Bigger Than Chaos

Bigger Than Chaos : Understanding Complexity Through Probability

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Many complex systems - from immensely complicated ecosystems to minute assemblages of molecules - surprise us with their simple behaviour. Consider, for instance, the snowflake, in which a great number of water molecules arrange themselves in patterns with six-way symmetry. How is it that molecules moving seemingly at random become organized according to the simple, six-fold rule? How do the comings, goings, meetings and eatings of individual animals add up to the simple dynamics of ecosystem populations? More generally, how does complex and seemingly capricious micro-behaviour generate stable, predictable macro-behaviour? In this book, Michael Strevens aims to explain how simplicity can coexist with, indeed be caused by, the tangled interconnections between a complex system's many parts. At the centre of Strevens's explanation is the notion of probability and, more particularly, probabilistic independence. By examining the foundations of statistical reasoning about complex systems such as gases, ecosystems and certain social systems, Strevens provides an understanding of how simplicity emerges from complexity.
Along the way, he draws lessons concerning the low-level explanation of high-level phenomena and the basis for introducing probabilistic concepts into physical theory.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 448 pages
  • 168 x 245 x 38mm | 742g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • 39 illustrations
  • 0674010426
  • 9780674010420

Review quote

of problems of micro state-macro state relations focusing on the inevitably 'simple behavior' of 'complex systems' that meet appropriate stochastic criteria.
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About Michael Strevens

MICHAEL STREVENS is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Stanford.
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