is any story at all here.

The book tries to lay a case that even after understanding Classical physics, and Quantum physics, the scientists discovered new ways to reason about nature using non-linear equations which depended upon the initial conditions. The later part, the system of non-linear equations which depend upon the initial conditions is called as the Chaos Theory.

I noted down the following interesting quotes from this book.

“John Hubbard, exploring iterated functions and the infinite fractal wildness of the Mandelbrot set, considered chaos a poor name for his work, because it implied randomness. To him, the overriding message was that simple processes in nature could produce magnificent edifices of complexity without randomness. In nonlinearity and feedback lay all the necessary tools for encoding and then unfolding structures as rich as the human brain.”


“The Mandelbrot set obeys an extraordinarily precise scheme leaving nothing to chance whatsoever. I strongly suspect that the day somebody actually figures out how the brain is organized they will discover to their amazement that there is a coding scheme for building the brain which is of extraordinary precision. The idea of randomness in biology is just reflex.”

"Shallow ideas can be assimilated; ideas that require people to reorganize their picture of the world provoke hostility."


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