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Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Flaneur)

This book is a great attempt at finding some universality based on systems in a "critical" state, with departures from such state taking place in a manner that follows power laws.

The sandpile is a great baby model for that. Some people are critical of Bak's approach, some even suggesting that we may not get power laws in these "sandpile" effects, but something less scalable in the tails. The point is :so what? The man has vision. I looked at the reviews of this book. Clearly a few narrow-minded scientists do not seem to like it (many did not like Per Bak's ego).

But the book is remarkably intuitive and the presentation is so clear that he takes you by the hand. It is even entertaining. If you are looking to find flaws in his argument his pedagogy allows it (it is immediately obvious to us who dabble with simulations of these processes that you need an infinite sandpile to get a pure power law). Another problem. I have been ordering the book on Amazon for ages.

Copernicus books does not respond to emails. I got my copy at the NYU library. Bak passed away 2 years ago and nobody seems to be pushing for his interest and that of us his readers (for used books to sell for 99 implies some demand). This convinces me NEVER to publish with Springer.


Self-organized criticality, the spontaneous development of systems to a critical state, is the first general theory of complex systems with a firm mathematical basis. This theory describes how many seemingly desperate aspects of the world, from stock market crashes to mass extinctions, avalanches to solar flares, all share a set of simple, easily described properties.

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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Per Bak


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