Wednesday, May 24, 2006


That’s a book by Mark Buchanan that I recently read. Though the book promised to be an interesting one, something like “The brief history of time”, it turned out to be a drag. Or so I felt because of the author’s, often, lengthy scientific deliberations. But what else could one expect from a Science writer. The ideas in the book are thought provoking, though.

As the title “ubiquity” suggests, the book dwells on certain laws of physics and mathematics that can explain, at the same time, events of diverse non-equilibrium systems like earthquakes, money markets, epidemics, forest fires, wars and revolutions. The illustrations drawn up to explain the commonalities between these seemingly varied phenomenons are down to earth and make sense. I especially liked the “pile of grains” game that has been used to explain how and why a simple incident triggered the First World War.

It answers questions like if history is repetitive, and if wars and revolutions occur cyclically. Why certain wars have more casualties than the others? Why certain cities are bigger than the others? One interesting thing that I learned from the book is that of the fractal pattern embedded into almost everything that humans know of. For example for every earth quake of intensity, say, 10, there are four earth quakes of intensity 5, and for every quake of intensity 5, there are four of intensity 2.5. The shapes of tributaries when blown up, represent, roughly the whole river. Basically, it seems, there is self-similarity in everything from geographical features to biological phenomena. So, if you have seen the small picture, you can faultlessly picture the big one. Interesting, isn’t it?

Quotes in the book are interesting. Shall post them later……


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