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Critically acclaimed science journalist, Mark Buchanan tells the fascinating story of the discovery that there is a natural structure of instability woven into the fabric of our world, which explains why catastrophes-- both natural and human-- happen.
Scientists have recently discovered a new law of nature and its footprints are virtually everywhere-- in the spread of forest fires, mass extinctions, traffic jams, earthquakes, stock-market fluctuations, the rise and fall of nations, and even trends in fashion, music and art. Wherever we look, the world is modelled on a simple template: like a steep pile of sand, it is poised on the brink of instability, with avalanches-- in events, ideas or whatever-- following a universal pattern of change. This remarkable discovery heralds what Mark Buchanan calls the new science of 'ubiquity', a science whose secret lies in the stuff of the everyday world. Combining literary flair with scientific rigour, this enthralling book documents the coming revolution by telling the story of the researchers' exploration of the law, their ingenious work and unexpected insights.
Buchanan reveals that we are witnessing the emergence of an extraordinarily powerful new field of science that will help us comprehend the bewildering and unruly rhythms that dominate our lives and may even lead to a true science of the dynamics of human culture and history.