Weekly Meeting: Chaos

Chaos: Making a New Science
Chaos: Making a New Science

This week I am discussing Chaos: Making a New Science.


  • Listed in Book Lust and one of the books I am reading from it this year.
  • Book Riot Read Harder

What You Should Know:

  • This is non-fiction and micro-history at the development of chaos theory
  • This was originally written in the late 1980s, but chaos theory is still a new science.
  • You know the Butterfly Effect?  Yeah- this is where it comes from.


I am going to focus on 1 discussion question this week because I can go on and on about it forever.

Why do you think Mandelbrot was shunned by his colleagues as well as the science community in general?

Here is the thing about academia: they get stuck in the world of “we have always done it that way” quickly.  A lot of what happens in this book revolves around that very idea.  Math and science haven’t really changed much in how they see the world since… well… since the Greeks.  Euclidean geometry is still the way we view shapes.  Yes, we learn more about the world, but the underlining point of view seemed constant until the 1960s.

It took these scientists years to get published because peer review editors did not want to take a chance publishing something so out there.  Why?  Because we have always done math and science that way.  This happens often when a new theory comes out of the mainstream.  That is how the peer review process works.  It is how whack-a-doos and unethical research is kept out of publication.  This system has worked for ages, but it does also keep out valid theories.  It takes years for a new theory to break through and get taken seriously.  Scientists have to keep building new evidence.  It makes some of them bitter and it makes some of them stronger and it makes some of them give up.

I understand that sentiment about this book.  I know the frustration these people felt when their research was pushed aside because it was so revolutionary.  I see it with colleagues at work.  I have read about it often.  Research is not easy and the peer review publication system makes it even more difficult.

Alas, this is the way they have always done it!

Who Will Like:

  • My father would love this book if he hasn’t read it already…
  • Scientists, mathematicians, physicists, etc…
  • People who like understanding the development of scientific theories.
  • People who can appreciate how stuck academia gets, but don’t want a fictional humorous book about it.


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