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Steven H. Strogatz, Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. New York : Hyperion, 2003. viii + 338 pages; illustrated; with bibliographical references and index.
Sync by Steven Strogatz was an excellent read. Strogatz is a professor of mathematics at Cornell University, and he has written this book about how many biological and nonliving processes have a tendency to synchronize. This book is packed with information and examples, yet it is still very engaging and easy to follow.
Sync covers a variety of topics. On the biological side, Strogatz describes how fireflies in certain geographical regions flash in sync with one another and how a person's circadian rhythms are regulated by environmental cues and body temperature. On the nonliving side, Strogatz describes how lasers are made by harnessing synchronous atomic emissions and how superconductivity results from electrons moving in sync. Strogatz then goes on to analyze how human behavior can sync up such as in the spread of fads or in how traffic jams develop. Throughout all this, Strogatz describes the scientific research that led to these discoveries including his own research.
I found this book to be very interesting. The actual examples of sync and their explanations were fascinating, but what I enjoyed even more were the descriptions of the experiments leading to these discoveries and the descriptions of the scientists working on these problems. Strogatz did a great job of explaining the concepts behind sync. He would first describe a theoretical concept and then he would rephrase it using everyday objects. He also emphasized the difficulty of the math involved, even for him, and how he and other scientists need to simplify things in order to understand it. Although the topics in this book are very complex, Strogatz made them understandable for the average reader.
-- Notes by AIJ