UK Nonlinear News, November 2000

Form order to Chaos II. Essays: Critical, Chaotic and Otherwise

By Leo P. Kadanoff

Reviewed by C. Beck

768 Pages ISBN: 9810234333 (paperback 9810234341) 60 pounds sterling (paperback 39 pounds sterling)

This book is a reprint collection. A better title might have been `Best of Leo Kadanoff's work'. 50 out of his 180 publications are re-printed and ordered into five categories. A. Fundamental Issues B. Scaling and Phase Transitions C. Urban Studies and Social Systems D. Turbulence and Chaos E. Complex Patterns.

It is impressive to see how broad Kadanoff's scientific interests are. Other physicists stay with one subject all their life - but in his papers he deals with an immense number of different topics, still giving important contributions to each of them. There are about 20 pages in total which have been newly written for this book. Here Kadanoff provides us with some interesting, amusing as well as deep information how his scientific collaborations evolved and what his general views on science are. These 20 pages were really fun to read. When describing his own scientific achievements Kadanoff switches between being enthusiastic ("...Then, in Christmas week of 1965 I had a sudden vision. A gift from the gods.") and modest ("...the analysis feels incomplete and somewhat unsatisfactory. At least this is somewhat the feeling I get from re-reading the papers.").

With respect to the current reprint collection he comments "I cannot imagine anyone who would wish to go through all this material from beginning to end". This advice was apparently taken seriously by the proof readers - there are several technical inconsistencies. For example, Kadanoff mentions that there is a publication list at the end of the book, but it is actually found at the beginning of the book. He also mentions that that the cover of the book shows 4 different flow patterns of a Rayleigh-Benard cell - but it doesn't. On the back cover of the book, the 5 different sections of the book are mentioned but then only 4 sections are briefly described. When describing the author's position at the University of Chicago, the printing ends abruptly without finishing the sentence.

These tiny technical errors should however not hide the fact that this is a collection of great scientific material from a great physicist.

A listing of books reviewed in UK Nonlinear News is available.

UK Nonlinear News thanks World Scientific for providing a review copy of this book.

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Last Updated: 6th September 2000.