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How Nature Works : The Science of Self-Organized Criticality - Per Bak

How Nature Works

The Science of Self-Organized Criticality

By: Per Bak


Published: 23rd April 1999
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and acknowledgments Self-organized criticality is a new way of viewing nature. The basic picture is one where nature is perpetually out of balance, but organized in a poised state-the critical state-where anything can happen within well-defined statistical laws. The aim of the science of self-organized criticality is to yield insight into the fundamental question of why nature is complex, not simple, as the laws of physics imply. Self-organized criticality explains some ubiquitous patterns existing in nature that we view as complex. Fractal structure and catastrophic events are among those regularities. Applications range from the study of pulsars and black holes to earthquakes and the evolution of life. One intriguing conse- quence of the theory is that catastrophes can occur for no reason whatsoever. Mass extinctions may take place without any external triggering mechanism such as a volcanic eruption or a meteorite hitting the earth (although the the- ory of course cannot rule out that this has in fact occurred). xu How Nature Works Since we first proposed the idea in 1987, more than 2, ooo papers have been written on self-organized criticality, making ours the most cited paper in physics during that period. How Nature Works is the first book to deal with the subject. The basic idea is simple, and most of the mathematical models that have been used in the implementation of the theory are not complicated.

Preface and Acknowledgments
Complexity and Criticalityp. 1
The Discovery of Self-Organized Criticalityp. 33
The Sandpile Paradigmp. 49
Real Sandpiles and Landscape Formationp. 65
Earthquakes, Starquakes, and Solar Flaresp. 85
The "Game of Life": Complexity Is Criticalityp. 105
Is Life a Self-Organized Critical Phenomenon?p. 113
Mass Extinctions and Punctuated Equilibria in a Simple Model of Evolutionp. 129
Theory of the Punctuated Equilibrium Modelp. 161
The Brainp. 175
On Economics and Traffic Jamsp. 183
Bibliographyp. 199
Indexp. 207
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780387987385
ISBN-10: 038798738X
Series: Copernicus
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 212
Published: 23rd April 1999
Publisher: Springer-Verlag New York Inc.
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.24 x 15.6  x 1.88
Weight (kg): 0.33