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About the Author

John R. Gribbin (born 19 March 1946) is a British science writer, an astrophysicist, and a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex. The topical range of his prolific writings include quantum physics, human evolution, climate change, global warming, the origins of the universe, and show more biographies of famous scientists. He also writes science fiction. In 1984, Gribbin published In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality, the book that he is best known for, which continues to sell well even after years of publication. At the 2009 World Conference of Science Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers presented Gribbin with their Lifetime Achievement award. (Bowker Author Biography) John Gribbin, visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex. He is married to Mary Grivvin, also a science writer. (Publisher Provided) show less


Works by John Gribbin

Science: A History (2002) 750 copies, 8 reviews
In Search of the Big Bang (1986) 301 copies, 2 reviews
Richard Feynman: A Life in Science (1997) 253 copies, 3 reviews
Time & Space (Eyewitness Books) (1994) 246 copies, 2 reviews
Stardust (2000) 223 copies, 2 reviews
Get a Grip on Physics (1999) 203 copies
The Universe: A Biography (2006) 185 copies, 5 reviews
In Search of the Edge of Time (1992) 178 copies, 2 reviews
In Search of the Multiverse (2009) 169 copies, 7 reviews
Einstein: A Life in Science (1993) 162 copies
Galaxies: A Very Short Introduction (2008) 144 copies, 4 reviews
Companion to the Cosmos (1996) 135 copies, 2 reviews
Darwin: A Life in Science (1995) 130 copies, 3 reviews
Flower Hunters (2008) 130 copies, 3 reviews
Ice Age (2001) 119 copies, 2 reviews
Time-Warps (1979) 118 copies, 4 reviews
The Case of the Missing Neutrinos (1998) 111 copies, 2 reviews
The Jupiter effect (1974) 109 copies
A Brief History of Science (1609) — Editor — 106 copies, 2 reviews
The Sixth Winter (1979) 83 copies, 3 reviews
The little book of science (1999) 63 copies
Double Planet (1988) 62 copies
Father to the Man (1989) 60 copies
Spacewarps (1983) 57 copies
The Cartoon History of Time (1990) — Author — 54 copies
The Mating Game (1984) 51 copies, 1 review
Brother Esau (1982) — Author — 29 copies
Innervisions (1993) 25 copies
The Time Illusion (Kindle Single) (2016) 21 copies, 1 review
Galileo in 90 Minutes (1997) 20 copies
Reunion (1991) 20 copies
Future weather and the greenhouse effect (1982) 18 copies, 1 review
Climatic Change (1978) 18 copies
Einstein in 90 Minutes (1997) 17 copies, 1 review
Seven Pillars of Science (2020) 17 copies, 1 review
Faraday in 90 Minutes (1997) 17 copies, 1 review
Newton in 90 Minutes (1997) 16 copies
Curie in 90 Minutes (1997) 15 copies
Ragnarok (1991) — Author — 14 copies
Our Changing Universe (1976) 13 copies, 1 review
Halley in 90 Minutes (1997) 12 copies
The Men Who Measured the Universe (2004) 12 copies, 1 review
Jupiter Effect Reconsidered (1982) 12 copies
The Alice Encounter (2011) 11 copies, 1 review
Mendel in 90 Minutes (1997) 11 copies
Before the Big Bang (Kindle Single) (2015) 11 copies, 1 review
This shaking earth (1978) 10 copies
THE FUTURE NOW (1998) 10 copies
Time travel for beginners (1995) 8 copies
Timeswitch (2009) 8 copies
Watching the Universe (1998) 8 copies
Watching the Weather (1996) 8 copies
Astronomy for the amateur (1976) 7 copies
Existence is Elsewhen (2016) 7 copies
Winds of change (1989) 6 copies
Earthquakes and Volcanoes (1978) 6 copies
Weather (Just look at--) (1985) 6 copies
Galaxy Formation (1976) 5 copies
Ten Tantalising Truths (2023) 5 copies
The death of the Sun (1980) 5 copies
Don't Look Back (1990) 4 copies, 1 review
The Pocket Darwin (2007) 4 copies
The Pocket Galileo (2007) 3 copies
Cosmology Today (1982) 3 copies
Climate and mankind (1979) 2 copies
You Are Made of Stardust (1995) 2 copies
Dalla scimmia all'universo (1999) 2 copies, 1 review
Other Edens [short fiction] 1 copy, 1 review
Egyedül vagyunk! (2012) 1 copy
John Gribbin 1 copy
Kosmologia (1998) 1 copy
Cometa do Caos Livro 1 (1998) 1 copy
Um Admirável Universo (2000) 1 copy
The Climatic Threat (1978) 1 copy

