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Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life (2004)

de John Gribbin

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The world around us seems to be a complex place. But, as John Gribbin explains, chaos and complexity obey simple laws - essentially, the same straightforward principles that Isaac Newton discovered more than 300 years ago.
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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 at all interested in systems and complexity, and a reminder I need to read more on this area. ( )
  6loss | Nov 7, 2019 |
4 ( )
  ronchan | Nov 14, 2016 |
10
  agdturner | Aug 5, 2011 |
The second half is an OK review of recent work on chaos theory, particularly what happens on the edge of chaos.
The whole first half is a complex review of what the author believes are necessary building blocks needed to understand the second half.
While I think the second half is quite good, this book is not for you, unless you did well in college level math and physics. ( )
  ds1 | Oct 18, 2009 |
This book provides another overview of the development of Chaos Theory and the background to fractals. (See also Introducing Chaos and Introducing Fractal Geometry)
It’s slightly extended description compared to these titles allows the role of some additional contributors to the field to be mentioned, but largely it covers the same ground.

The scene set, the book then focuses on its chosen area of interest, the role of chaos in the development of life and its evolution. In particular it focuses on what it describes as activity at ‘the edge of chaos’, the point where things begin to get interesting - where outcomes are deterministic, but not predictable. It is in this apparent paradox that the fascination of chaos lies.

Though the answer to the question where did life come from still sits a little out of reach of this book and our understanding, the picture created provides an overwhelming case for the presence and importance of chaos not simply in the construction of our world through the shaping of trees or river estuaries for example, but also in the operation of our world. Here we are not simply interested in the ways that trees grow or river estuaries form, but throughout the whole range of processes of how things work from the orbiting of the planets, to the frequencies of electrical interference on telephone lines.

Indeed Beniot Mandelbrot, one of chaos theory’s pioneers, developed many of his ideas attempting to solve precisely this problem whilst employed at IBM, He concluded that interference was inevitable the solution was to detect corrupted data and resend.

Somewhat startlingly this same pattern of inevitability of unpredictable events can be seen throughout the operation of many of nature’s processes. For example the frequency and severity of earthquakes follows the same fractal pattern, as does the pattern of craters on the moon, and thereby on the Earth. This is leading geologists and seismologists to profoundly rethink their understanding.

When we begin to appreciate the universality of these ideas, we realise that they are no less profound for the rest of us. The neatly ordered way in which we perceive cause and effect and attempt to apply this to complex systems has to be rethought.

The book explores how the effects of chaos permeate all aspects of the life of the universe, even to explaining, with deference to Rudyard Kipling, how the leopard gets its spots.

The consequences of chaos create a new way of seeing and demand a new way of understanding. For me they begin to solve the riddle, felt intuitively, that at the heart of the explanation of all of the complexity we experience, is simplicity, or as the book is titled, deep simplicity.
As Einstein said “When the solution is simple, God is answering.”

How does this relate to organisational change? Our desire to see business as in some way special, requiring its own rules, its own language and behaviours is perhaps our defence against what we see as the overwhelming complexity of the business world. If however we really want to understand, we must first be prepared to change our understanding, and begin by changing what we believe understanding to be. This book provides a first step in this process. ( )
1 vote Steve55 | Jan 18, 2009 |
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It always bothers me that, according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time. How can all that be going on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to figure out what one tiny piece of space/time is going to do? So I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed, and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities.

Richard Feynman
The Character of Physical Law
The simplicity of nature is not to be measured by that of our conceptions. Infinitely varied in its effects, nature is simple only in its causes, and its economy consists in producing a great number of phenomena, often very complicated, by means of a small number of general laws.

Pierre Laplace
1749–1827
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The Simplicity of Complexity

The world around us seems to be a complex place. Although there are some simple truths that seem to be eternal (apples always fall to the ground, not to the sky; the Sun rises in the east, never in the west), our lives, in spite of modern technology, are still, all too often, at the mercy of complicated processes that produce dramatic changes out of the blue. Weather forecasting is still as much an art as a science; earthquakes and volcanic eruptions strike unpredictably, and seemingly at random; stock-market fluctuations continue to produce boom and bust with no obvious pattern to them.
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The world around us seems to be a complex place. But, as John Gribbin explains, chaos and complexity obey simple laws - essentially, the same straightforward principles that Isaac Newton discovered more than 300 years ago.

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