Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen

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Crown, Apr 23, 2002 - Science - 288 pages
Critically acclaimed science journalist, Mark Buchanan tells the fascinating story of the discovery that there is a natural structure of instability woven into the fabric of our world, which explains why catastrophes-- both natural and human-- happen.

Scientists have recently discovered a new law of nature and its footprints are virtually everywhere-- in the spread of forest fires, mass extinctions, traffic jams, earthquakes, stock-market fluctuations, the rise and fall of nations, and even trends in fashion, music and art. Wherever we look, the world is modelled on a simple template: like a steep pile of sand, it is poised on the brink of instability, with avalanches-- in events, ideas or whatever-- following a universal pattern of change. This remarkable discovery heralds what Mark Buchanan calls the new science of 'ubiquity', a science whose secret lies in the stuff of the everyday world. Combining literary flair with scientific rigour, this enthralling book documents the coming revolution by telling the story of the researchers' exploration of the law, their ingenious work and unexpected insights.

Buchanan reveals that we are witnessing the emergence of an extraordinarily powerful new field of science that will help us comprehend the bewildering and unruly rhythms that dominate our lives and may even lead to a true science of the dynamics of human culture and history.

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User Review  - quinton.baran - LibraryThing

I finally completed reading this book and found it to be very insightful. It is interesting how a wide variety of different occurrences and phenomenon can be described in an abstract manner. I ... Read full review

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User Review  - kukulaj - LibraryThing

I have been fascinated by critical point phase transition phenomena since I read Stanley's book on Phase Transitions back in college, probably 1974. In graduate school I worked on renormalization ... Read full review


Title Page Copyright Dedication Acknowledgments 1 Causa Prima
A Shaky Game
An Absurd Reasoning
Critical Thinking
Killing Time
The Web of Life
De Magnete
Wild at Heart
Against All Will
Intellectual Earthquakes
A Question of Numbers
History Matters

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About the author (2002)

MARK BUCHANAN is a science writer who has worked on the editorial staff of Nature and as a features editor for New Scientist. He earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Virginia. He is also the author of Nexus, The Social Atom and Forecast.  

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