Chaos by James Gleick

James Gleick ( and is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, writer and lecturer. He made his name in 1987 with Chaos.

Chaos theory has made huge advances since that time but this is possibly still the best introduction on the subject for the layperson. It describes the Mandelbrot set, Julia sets, and Lorenz attractors without resorting to complex mathematics. Is the Universe governed by a fundamental set of iron clad laws which it is our task to discover? Or, at bottom, is there an irrepressible spontaneity that can never be captured in a formula, never fully known? Did Gerard Manley Hopkins ( have it right?

‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;

    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings’.
You decide.
James Gleick
380 pages in Vintage paperback edition.

ISBN 978-0749386061

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