cover image DEEP SIMPLICITY: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity

DEEP SIMPLICITY: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity

John R. Gribbin, Author . Random $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4000

"Chaos begets complexity, and complexity begets life"—the most complex thing there is, writes Cambridge University astrophysicist Gribbin in opening this examination of how chaos theory has shifted scientific thinking. Gribbin, a veteran popular science writer (The Scientists , etc.), points out that chaos theory is based on two simple principles: small changes in the starting conditions of a process can cause big changes in the outcome, and the behavior of the system feeds back into itself to change the development of the system. The way our genes produce proteins and in turn the cells in our bodies may appear so complex as to be "on the edge of chaos," but in fact, as Gribbin points out, a "deep simplicity" underlies all of nature. He details how the second law of thermodynamics, about the concept of entropy, and systems in equilibrium play vital roles in determining the order underlying apparent chaos. Gribbin argues for complexity as the agglomeration of a (relative) handful of natural processes. Yet despite his insistence that chaos and complexity are actually quite simple, Gribbin's sophisticated presentation may prove daunting to casual science buffs. But advanced science readers will find it worthwhile to understand how "we are the natural expression of a deeper order." B&w illus. Agent, Penguin UK. (Apr.)