recommend a book about chaos theory

My twelve-year-old son has become interested, and all I have is my college Complex Dynamical Systems textbook, which is just a bit beyond him, I imagine. Any suggestions? (The first person with a post containing the word ‘Gleick’ will be summarily shot. Fair warning. :))

Bit of a conversation stopper, I think.
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James Gleick

Chaos theory - Wikipedia At the bottom of this wiki explanation are a series of books. The last listing is for less technical and more popular books. I suggest Lorenz books as a good starting place.

Out of curiosity, why?

Ian Stewart’s Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos is one possibility—I have no idea whether it’s the best or easiest.

The Mathematical Tourist by Ivars Peterson is intended as a general introduction to a variety of topics in modern math, and is written for lay people, not professional mathematicians. It might still be a little bit above the head of a 12-year-old.

Well, I’ve only read one book on the topic, but I can recommend it… Chaos (Gleick) (yes, I did read the OP). I read it in High School and I thought it did a good job of addressing the layman (reminiscent of Bill Bryson). He does dance around a lot - Chaos Theory is presented abstractly.

The book probably isn’t suitable for your average 12-year old, though, and I doubt you’ll find one that is. What prompted me to recommend this is that there’s a strong focus on the scientists of the field, and the history behind the theory, rather than hard mathematics.

Jurassic Park deals with chaos theory. It’s a much bigger component of the book than the movie.

It may not be about chaos theory and I have no idea how accurate that aspect of it is, but it’s a fun read anyway.

Crichton never knew anything about chaos theory other than the name. Fun read, but completely inappropriate here.

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

On a related note, can someone recommend me a book about elementary laws of physics? (NO NEWTON, DAMMIT!)

Yer hilarious, Smeghead.

I like challenging him, he’s interested, and the stuff I have is definitely way over his head; but I don’t think that just anything would be. He’s pretty sharp, especially on the science-y stuff. The only popular account I’ve read personally is Gleick’s, and it’s chock-full of stuff that’s annoyingly wrong. (I know a popular science writer has to simplify & condense details into coherent summaries which are therefore bound to be a bit off. That’s no excuse for Gleick’s hack job, in my mind.) (Oh, and Crichton seems to have picked up what little he knows about chaos theory from Gleick’s book, and then done his usual fun re-mixing the facts to make them sound cooler. My experience with Crichton books in general is that the science always sounds fascinating to people who aren’t versed in the field in question, and always annoys the hell out of those who are. My reaction to Jurassic Park was along the lines of, “The chaos theory bits were stupid, but some of that biological engineering seemed very well-thought-out.” Then I read reviews from biologists, saying how stupid the biology was, but that the chaos theory bits were really interesting. :dubious:)

The Lorenz book looks really good, but probably a bit beyond him right now. I’m pretty sure he could handle Gleick, I guess I’m looking for something at that level of sophisitication but with more accuracy. If there is such a beast … I’m certainly not looking to teach him to do that kind of math (yet–I laid out the sequence for him last night, and he seemed somewhat taken aback at the length of the sequence [more algebra, analytic geometry, basic calculus, systems of differential equations, then we can go on to nonlinear dynamics!], but not particularly daunted), but the focus on history & applications would whet his interest, I think.

That’s exactly the same thing I’ve read about Velikovsky – from two different places. Both reported that historians were unimpressed with his history, but thought his physics was impressive, while physicists were amazed at how bad his science was, but impressed by his historical research.

This sort of thing has bothered me about Crichton ever since I read The Andromeda Strain (when it first came out) and saw him trying to impress the reader with, in essence, a discussion of binary numbers. There’s been something in just about all of his books that annoys me, with Congo being the worst of those I’ve read. in Jurassic Park I was appalled that his park engineers apparently have almost no imagination (really – they stopped counting animals when the total got to the number they thought they had? They didn’t get false positives? they didn’t use the counts as a check on the system?) and don’t seem to consider the desirability of redundancy and back-up systems. They deserve to be eaten by reconstituted dinosaurs.

It may not be what you’re after at all, but I loved the play “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard when I first saw it in 1995. No, it is not intended to be factual, but I recall Valentine Coverly’s explanation of chaos theory in recursive mathematics to have been one of the clearest explanations of the idea behind the concept that I had encountered.

And it’s a delightful play - well worth reading for its own sake.

So - wait: are you James Gleick?

If so - I loved the book **Chaos **and also Genius, your bio of Richard Feynman.
**SCSimmons **- sounds like you have more of a science/math background, so take issue with the choices Gleick made to make the concepts available to the layman. YMMV - but if you find a book you think is suitable for your 12-but-advanced, I would appreciate your coming back to this thread and letting us know…

There is a topic that, to my knowledge, is somewhat related to Chaos Theory - Fuzzy Logic. I read a book by that name around the same time I read Chaos and enjoyed it, too…

ETA: Oh, and I enjoyed Arcadia, too…

blink I have GOT to start paying attention to user names.