This book provides a short, hands-on introduction to the science of complexity using simple computational models of natural complex systems—with models and exercises drawn from physics, chemistry, geology, and biology. By working through the models and engaging in additional computational explorations suggested at the end of each chapter, readers very quickly develop an understanding of how complex structures and behaviors can emerge in natural phenomena as diverse as avalanches, forest fires, earthquakes, chemical reactions, animal flocks, and epidemic diseases.
Natural Complexity provides the necessary topical background, complete source codes in Python, and detailed explanations for all computational models. Ideal for undergraduates, beginning graduate students, and researchers in the physical and natural sciences, this unique handbook requires no advanced mathematical knowledge or programming skills and is suitable for self-learners with a working knowledge of precalculus and high-school physics.
Self-contained and accessible, Natural Complexity enables readers to identify and quantify common underlying structural and dynamical patterns shared by the various systems and phenomena it examines, so that they can form their own answers to the questions of what natural complexity is and how it arises.
Paul Charbonneau is professor of physics at the University of Montreal.
"This book is a clear introduction to experimentation with complex systems that will appeal to multiple audiences. . . . It will serve as an example of pedagogical clarity and skill for anyone responsible for teaching the physical sciences."—H. Van Dyke Parunak, Computing Reviews
"There is a certain enthusiasm distilled by the author all through the book, transporting the reader on a journey of discovery of a chosen set of complex systems, from where diverse insights into complexity science can be grasped. . . . Natural Complexity constitutes an excellent introduction to some perspectives about complexity science that might be appealing to a broad range of readers."—Miguel A. F. Sanjuán, Contemporary Physics
"In this delightfully engaging introduction to complexity, Charbonneau reveals how a bewildering array of complicated structures emerge naturally from exceedingly simple rules of behavior and engagement. More than that, however, he provides the necessary tools and encouragement for readers to continue to explore this extraordinary landscape on their own and uncover its hidden mysteries."—Thomas J. Bogdan, former president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
"What a fascinating introduction into the world of nonlinear phenomena. Paul Charbonneau is taking us on a roller-coaster ride through sandpile avalanches, forest fires, and earthquakes."—Markus Aschwanden, author of Self-Organized Criticality in Astrophysics
"The appeal of this book is twofold. It provides practical examples of computational modeling. It also motivates readers by detailing breathtaking systems in the real world. The combination is winning."—Aimee Norton, Stanford University
"With Natural Complexity, Charbonneau boils the hard science of nature down to simple concepts and expressions that are both intuitive and informative. A must-read for any curious mind."—Scott McIntosh, director of the High Altitude Observatory, National Center for Atmospheric Research
"Charbonneau's writing style is enthusiastic and clear."—Sidney Redner, coauthor of A Kinetic View of Statistical Physics
"Natural Complexity takes readers to new frontiers in the physics of complexity."—Simon DeDeo, Carnegie Mellon University and the Santa Fe Institute