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The idiosyncrasies of human decision-making have confounded economists and social theorists for years. If each person makes choices for personal (and often irrational) reasons, how can people's choices be predicted by a single theory? How can any economic, social, or political theory be valid? The truth is, none of them really are. Mark Buchanan makes the fascinating argument that the science of physics is beginning to provide a new picture of the human or "social atom," and help us understand the surprising, and often predictable, patterns that emerge when they get together. Look at patterns, not people, Buchanan argues, and rules emerge that can explain how movements form, how interest groups operate, and even why ethnic hatred persists. Using similar observations, social physicists can predict whether neighborhoods will integrate, whether stock markets will crash, and whether crime waves will continue or abate. Brimming with mind games and provocative experiments, The Social Atom is an incisive, accessible, and comprehensive argument for a whole new way to look at human social behavior.

REVIEWS: ..".offer fascinating ways to approach worldly problems." - USA Today Click here to see the full review from USA Today "beguiling behavorial study...he's on to something big."-Bloomberg News

"Likely the Blink or Freakonomics of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan's new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage."-Time Out Chicago "Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, th

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About the Author

Mark Buchanan is a theoretical physicist and an associate editor at Complexus, a journal on biocomplexity. He has been an editor at Nature and New Scientist, and is the author of numerous magazine and newspaper articles in the U.S. and U.K. Buchanan is also the author of two prize-nominated books, Ubiquity: The Science of History and Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks. He lives in Cambridgeshire, England.

