Sync

  • by Steven Strogatz
  • Narrated by Kevin T. Collins
  • 14 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The tendency to synchronize may be the most mysterious and pervasive drive in all of nature. It has intrigued some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Norbert Wiener, Brian Josephson, and Arthur Winfree.
At once elegant and riveting, Sync tells the story of the dawn of a new science. Steven Strogatz, a leading mathematician in the fields of chaos and complexity theory, explains how enormous systems can synchronize themselves, from the electrons in a superconductor to the pacemaker cells in our hearts. He shows that although these phenomena might seem unrelated on the surface, at a deeper level there is a connection, forged by the unifying power of mathematics.

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What the Critics Say

"Sync is a wonderfully lucid and thoroughly entertaining story of the emerging science of synchrony." (Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe, Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Columbia University)
"Inspiring... offers a real sense of what it's like to be at the beginning of Something Big." (New Scientist)
"Beautifully written and breathtaking in scope, SYNC tells both a personal and a scientific story." (Charles S. Peskin, Professor of Mathematics and Neural Science, New York University)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Engaging, but maybe better suited for non-audio

Self-organization -- it's a profoundly self-evident quality of nature, but one that so far has eluded much deep understanding in science. Strogatz makes it easy to see why: nature, from atoms up to cells up to societies, is made up of many non-linear components working together, and non-linear systems, with their feedback loops, impulses, and fractal components, are fiendishly difficult to get one's head around, nothing like the idealized systems we encounter in Freshman Physics. Yet, their non-linearity is the key to... well, maybe everything?

Sync explores the synchronization phenomena inherent in many complex systems, the way they coordinate their actions with respect to time, building order out of seeming noise. From fireflies to circadian rhythms to swinging pendulums to brain neurons to orbiting bodies to Higgs boson fields, there's an eerie tendency in nature for things to fall in step.

Despite being free of equations, it's a book that delves into some pretty dense territory, and might not be well suited to audiobook form. In most chapters, I found that a moment of daydreaming or distraction would have me rewinding to get back on track with the lecture. Strogatz spends a lot of time explaining abstract models, which held my interest as an engineer (the runners-on-a-track metaphor actually mirrored a traffic simulation I’d developed, which had sync issues of its own), but might appeal less to other readers. There are also some rather esoteric topics in physics, which I didn’t understand very well. I kinda wish he'd put those chapters towards the end, because I almost quit listening after one frustrating section dealing with spiral waves, which luckily turned out to be followed by a much more interesting and accessible overview of Chaos Theory. I also liked the chapters that explore networks and their characteristics (think of the connections between film actors, exemplified by the party game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”).

If you're hoping for some grand unifying theory of synchronization, you won't find it here, just an examination of some different systems in which sync is present and praise for the work of several different researchers. I wouldn’t have minded more resonance between the separate parts (as it were), but I was curious about the topic and the book was worth my time. It’s always cool to learn about a field in which many key developments have happened within my own lifetime. Strogatz convinced me that the qualities that make self-organizing systems difficult to model with traditional mathematics might be the same qualities that are most important to understand. As a software developer, I found it exciting to think about how computers will be used to further exploration of the universe’s emergent interconnectedness, and how discoveries might feed back into how we think about software design. We might even find out something profound.

3.5 stars.
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- Ryan

After listening, can't explain to others.

The book is not an easy listen. Be prepared for statements like "the coherence of the neurons in our brain are best thought of as solving a differential equation to determine the equilibrium solution involved in the non-linear system....".

The book covers many diverse topics, from why does the face of the moon always face towards us to how does a laser work. The author ties all of the topics together by showing how each of the constituent parts acts to produce the whole system.

Each of the different topics was exciting, but I did not understand the topic well enough to explain it to others after having listened to the topic. That probably means he didn't explain the topic at a simple enough level for me to understand.

Any high school student or college beginner who is thinking about majoring in mathematics should listen to this book. The author presents the exciting diverse fields available for the math practitioner.
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- Gary

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-25-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios