Simplexity: The Simple Rules of a Complex WorldPaperback
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- Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd
- Format: Paperback | 288 pages
- Dimensions: 129mm x 198mm x 22mm | 194g
- Publication date: 17 April 2008
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0719568137
- ISBN 13: 9780719568138
- Sales rank: 573,455
Why does kicking the TV work? What can the US military learn from the lowly bacterium? Why are the instruction manuals for cell phones incomprehensible? How does a spark of a single virus trigger an epidemic that claims millions? In recent years, cutting-edge studies in fields such as economics, genetics, stock-market analysis and child development have hit on a startling new theory - 'simplexity'. To put it simply, simple things can be more complicated than they seem, and complex things more simple. The evidence is before our eyes: in your elaborate network of household plumbing actually run on a very basic mechanism, or the crystal paperweight on your desk, spectacular in its complexity. As simplexity moves from the research lab into popular consciousness it will challenge our models for modern living. You'll never unknowingly whack the TV again and you'll understand just how much it means to smile at your child. Popular science journalist Jeffrey Kluger adeptly translates cutting-edge theory into a high-octane history of everything, which will have you rethinking the rules of business and pleasure. From the micro to the macro, Simplexity is a startling reassessment of the building blocks of life and how they affect us all.
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Jeffrey Kluger is a senior writer at Time magazine. He is co-author of the best-selling Apollo 13, which served as the basis of the film. His other books include Moonhunters and Splendid Solution.
A middling book of pop science that attempts to explain why we so often see complex events as simple phenomena, and vice versa.Time writer Kluger (Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio, 2005, etc.) simplifies - and at times dumbs down - some of the scientific notions that occupied James Gleick's Chaos (1988). Many of Kluger's lines of questioning are fruitful. After all, if scientific laws can be adduced to define the workings of the stock market, someone stands to make a bunch of money. Yet, what we know of the market, Kluger writes, is "surprising and counterintuitive," in that "millions of blind and self-interested trades somehow settle on a fair value for tens of thousands of different companies." Naturally, though, it's much more complex than that. Just so, writes Kluger, viewed a certain way, a pencil becomes a complex object enfolding many technologies and materials, much as a Florida election disguises countless actions gone wrong. Sometimes these lines of questioning are not so fruitful, however: It seems stretching the point to say that the 9/11 hijackings were an impromptu system of luck, guesswork, fear and "ergonomics, fluid dynamics, engineering, even physics." This kind of sizzle-but-no-steak writing is common in the pop-sci genre, and Kluger atones with case studies developed at somewhat more leisure, such as his examination of how speed humps work less well than neighborhood associations might wish. The complex human brain, it turns out, can be fooled into slowing down by a simple optical illusion. The book is scattershot, but with a few take-home points by way of reward - one, meant for old-timers, being that whereas smacking a piece of consumer electronics may have been a good fix a generation ago, it seldom works on techno gear today, satisfying though it might be.Moderately entertaining airplane fare - in the Malcolm Gladwell school of explaining the world as it is, but without the flair. (Kirkus Reviews)