Short works

Books : reviews

Murray Gell-Mann.
The Quark and the Jaguar.
Abacus. 1994

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 14 January 2001

A brilliant and vastly irritating book. Brilliant because it covers a wide range of fascinating subjects, with many intriguing new insights. Irritating because it never seems to go into sufficient depth about any of them.

The book covers two main topics, and tries to integrate them. The section on quantum mechanics and fundamental particles -- Gell-Mann's original background -- has some fascinating stuff on the modern "many alternative histories" interpretation of QM, coarse-graining and entropy, and the link to the quasi-classical domain. All gripping stuff, and worth a whole (popular) book of their own. Then the section on Complex Adaptive Systems -- based on Gell-Mann's more recent work at the Santa Fe Institute, has lots of equally fascinating insights into evolution, information, complexity, chaos, self-organisation, adaptation, and so on. But again, tons of interesting ideas are each compressed into a sentence or two. The text is split, under headings, into half-page or one-page fragments, each of which could usefully be expanded almost to chapter length in order to discuss fully the points Gell-Mann mentions in passing.

The Afterword, announced as a kind of "executive summary" (so why wasn't it at the beginning?), compresses further the entire book into nine breathlessly dense pages. However, I felt that the entire book acted as an executive summary to the book(s) I really want to read. Gell-Mann admits that the book "reaches into a large number of areas it cannot explore thoroughly or in depth" -- indeed, many of those areas are still subjects of active research -- and that its purpose is "to stimulate thought and discussion" -- it certainly does that, but a Further Reading section would have been a welcome addition.

in general ... the behaviour of highly complex nonlinear systems may exhibit simplicity, but simplicity that is typically emergent and not obvious at the outset

Contents includes:

Murray Gell-Mann, Constantino Tsallis, eds.
Nonextensive Entropy: interdisciplinary application.
OUP. 2004

A great variety of complex phenomena in many scientific fields exhibit power-law behavior, reflecting a hierarchical or multifractal fractal structure. Many of these phenomena seem to be susceptible to description and understanding using approaches drawn from thermodynamics or statistical mechanics, particularly approaches involving the maximization of entropy. During recent years, a good deal of study has been devoted to a nonextensive generalization of entropy and of Boltzmann-Gibbs statistical mechanics and standard thermodynamics. That generalization has intrinsically nonlinear features and yields power laws in a natural way. Nonextensive Entropy addresses the interdisciplinary applications of these ideas, and also on various phenomena that could possibly be quantitatively describable in terms of these ideas.


Constantino Tsallis. Nonextensive statistical mechanics: construction and physical interpretation. 2004
Sumiyoshi Abe. Generalized nonadditive information theory and quantum entanglement. 2004
Alberto Robledo. Unifying laws in multidisciplinary power-law phenomena: fixed-point universality and nonextensive entropy. 2004
Marcelo L. Lyra. Nonextensive entropies and sensitivity to initial conditions of complex systems. 2004
Fulvio Baldovin. Numerical analysis of conservative maps: a possible foundation of nonextensive phenomena. 2004
Andrea Rapisada, Vito Latora. Nonextensive effects in Hamiltonian systems. 2004
Jose Soares de Andrade Jr, Murilo P. Almeida, Andre A. Moreira, Arthur B. Adib, Gil A. Farias. A Hamiltonian approach to Tsallis thermostatics. 2004
Robin Sinchombe. Nonequilibrium systems. 2004
Hugo Touchette. Temperature fluctuations and mixtures of equilibrium states in the canonical ensemble. 2004
Horacio Wio. On the role of non-Gaussian noise on noise-induced phenomena. 2004
Thadeu J. P. Penna, J. C. Sartorelli, R. D. Pinto, W. M. Goncalves. A dripping faucet as a nonextensive system. 2004
Armin Bunde, Jan Eichner, Rathinaswamy Govindan, Shlomo Havlin, Eva Koscielny-Bunde, Diego Rybski, Dmitry Vjushin. Power-law persistence in the atmosphere: an ideal test bed for climate models. 2004
Marcello Buiatti, Patrizia Bogani, Claudia Acquisti, Giuseppi Mersi, Leone Fronzoni. The living state of matter: between noise and homeorrhetic constraints. 2004
Sergio A. Cannas, Diana E. Marco, Sergio A. Paez, Marcelo A. Montemurro. Plant spread dynamics and spatial patterns in forest ecology. 2004
Angel Plastino, M. T. Martin, O. Rosso. Generalized information measures and the analysis of brain electrical signals. 2004
N. Scafetta, P. Grigolini, P. Hamilton, Bruce J. West. Nonextensive diffusion entropy analysis and teen birth phenomena. 2004
Lisa Borland. The pricing of stock options. 2004
Roberto Osorio, Lisa Borland, Constantino Tsallis. Distributions in high-frequency stock-market observables. 2004
Lukasz Debowski. Entropic subexstensivity in language and learning. 2004
Marcelo A. Montemurro. A generalization of the Zipf-Mandelbrot law in liguistics. 2004
Juan Pérez-Mercader. Coarse-graining, scaling, and hierarchies. 2004
Vito Latora, Massimo Marchiori. The architecture of complex systems. 2004
Murray Gell-Mann, Seth Lloyd. Effective complexity. 2004