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John Bragin
PopularScience
Technology and Society
a world to win
Society of Actuaries (pdf)
eSkeptic

Melanie Mitchell

Complexity : a guided tour

Many scientists are trying to find underlying rules which govern the behaviour of the complex systems we find around us. In Complexity : a guided tour Melanie Mitchell gives an overview of the field.

Mitchell starts by introducing some of the areas related to complexity theory, inlcuding information theory, computer science, thermodynamics, evolution and genetics. She continues by explaining some of the work she has done in the subject on genetic algorithms and an AI program 'copycat'. There are also chapters looking at Kaufmann's ideas on self organisation, at the behaviour of the immune system and at the science of networks. The book concludes with a discussion of the problems which complexity theory has faced, and where it might be going in the future.

The book is easy to read, but I felt that the structure left something to be desired. The first few chapters seemed to spent introducing a wide range of topics before getting on to complexity theory itself. There's a lot crammed into a small space, and I thought the book could be better split into two different works. The first would be an overview of complexity science (although there are already plenty of those). The second would be a more autobiographical work, introducing the things that Mitchell herself has worked on - I felt that these were the most interesting parts of this book.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0195124413
Salesrank: 668762
Weight:1.54 lbs
Published: 2009 Oxford University Press
Amazon price $25.46
Marketplace:New from $15.00:Used from $4.50
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0195124413
Salesrank: 863593
Weight:1.54 lbs
Published: 2009 OUP USA
Amazon price £14.99
Marketplace:New from £10.00:Used from £10.00
Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 384 pages  
ISBN: 0195124413
Salesrank: 438782
Weight:1.54 lbs
Published: 2009 Oxford University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 35.71
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 26.00:Used from CDN$ 17.15
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Product Description
What enables individually simple insects like ants to act with such precision and purpose as a group? How do trillions of neurons produce something as extraordinarily complex as consciousness? In this remarkably clear and companionable book, leading complex systems scientist Melanie Mitchell provides an intimate tour of the sciences of complexity, a broad set of efforts that seek to explain how large-scale complex, organized, and adaptive behavior can emerge from simple interactions among myriad individuals. Based on her work at the Santa Fe Institute and drawing on its interdisciplinary strategies, Mitchell brings clarity to the workings of complexity across a broad range of biological, technological, and social phenomena, seeking out the general principles or laws that apply to all of them. Richly illustrated, Complexity: A Guided Tour--winner of the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in Science--offers a wide-ranging overview of the ideas underlying complex systems science, the current research at the forefront of this field, and the prospects for its contribution to solving some of the most important scientific questions of our time.