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Ivars Peterson

Newton's Clock: Chaos in the solar system

The solar system seems to be the epitome of regularity, but there has always been a doubt about whether it is truly stable in the long term - Newton thought that divine intervention might be required from time to time. This isn't a book about the latest discoveries in astronomy, rather it's a look at the history of how a certain problem has been tackled. Peterson is a skilled author and presents what can be a dry subject in an interesting way, with the use of plenty of illusttrations. For instance although the book is wholly nonmathematical, it gives the reader some understanding of mathematical concepts such as Poincare's maps.

The book follows a more or less chronological path, starting with the early ideas of the Greeks and finishing with the recent use of powerful computers to follow the behaviour of the solar system. However it is possible to read the chapters independently if required. In particular those on the behaviour of the moon, the gaps in the asteroid belt, and the tumbling of Saturn's satellite Hyperion would be useful to a reader requiring information on a particular subject. I think it's better to read the whole book though, as this shows how the problem of the stability of the solar system just refuses to go away.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 334 pages  
ISBN: 0716727242
Salesrank: 2487978
Weight:0.95 lbs
Published: 1995 W.H. Freeman & Company
Marketplace:New from $21.25:Used from $1.49
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 0716727242
Salesrank: 465164
Weight:0.95 lbs
Published: 1995 W.H.Freeman & Co Ltd
Marketplace:New from £39.59:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 0716727242
Salesrank: 1109360
Weight:0.95 lbs
Published: 1995 Times Books
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 61.65:Used from CDN$ 2.04
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Product Description
"Astronomers, mathematicians, and physicists have barely got to grips with chaos, except as a 'problem' to be overcome. This book gives an excellent introduction to some of the issues and should be of interest to readers of all backgrounds." The Observatory "Here is a book for all who thought that there was nothing new in Newtonian mechanics." New Scientist