27. Steven H. Strogatz, Theoretical and Applied Mechanics

Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order (Hyperion, 2003). What caused hundreds of Japanese children to fall into seizures while watching an episode of the cartoon show, Pokemon? Why do women roommates sometimes find that their menstrual periods occur in sync? The tendency to synchronize is one of the most mysterious and pervasive drives in all of nature. In this layperson’s handbook to a difficult new science, Strogatz describes synchrony. Every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of fireflies flash in silent, hypnotic unison; the moon spins in perfect resonance with its orbit around the Earth; the intense coherence of a laser comes from trillions of atoms pulsing together. On the surface, these phenomena might seem unrelated. At a deeper level, however, they are all connected by the same mathematical theme: self-organization, the spontaneous emergence of order out of chaos. Discover Magazine chose Sync as a Best Book of the Year.

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