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The tendency to synchronize may be the most mysterious and pervasive drive in all of nature. It has intrigued some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Norbert Wiener, Brian Josephson, and Arthur Winfree. But only in the past decade have scientists from disparate disciplines come to the stunning realization that the study of synchrony could revolutionize our understanding of everything from the origin of life to certain types of human behavior.
At once elegant and riveting, SYNC tells the story of the dawn of a new science. As one of its pioneers, Steven Strogatz, a leading mathematician in the fields of chaos and complexity theory, explains how enormous systems can synchronize themselves, from the electrons in a superconductor to the pacemaker cells in our hearts. He shows that although these phenomena might seem unrelated on the surface, at a deeper level there is a connection, forged by the unifying power of mathematics.
Along with vivid explanations of cutting-edge theory, Strogatz provides an intimate and highly personal narrative filled with often humorous anecdotes about some of the visionary thinkers of our time. He also describes the startling applications of this new knowledge, such as the harnessing of synchronized electrons to create the world's most sensitive detectors, able to locate oil buried deep underground and to pinpoint diseased tissues associated with epilepsy and heart arrhythmias.
From life's little curiosities to the grandest unsolved mysteries of science, SYNC explores such questions as:
-- Why traffic jams can occur even when there's no accident or other apparent cause
-- Why women roommates sometimes find that their menstrual periods occur in sync
-- What caused hundreds of Japanese children to fall into seizures while watching an episode of Pokemon
-- What triggers riots, fads, and mass hysteria
-- How synchrony in the solar system may have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs
-- How consciousness arises from the interplay of millions of mindless brain cells
A tour de force of science and prose, SYNC reveals the hidden but beautiful order that governs the rhythms of nature and the rhythms of ourselves.
Steven Strogatz is an applied mathematician best known for his contribution to network theory. Here he looks at the phenomenon of sync: independent agents (the light emitting organs of fireflies, women's menstrual cycles, cars accelerating and breaking in traffic traffic) start to act as if they were driven by some higher power.
Strogatz writes good science, and the problems are quite interesting - but hardly world shattering. One leaves the book with the idea that this sync thing is quite cool, but it's probably best not to get too excited about it because it can't live up to too much expectation. If you are to read only one science book this year, I don't recommend you choose this one.
Alberto Cottica said on Jun 22, 2010, 18:51