Can I Take Your Spontaneous Order?

Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order by Steven Strogatz

This is a fascinating book. Very well written providing a glimpse into the collaborative nature of research in science and of course the “emerging science of spontaneous order”. Strogatz begins by looking at fireflies and their ability/tendency to flash together when in large groups. He explores how this is possible and looks at analogous situations like the pacemaker cells of the heart. He discusses the problems in synchronizing oscillators, clock pendulums, entrainment and circadian rhythms. The science and mathematics involved are discussed on a level that can be understood by non-specialists which means someone like me gets a chance to explore these problems too. Of particular interest is the chapter on so-called ‘small-world networks’ which makes me wonder about how this science might play out in the social networking trends today. Recommended reading not only for the subject matter but for the excellent way he describes how scientific/mathematic problems are worked on and experiments designed to try and prove theories. Some good historical context with the work of Art Winfree featured and to which the book is dedicated. The synchronous moment that drew Strogatz into a neighborhood bookstore to discover Winfree’s book using terms the author had used in an early essay is a great coincidence.

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