Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Snow Job

What Shape Is A Snowflake? Magical Numbers in Nature, Ian Stewart

The book of a TV series that never was: lots of pretty pictures, lots of simplistic anecdotes, no hard information, no intellectual challenges. The ideas examined fractals, complexity theory, chaos, animal gaits and skin patterns, and the relation of mathematics to reality are fascinating, but their treatment is superficial and there are no footnotes to guide readers quickly to more detailed sources of information. Stewart seems to have boiled down books like Does God Play Dice?, Fearful Symmetry, and Lifes Other Secret, thrown away the residue, and used the condensation on the windows instead. What Shape Is A Snowflake? would be good as an introduction to these ideas for an intelligent teenager or an adult with an arts degree, but if you dont fall into one of those categories youd be much better off with one of the serious books named above.

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