Chaos: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780192853783

Leonard Smith
200 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Feb 2007
Very Short Introductions


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  • Chaos theory is one of the most exciting and fast-growing areas of mathematics and physical science today.
  • It unifies simplicity and complexity, and order and randomness, to give us a new understanding of a physical processes and events.
  • Ideal for the non-mathematician - Leonard Smith uses accessible examples and terms to give the reader a full understanding of this exciting field.

Chaos exists in systems all around us. Even the simplest system of cause and effect can be subject to chaos, denying us accurate predictions of its behaviour, and sometimes giving rise to astonishing structures of large-scale order. Our growing understanding of Chaos Theory is having fascinating applications in the real world - from technology to global warming, politics, human behaviour, and even gambling on the stock market.
Leonard Smith shows that we all have an intuitive understanding of chaotic systems. He uses accessible maths and physics (replacing complex equations with simple examples like pendulums, railway lines, and tossing coins) to explain the theory, and points to numerous examples in philosophy and literature (Edgar Allen Poe, Chang-Tzu, Arthur Conan Doyle) that illuminate the problems. The beauty of fractal patterns and their relation to chaos, as well as the history of chaos, and its uses in the real world and implications for the philosophy of science are all discussed in this Very Short Introduction.


1: The Emergence of Chaos
2: Exponential Growth, Nonlinearity, Common Sense
3: Chaos in Context: Determinism Randomness and Noise
4: Chaos in Mathematical Models
5: Fractals, Strange Attractors, and Dimension(s)
6: Quantifying the Dynamics of Uncertainty
7: Real numbers, Real Observations and Computers
8: Sorry, Wrong Number: Statistics and Chaos
9: Predictability: Does Chaos Constrain Our Forecasts?
10: Applied Chaos: Can We See Through Our Models?
11: Philosophy in Chaos
Further Reading

About the author: 

Leonard Smith is Senior Research Fellow in Mathematics at the University of Oxford, where he lectures on nonlinear dynamical systems and chaos.

Leonard Smith's Chaos (part of the Oxford Very Short Introduction series) will give you the clearest (but not too painful idea) of the maths involved... There's a lot packed into this little book, and for such a technical exploration it's surprisingly readble and enjoyable - I really wanted to keep turning the pages. Smith also has some excellent words of wisdom about common misunderstandings of chaos theory... One of the best books so far in this useful and informative series. - popularscience.co.uk

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