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Book review

Author(s) Bessant, C.
Title Computers and chaos
Publisher Sigma Press
Year of publication 1991
Reviewed by Bazil Pârv

In the last decade, many textbooks appeared related to chaos and fractals, like:

J. Glück: Chaos: Making a New Science (Viking Press, 1987);

C.-H. Becker, M.Dörfler: Dynamical Systems and Fractals. Computer Experiments in Pascal (Cambridge University Press, 1989);

H.-O. Peitgen, P.H. Richter: The Beauty of Fractals (Springer,1985).

Chaos theory is a modern tool for studying the behaviour of dynamical systems like population dynamics or weather forecasting. There exists a relation between chaos theory and fractals, by means of which one can generate pretty pictures on computer.

This book explains the necessary mathematics in the simplest manner and links immediately these aspects with graphics, the reader being invited to try his own way in doing such things. Programs are written in GFA BASIC 2.0 for ATARI ST computers, but can be easy re-written in other languages. For example, I have translated rapidly many of these programs in Turbo Pascal (on an IBM-PC) and they are working very well.

The book is structured in 9 chapters, 4 appendices, a short discussion on the existing literature (6 titles), and an index. The chapters are: Introduction (first definitions of chaos and fractals; user guidelines); Order and chaos are related (the Sierpinski triangle; population dynamics and the Feigenbaum diagram); Wheather, chemistry and strange attractors (the Butterfly effect; the Lorentz and Rössler attractors); The Mandelbrot set (various methods for drawing and manipulating it); Julia sets (Julia process explanation and programming); Imitating nature: plants, shrubs, trees (plant and tree description; the C- and Koch curves); Fractal landscapes (isometric drawing; generating pseudonatural landscapes; using landscape techniques to plot fractals in 3D); Cell culture (the Martin process and the Butterfly effect; further experiments with natural fractals); The future (some exciting questions like: "Can the future of chaos be predicted?", or "What use is chaos?"). The above mentioned appendices (Useful routines in GFABASIC; mathematics in GFA-BASIC; using other ATARI ST languages; use of ST peripherals) complete the book.

The book is very well printed; the explanations are accompanied with suggestive images, easily reproducible by the reader on his own computer.

Both the writing manner (easy readable and understandable) and the price, as well the subject (and, why not, the exciting title), make this book available and recommendable to a very large category of interested readers.