Chaos in Wonderland: Visual Adventures in a Fractal World

Clifford A. Pickover, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-10743-7

The weakest part of this book is the second section, which details the ``science fictional'' journey of an aspiring ``modern Schliemann'' named Garth (and his obligatory beautiful, young assistant Kalinda) through various adventures and encounters on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. Pickover ( Computers and the Imagination ) intends to use the stories and the material in the other two sections to illustrate both the glories of fractals and their underlying mathematical formulae. He does this well, providing interesting representations of sundry Ganymedean cultures, especially the Latoocarfians, whose hierarchy is based upon the ability to conceive complex fractals. Pickover's detailed explications of the speculative biologies and physiologies at times appear improbable, yet he often provides earthly analogues or theoretical material to support his constructions. The book includes an extensive array of quotations and bibliographic data for further rading for those--likely many--who may be inspired to search beyond the material Pickover presents. There are also games, mathematical puzzles and computer codes for the willing hacker. Although the fiction is frequently so chauvinistic (in both senses of the word) as to be unpalatable, this is a fine generalist text to introduce lay readers to the concepts and designs presented. (June)