I’ve just finished reading ‘Deep Simplicity’ by John Gribbin, that Breff gave me for my birthday. Early on I was a little skeptical about whether I would learn anything new – it looked like another exposition on chaos, and how interesting things happen at the transition point between order and chaos. Actually, it was far better than that, and got more interesting the further I read. The chaos introduction was merely laying the groundwork to allow appreciation of the commentary of life, and how simple the fundamental underpinnings might be.
A few bits stood out – the number of phenomena which follow a power-law – for example, earthquakes (which explains why a big earthquake does not mean that there won’t be another along at any point – the quake does not release all the tension – just enough to stop it moving), the reason why life might be an almost unavoidable consequence of the situation on earth in the early period, the explanations of Gaia/self-regulation (relates to how the system will move itself back towards the point of almost chaos, whichever side it finds itself on), and how evolution really works (basically, just like Darwin said, but far fewer special things like specially punctuated evolution are required, even if they occurred). I suspect I’ve heard about them before, but they hadn’t stuck as well.
As well as being interesting, it is very readable, with very few assumptions made about the world that it does not explain itself. Gets a fairly mixed review elsewhere though, with folks claiming that it has been done better elsewhere. Maybe it’s too many years since I read Chaos by James Gleick.