Associated Works

30-Second Theories (2010) — Author, some editions — 416 copies, 4 reviews
Hubble's Universe: A New Picture of Space (1996) — Preface — 85 copies, 1 review
The Universe and Eye (1993) — Foreword — 44 copies
Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact: Vol. XCVI, No. 3 (March 1976) (1976) — Contributor — 25 copies, 1 review
Drabble Project (1988) — Contributor — 17 copies
New Scientist, 15 January 1994 (1994) — Contributor — 2 copies
New Scientist, 24 November 1990 (1990) — Contributor — 1 copy


astronomy (367) astrophysics (94) biography (403) biology (88) black holes (28) chemistry (33) complexity (34) cosmology (378) ebook (35) Einstein (33) evolution (77) fiction (41) Folio Society (59) history (393) history of science (233) magazine (30) math (72) natural science (54) non-fiction (888) own (44) philosophy (80) physics (1,290) popular science (239) quantum (51) quantum mechanics (121) quantum physics (212) quantum theory (73) read (61) reality (31) reference (73) relativity (31) science (2,446) science fiction (153) scientists (42) sf (30) space (59) time (55) to-read (532) universe (51) unread (77)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Gribbin, John
Legal name
Gribbin, John R.
Maidstone, Kent, England, UK
Places of residence
England, UK
University of Sussex (BS|physics|1966|MS|astronomy|1967)
University of Cambridge (PhD|astrophysics|1971)
science writer
science fiction writer
Gribbin, Mary (wife)
University of Sussex
Awards and honors
Fellow, Royal Society of Literature (1999)
Association of British Science Writers Lifetime Achievement award (2009)
Short biography
John Gribbin graduated with his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Sussex in 1966. Gribbin then earned his master of science (M.Sc.) degree in astronomy in 1967, also from the Univ. of Sussex, and he earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge (1971). As a science writer, he has worked for the science journal Nature, and the magazine New Scientist and has written for The Times, The Guardian and the Independent as well as their Sunday counterparts and BBC radio.He is best known for his book In Search of Schrödinger's Cat (1984).



Deep Simplicity is a popular science book about the theory of chaos. As always, John Gribbin presents the subject in a remarkably accessible way - the educated layperson will be able to tackle this book. However, it is not without drawbacks.

The book starts out with a concise history of mathematics relating to chaos. Gribbin begins with the Greeks and Galileo and moves onto Newton, and the issue of the three-body problem (where it is impossible to use Newton's laws of motion to generate analytical solutions to a situation in which there are three bodies of similar size affecting each other under gravity). He then talks about thermodynamics, and the concept of entropy and how this leads to an arrow of time. Gribbin also introduces an idea which he seems to be very fond of, that life is an example of using energy flow to reduce local entropy.

The next section introduces some of the mathematics behind chaos. Gribbin describes how the iterative approximation techniques used in finding solutions to can never be exactly accurate. The concept of phase space, where a single point completely describes a system using multiple dimensions, is used by Poincare to deal with the problem of the Solar System's stabilty. Gradually, Gribbin brings the reader to the realisation that some systems, such as the weather, while deterministic in principle, are very difficult to predict in practice because of the non-linearity of their progression. Simply, small changes in initial conditions can lead to vastly different outcomes. Indeed, the impossibility of knowing the precise positions or momenta of anything makes such precise prediction unachievable even in principle.

The idea of chaos as deterministic yet unpredictable order comes in the next section with the example of turbulence - a single parameter, the fluid speed, is changing, yet the flow changes from regular to turbulent to laminar. Additionally, the chaotic pattern appears to be fractally self-similar, like the Feigenbaum diagram describing species reproduction. Other fractals such as the Sierpinski gasket and the Cantor set are discussed, as well issues of fractal dimension. However, recognising that completely regular and completely random systems are uninteresting, Gribbin quickly ushers the reader onto the "edge of chaos, where complexity lives."

The rest of the book appears to be satisfying some of the author's own interests, however. He takes many aspects of living development, including abiogenesis, Gaia systems, predator-prey relationships and more and tries to recognise chaotic patterns in them all. He notes that any such system that incoporates feedback will generate chaotic behaviour, but often there seems to be little gained from understanding that the behaviour is chaotic - for example, the idea that Ice Ages are chaotic fluctuations in a punctuated equilibrium appears to be difficult to test!

Gribbin succeeds in conveying the history and principles of chaos in his first sections, as well as their relevance to many areas of science - especially the complexities of life. However, unlike some of his other books on quantum physics, among others, I feel like this topic is one that is best dealt with in greater detail than can be used in a popular science book. Gribbin uses examples well to illustrate the points, but without understanding derivations it is hard to avoid feeling like much of the book is assumed. Additionally, it is possible to see how the book has been structured in hindsight, but while reading I felt disorientated as he jumps from one area to another. Again, understanding more about the principles behind chaos would have remedied this somewhat. An interesting read, but not as engaging as I might have hoped.
… (more)
Zedseayou | 10 other reviews | Jan 30, 2024 |
The over arching story of how this knowledge was pieced together by a multitude of independent players, each building on the achievements and insights of others, I found compelling. I’m afraid that the logic as it became increasingly complicated and interwoven, eventually thoroughly lost me. Still worth the read.
BBrookes | 2 other reviews | Nov 15, 2023 |
Another book that makes a good stab at explaining the complexities of quantum science.
mykl-s | 25 other reviews | Aug 11, 2023 |
This book looks at the concepts in Pullman's famous fantasy series and how they are or might be reflected in the science and technology of our world, e.g. Northern Lights, Dust, the alethiometer, movement between worlds using the subtle knife, the amber spyglass, and so on. In doing so, the Gribbins discuss dark matter, sub-atomic physics, string theory, quantum probability, the Butterfly Effect and chaos, entanglement, the Many Worlds theory, Schrodinger's cat and more. The authors explain stuff as clearly as they can, there are some really tough scientific and philosophical concepts here in this short book. My only slight disappointment was the lack of coverage of the concept of daemons, which I always find one of the most appealing concepts in Lyra's world.… (more)
john257hopper | 6 other reviews | May 28, 2023 |



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