Chaos: A Very Short Introduction

D.M. Hutton (Norbert Wiener Institute, UK)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 17 June 2008




Hutton, D.M. (2008), "Chaos: A Very Short Introduction", Kybernetes, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 831-832.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is what the author describes as a “very short” introduction to “Chaos”. It is inexpensive but cyberneticians and systems who want to revise what they know about the subject and who aim to improve on their understanding of it from the different viewpoints presented by the author, would be getting a bargain. The book looks at the history and the fascinating development of a subject that has caught the interest of non‐scientists and scientists alike. In consequence, the author has said that pictures replace complex mathematical formula with no equation more difficult than “X=2”. Evenso, the treatment of the subject is not a “dumbed‐down” version and is readable and useful to both academic as well as to the public readership. Both sections of readers will find the text clearly written and in an interesting fashion with plenty of examples and references to the subject of chaos that lie in the public domain as well as in more academic publications.

The book is well structured and as the author writes in his preface, the reader does not require a high level of mathematics.

In many ways, the book becomes a companion handbook easily read with access to references conveniently listed. For the non‐mathematician the explanations of important concepts are particularly useful. Few books could better Smith's definition at the beginning of his book of what is meant by chaos. Other concepts, involved are also explained with a simplicity that will be envied by most academics who have to teach them. A popular discussion of such important terms as “uncertainty”, “Olbers' paradox”, etc. are explained and defined in brief simple terms. These definitions form a glossary at the end of the book where a full index and recommended future reading is included.

What is particularly outstanding in the presentation of chaos theory is the author's use of graphics to help explain what would otherwise have been difficult to understand.

The subject of chaos is treated with due reference to its obvious philosophical and educational impact both on academic disciplines as well on the public's perceptions. Indeed the final chapters consider a philosophical view of chaos and discuss what the future holds for both science and the wider society. This book is an obvious highly recommended read for scientists and also for the populace at large.

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