was drawn to this book when the topics of chaos theory and fractal geometry were new and hot. i thought chaos/fractals will be the wave of the future. (a pop culture reference: in the movie jurassic park, the protagonist is a mathematician who knows chaos theory; and the novel employs some language of chaos theory and even has fractals for illustrations.) but somehow general interest in chaos theory/fractals waned. what happened? any book to illuminate me on this?
Actually, research in chaos theory has not waned and continues to grow. Don't confuse "public interest" with actual knowledge of a subject. Public interest has never been a good model of actual research of a topic. By the way, chaos theory and fractals have been around for a while now, not just since the 1980s.
General, i.e. public, interest always fades away because the interest is superficial. Fractals only look pretty to the lay person for so long.
i think chaos theory adds to our fundamental understanding of the world, but it doesn't necessarily prompt change. IMHO, gleick's significant contribution was to make the theory accessible, e.g., illustrating it's fundamental role by telling the stories of how multiple folks in different disciplines "discovered" it. whether you grasp all the nuances or not, seeing that common presence across multiple scientific disciplines is striking.
Most certainly read. As stated below, can shift your view of the world. In fact, pick up anything you can on living systems/organic systems/social systems/chaos/self-organization etc. as this will be a very good foundation for understanding what our world is about. I have quite a few in my book list. You are welcome to visit.
I am just polishing off this little gem or more precisely this crystalline lattice structure that goes on to infinity. I guess the take home message that I got from this book is that reality is not the way we experience it as a species. there is a whole lot going on out there that we just do not have the ability to perceive. There is a pattern to things that seem entirely random. Clouds, dripping water, next weeks weather, things that seem unpredictable do have pattern. Oh, and that fractals are cool, not just average cool but really freakin cool! Not that I understood this book or anything. If you did not sit through calculus class with your thumb in your mouth crying like I did, perhaps you will get a bit more out of this. I am left with a vague notion that there is a lot going on I don't know about and the creator, god, flying spaghetti monster or whatever you want to call the thing that runs the universe is one hell of a mathematician. Worlds better than the best our species can muster. The universe can do math that would make Einstein look retarded. It certainly makes me feel retarded but every once in a while I get the notion that I am an actual scientist that can understand real science. Much like the guy who follows a really attractive woman into a formal party only to realize that he is in ripped jeans and a tee shirt while she is lip locked with a tux clad, porche driving, high society millionaire... well, I was just a bit out of my league. Yet, always up for a challenge. If you like this book and really want to screw with your head try Elegant Universe and Fabric of the Cosmos. If that doesn't do it for you go watch 'Horton Hears a Who" a great lesson in fractals where tiny complex worlds exist on dust specks in larger worlds. Dr. Suess wasn't a Doctor for nothing, he was a true genius.”
I think it was Richard Dawkins who said we, as humans, live in "middle world." Not huge like stars, not small like insects or bacteria. We are only able to perceive things that relate to your "middle-sized" world. I think it says a lot about the content of this book.