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The Jungles of Randomness:
We use the word random as though we understood what it meant, but, of course, its superficial meaning only betrays our deep ignorance of what is really going on. Random is mostly used to label anything we can't predict, from the roll of a die to our spouse's next major purchase, but what's actually happening to cause the unanticipated results? Ivars Peterson makes this complexity simple in The Jungles of Randomness.
As the mathematics and physics editor of Science News, Peterson knows his topic thoroughly and writes with a flair that stimulates the imagination. Whether telling about snowflake-shaped drums; brilliant, eccentric Paul Erdös's geometrical fantasies; or unbreakable and nearly unbreakable codes, he knows just when and where to open a topic a bit further to provoke greater insights. The eight gorgeous color plates and dozens of illustrations are well chosen and complement the text without overwhelming it.
Inevitably, The Jungles of Randomness touches on subjects as diverse as molecular biology, engineering, and entomology, but it stays rooted in the field from which our understanding of complexity first arose: mathematics. A fascinating and underreported field, math is finally getting the mainstream attention it has always deserved, and it's not hard to understand why with exciting books like this pointing the way. Where this will lead us is anyone's guess, but the die is cast. --Rob Lightner [via]