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Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Orderby Steven Strogatz
Synopses & Reviews
The moon spins in perfect resonance with its orbit around the Earth; millions of neurons fire together to control our breathing; every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of fireflies flash in silent, hypnotic unison. All of these astonishing feats of synchrony occur spontaneously as if the universe had an overwhelming desire for order.
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:
"SYNC is a wonderfully lucid and thoroughly entertaining story of the emerging science of synchrony...[it] gives us a compelling glimpse into what makes our universe tick." Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe, Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Columbia University
"Steven Strogatz has crafted a masterpiece that immerses the reader in the excitement of scientific discovery." Leon Glass, Isadore Rosenfeld Chair in Cardiology and Professor of Physiology, McGill University
"This book is the best introduction I have seen to the variety of subjects which make up modern complexity theory." Philip W. Anderson, Nobel Laureate, Joseph Henry Professor of Physics, Princeton University
Book News Annotation:
Strogatz (applied mathematics, Cornell U.) points out some examples of persistent order in the natural universe that seem to violate the laws of thermodynamics. He also describes the rise of a theory to explain such order. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The tendency to synchronize may be the most mysterious and pervasive drive in all of nature. It has intrigued some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Norbert Wiener, Brian Josephson, and Arthur Winfree. At once elegant and riveting, Sync tells the story of the dawn of a new science. 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.
At the heart of the universe is a steady, insistent beat, the sound of cycles in sync. Along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of fireflies congregate and flash in unison; the moon spins in perfect resonance with its orbit around the earth; our hearts depend on the synchronous firing of ten thousand pacemaker cells. While the forces that synchronize the flashing of fireflies may seem to have nothing to do with our heart cells, there is in fact a deep connection. Synchrony is a science in its infancy, and Strogatz is a pioneer in this new frontier in which mathematicians and physicists attempt to pinpoint just how spontaneous order emerges from chaos. From underground caves in Texas where a French scientist spent six months alone tracking his sleep-wake cycle, to the home of a Dutch physicist who in 1665 discovered two of his pendulum clocks swinging in perfect time, this fascinating book spans disciplines, continents, and centuries. Engagingly written for readers of books such as Chaos and The Elegant Universe, Sync is a tour-de-force of nonfiction writing.
About the Author
Steven Strogatz received his doctorate from Harvard University and served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT before becoming a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell Universitty in 1994. Widely recognized for his groundbreaking discoveries in chaos and complexity theory, he has received numerous awards throughout his career, including MIT's highest teaching prize and a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the White House. He lives in Ithaca, New York, with his wife, Carol, and their two daughters, Leah and Joanna.
Table of Contents
Fireflies and the inevitability of sync — Brain waves and the conditions for sync — Sleep and the daily struggle for sync — The sympathetic universe — Quantum choruses — Bridges — Synchronized chaos — Sync in three dimensions — Small-world networks — The human side of sync.
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