Book Review: Chaos by James Gleick

My initial idea was to skip reviewing this book and give only stars at Goodreads, but here we are. I had to lend my husband’s brain with this book, meaning I read aloud to him to better understand the scientific concepts. Reading aloud helped to slow down and take in the actual words written. While I have some basic idea of physics and the language used there, I’m not even a novice with the subject. I was more comfortable with biological examples of chaos. That said, I would say this is more a history book and case of chaos than science book. I mean, the book is about how through all the random occurrences, chaos became a noteworthy subject to study. How the old information through weird loops was found and lost and then found and applied to another field, advancing our understanding of the issue. Also, the book is full of jokes, or so my husband insisted. He was laughing a lot to James Gleick’s snide comments and criticism and clever world play. He had to explain them to me, and when he did, yes, indeed funny stuff, but it is hard to laugh after the fact.

The question, do I understand chaos better now after reading the book? The answer is no. I have a random collection of facts, which points me towards chaos and says that there is something in there, but understanding, no. Do I mind? Kind of yes, sort of no. If I try to imagine chaos, I vision clouds, a dripping faucet, snowflakes, Mandelbrot’s fractals, donuts with liquid in them (I think this is two images entangled with each other,) folding sheets and horseshoes, and zooming and seeing so much, but so little at the same time. The dependency of numerous factors makes this universe and this spinning rock exciting place to be.

About James Gleick’s criticism of discipline boundaries, which even I could see, was something I agree with. Cooperation leads to greater knowledge. I cannot really say one thing or another with the mathematical and physics boundaries and the concept of pure added in front. Not even a novice here. But I can draw an example from Death’s Acre by William M. Bass book, where he explains how a shared fact in sports medicine found its way to forensic lab knowledge. This is about knee joints and ethnicity, how there is a slight difference in the construct. Such knowledge helped forensic experts to identify bodies thereon. And this was only because of a student and her background in both fields.  A detour, sorry. What I tried to say was that I wholeheartedly agree.

Chaos is a wonderful book. Slow to read. Painful to read with all the detailing how some idea was discovered (more like a question was brought on the central stage,) accompanied by the scientist’s personal history and even relationships with others. Mandelbrot, what an interesting fellow. I recommend this book, but if you are like me, give yourself time to read it and if you are like me, drag some poor sucker into the process and make them listen to you.

Thank you for reading and have a randomly wonderful day ❤

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