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James Gleick was an editor and reporter at the NEW YORK TIMES for ten years. He is the author of GENIUS, CHAOS, which was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, FASTER, and WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
Science readers who have gone through relativity theory, quantum physics, Heisenbergian uncertainty, black holes and the world of quarks and virtual particles only to be stunned by recent Grand Unified Theories (GUTS) will welcome New York Times science writer Gleick's adventurous attempt to describe the revolutionary science of chaos. ``Chaos'' is what a handful of theorists steeped in math and computer know-how are calling their challengingly abstract new look at nature in terms of nonlinear dynamics. Gleick traces the ideas of these little-known pioneersincluding Mitchell Feigenbaum and his Butterfly Effect; Benoit Mandelbrot, whose ``fractal'' concept led to a new geometry of nature; and Joseph Ford who countered Einstein with ``God plays dice with the universe. But they're loaded dice.'' Chaos is deep, even frightening in its holistic embrace of nature as paradoxically complex, wildly disorderly, random and yet stable in its infinite stream of ``self-similarities.'' A ground-breaking book about what seems to be the future of physics. Illustrations. QPBC alternate. (October 20)
Chaos-theory, touted as the third revolution in 20th-century science after relativity and quantum mechanics, uses traditional mathematics to understand complex natural systems with too many variables to study. Philosophically, it counters the Second Law of Thermodynamics by demonstrating the ``spontaneous emergence of self-organization.'' In this new science apparent disorder is meaningful; the structure of chaos can be mapped by plotting graphically the calculations of nonlinear mathematics using ``fractal'' geometry, a brainchild of Benoit Mandelbrot in which symmetrical patterns repeat across different scales. With jocular descriptions of eccentric characters such as the ``Dynamical Systems collective,'' (a.k.a. Chaos Cabal) of the University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz, Chaos offers an absorbing look at trailblazers on a new scientific frontier. Laurie Tynan, Montgomery Cty.-Norristown P.L., Pa.