Reviews

"Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history." - Mike Davis, author of "Planet of Slums" and "Buda's Wagon""" "This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other." - Thomas C. Schelling, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics ..".offer fascinating ways to approach worldly problems." --USA Today"beguiling behavorial study...he's on to something big." --Bloomberg News"Likely the Blink or Freakonomics of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan's new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage." --Time Out Chicago"Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, that force looks a lot like the semi-random statistical model that explained the mysteries of quantum physics a century ago. This is a fascinating glimpse into a new way of understanding human behavior." --Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wired Magazine, and author of The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More"Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history." --Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and Buda's Wagon"This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other." --Thomas C. Schelling, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics"I devoured this book as if it contained the secret answer to the human condition-as indeed it might. To those who have watched the social world unravel in recent decades and wondered why we couldn't do better, Mark Buchanan offers a disarmingly simple solution: emulate the methods of explanation that have already proven themselves effective in the study of nature. The Social Atom is briskly written, informative, and deals with problems of the highest order. Read it and get a glimpse of the coming revolution in the social sciences." --Lee McIntyre, author of Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior ...offer fascinating ways to approach worldly problems. USA Today beguiling behavorial study...he's on to something big. Bloomberg News Likely the Blink or Freakonomics of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan's new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage. Time Out Chicago Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, that force looks a lot like the semi-random statistical model that explained the mysteries of quantum physics a century ago. This is a fascinating glimpse into a new way of understanding human behavior. Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wired Magazine, and author of The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history. Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and Buda's Wagon This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other. Thomas C. Schelling, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics I devoured this book as if it contained the secret answer to the human condition as indeed it might. To those who have watched the social world unravel in recent decades and wondered why we couldn't do better, Mark Buchanan offers a disarmingly simple solution: emulate the methods of explanation that have already proven themselves effective in the study of nature. The Social Atom is briskly written, informative, and deals with problems of the highest order. Read it and get a glimpse of the coming revolution in the social sciences. Lee McIntyre, author of Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior" ...offer fascinating ways to approach worldly problems. "USA Today" beguiling behavorial study...he's on to something big. "Bloomberg News" Likely the "Blink" or "Freakonomics "of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan's new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage. "Time Out Chicago" Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, that force looks a lot like the semi-random statistical model that explained the mysteries of quantum physics a century ago. This is a fascinating glimpse into a new way of understanding human behavior. "Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wired Magazine, and author of The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More" Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history. "Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and Buda's Wagon" This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other. "Thomas C. Schelling, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics" I devoured this book as if it contained the secret answer to the human condition as indeed it might. To those who have watched the social world unravel in recent decades and wondered why we couldn't do better, Mark Buchanan offers a disarmingly simple solution: emulate the methods of explanation that have already proven themselves effective in the study of nature. "The Social Atom" is briskly written, informative, and deals with problems of the highest order. Read it and get a glimpse of the coming revolution in the social sciences. "Lee McIntyre, author of Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior"" ..".offer fascinating ways to approach worldly problems." -- "USA Today" "beguiling behavorial study...he's on to something big."-"Bloomberg News" "Likely the "Blink" or "Freakonomics "of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan's new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage.""--Time Out Chicago" "Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, that force looks a lot like the semi-random statistical model that explained the mysteries of quantum physics a century ago. This is a fascinating glimpse into a new way of understanding human behavior."--Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, "Wired Magazine," and author of "The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More""" "Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history." - Mike Davis, author of "Planet of Slums" and "Buda's Wagon""" "This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other." - Thomas C. Schelling, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics "I devoured this book as if it contained the secret answer to the human condition-as indeed it might. To those who have watched the social world unravel in recent decades .,."offer fascinating ways to approach worldly problems." -- "USA Today" "beguiling behavorial study...he's on to something big."-"Bloomberg News" "Likely the "Blink" or "Freakonomics "of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan's new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage.""--Time Out Chicago" "Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, that force looks a lot like the semi-random statistical model that explained the mysteries of quantum physics a century ago. This is a fascinating glimpse into a new way of understanding human behavior."--Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, "Wired Magazine," and author of "The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More""" "Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history." - Mike Davis, author of "Planet of Slums" and "Buda's Wagon""" "This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other." - Thomas C. Schelling, Professoremeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics "I devoured this book as if it contained the secret answer to the human condition-as indeed it might. To those who have watched the social world unravel in recent decades and wondered why we couldn't do better, Mark Buchanan offers a disarmingly simple solution: emulate the methods of explanation that have already proven themselves effective in the study of nature. "The Social Atom" is briskly written, informative, and deals with problems of the highest order. Read it and get a glimpse of the coming revolution in the social sciences."--Lee McIntyre, author of "Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior" "Likely the "Blink" or "Freakonomics "of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan's new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage.""--Time Out ""Chicago""" "Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, that force looks a lot like the semi-random statistical model that explained the mysteries of quantum physics a century ago. This is a fascinating glimpse into a new way of understanding human behavior."--Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, "Wired Magazine", and author of "The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More""" "Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history." - Mike Davis, author of "Planet ofSlums" and "Buda's Wagon""" "This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other." - Thomas C. Schelling, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics "I devoured this book as if it contained the secret answer to the human condition-as indeed it might. To those who have watched the social world unravel in recent decades and wondered why we couldn't do better, Mark Buchanan offers a disarmingly simple solution: emulate the methods of explanation that have already proven themselves effective in the study of nature. "The Social Atom" is briskly written, informative, and deals with problems of the highest order. Read it and get a glimpse of the coming revolution in the social sciences."--Lee McIntyre, author of "Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior" " Likely the "Blink" or "Freakonomics "of 2007, theoretical physicist Buchanan' s new book explains how we replicate the behavior of people we admire, and stick close to people with shared fundamental bonds such as ethnic heritage." "-- Time Out ""Chicago""" " Everything we think about why we do what we do is wrong because we can't help but think and act like individuals, understanding the world around us with anecdote and simple stories. But as Mark Buchanan brilliantly demonstrates with examples from the world all around us, there's a bigger force at work that explains the world far better. Surprisingly, that force looks a lot like the semi-random statistical model that explained the mysteries of quantum physics a century ago. This is a fascinating glimpse into a new way of understanding human behavior." -- Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, "Wired Magazine," and author of "The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More""" "Seldom has a book so infuriated me yet kept me tightly gripped to each page. This is a first-class attack on the smugness of the Humanities by a brilliant provocateur: a disturbing challenge to all of us who think we understand something about the logic of social action and the patterns of history." - Mike Davis, author of "Planet of Slums" and "Buda's Wagon""" "This lucid and friendly introduction to social theory requires no mathematical or other prerequisites, is full of surprises, and introduces some new ways of thinking about the way human beings interact with each other." - Thomas C. Schelling, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Maryland, and co-recipientof the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics " I devoured this book as if it contained the secret answer to the human condition- as indeed it might. To those who have watched the social world unravel in recent decades and wondered why we couldn' t do better, Mark Buchanan offers a disarmingly simple solution: emulate the methods of explanation that have already proven themselves effective in the study of nature. "The Social Atom" is briskly written, informative, and deals with problems of the highest order. Read it and get a glimpse of the coming revolution in the social sciences." -- Lee McIntyre, author of "Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior"

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