Complexity: the Emerging Science at the Edge of order and Chaos [Paperback]

M. Mitchell Waldrop (Author)

Release date: September 1, 1993

ISBN-10: 0671872346 | ISBN-13: 978-0671872342 | Edition: 1st

Why did the stock market crash more than 500 points on a single Monday in 1987? Why do ancient species often remain stable in the fossil record for millions of years and then suddenly disappear? In a world where nice guys often finish last, why do humans value trust and cooperation? At first glance these questions don't appear to have anything in common, but in fact every one of these statements refers to a complex system. The science of complexity studies how single elements, such as a species or a stock, spontaneously organize into complicated structures like ecosystems and economies; stars become galaxies, and snowflakes avalanches almost as if these systems were obeying a hidden yearning for order.

Drawing from diverse fields, scientific luminaries such as Nobel Laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Kenneth Arrow are studying complexity at a think tank called The Santa Fe Institute. The revolutionary new discoveries researchers have made there could change the face of every science from biology to cosmology to economics. M. Mitchell Waldrop's groundbreaking bestseller takes readers into the hearts and minds of these scientists to tell the story behind this scientific revolution as it unfolds.

Reader reviews from

The best popular introduction to complexity - September 2, 1999  - By A Customer

I work for a company that is commercializing some applications of complexity science, so I've read a heap of "popular" books on the subject. This is far and away the best: Waldrop gives some entertaining historical background on the Santa Fe Institute, but the "meat" of the book is complexity science and its implications, and his descriptions are clear, easy to understand, and accurate. He not only tells you what complexity science is but WHY you should care about it -- and by doing that, he goes far beyond most other popularizers. The book is a little dated now, but not seriously, and I still recommend it to people as the best general introduction to the subject. (For those wishing to delve a little deeper, Stuart Kauffman's "At Home in the Universe" goes more into the technical side of complexity science while still remaining very readable.)

Science goes down easy, November 3, 2005 - By CatLady (New England)

I have no background in science or math. The human stories propelled this book for me and made me want to understand the technical material discussed. Maybe it is too human and not nitty-gritty enough for hard-core science junkies. Still, I'm glad this book was published for those of us who want to discuss topics like complexity and systems but don't have the attention span for drier material.