Why do certain civilizations, societies, and ecosystems collapse? How does the domino effect relate to the credit crunch? When can mathematics help explain marriage? And how on earth do toads predict earthquakes? The future is uncertain. But science can help foretell what lies ahead.
Drawing on ecology and biology, math and physics, Crashes, Crises, and Calamities offers four fundamental tools that scientists and engineers use to forecast the likelihood of sudden change: stability, catastrophe, complexity, and game theories. In accessible prose, Len Fisher demonstrates how we can foresee and manage events that might otherwise catch us by surprise.
At the cutting edge of science, Fisher helps us find ways to act before a full-fledged catastrophe is upon us. Crashes, Crises, and Calamities is a witty and informative exploration of the chaos, complexity, and patterns of our daily lives.
In April 2009, all the toads disappeared from Italy's San Ruffino Lake district. Five days later an earthquake occurred. How did they know what was coming? Fisher, whose How to Dunk a Donut won the American Institute of Physics's Best Popular Science book, brings his accustomed erudition to explaining what we can learn from the toads about predicting catastrophes-whether in the natural or social orders. He explores the nature of equilibrium, the noncatastrophe state, highlighting the effects of negative feedback, which maintains equilibrium (such as the system that helps thermostats regulate temperature) and the spiraling effects of positive feedback (such as how panic spreads in a crowd). Fisher also examines a number of complex models designed to predict physical and human behaviors. Using catchy examples of everyday human behavior as aids, Fisher thus avoids the abstractions generated by the complex models he describes. Another strength is his skill at using short outlines, lists, and questions to underscore his points, and the endnotes offer a wealth of trivia, background information, and curious anecdotes. Although the final principles of how to make predictions are not surprising, their development is entertaining and thought provoking. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.