Searching for Certainty: What Scientists Can Know about the Future

John L. Casti, Author, J. L. Casti, Author William Morrow & Company $22.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-688-08980-1
The author of Paradigms Lost and Alternative Realities shakes the reputation of mathematics as the irresistible force of scientific exploration in this lively series of lectures on everyday systems (like weather forecasting and the stock market) that refuse to yield to predictability. Casti's casual, wide-ranging command of number theory makes his working metaphors, such as a ``Chocolate Cake Machine'' analogy for algorithms, seem patronizingly simple, but this friendly touch ensures that even the casual science reader may peek over the edge of the mathematic reality that today's theorists live on. The five frontiers of prediction covered here represent a spectrum of sciences from sociobiology to the nature of computation itself. Ironically, several of Casti's cases are so well-developed that even his concise, simplified expositions obscure the book's real theme: we are approaching the limits of reliability in science. Readers of Martin Gardner's recreational math titles--Mathematical Carnival etc.--will recognize the spell of numbers that holds this collection together. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/04/1991
Release date: 02/01/1991
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