Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order

January 7, 2004
What caused hundreds of Japanese children to fall into seizures while watching an episode of the cartoon show Pokemon? Why do women roommates sometimes find that their menstrual periods occur in sync? The tendency to synchronize is one of the most mysterious and pervasive drives in all of nature. Every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of fireflies flash in silent, hypnotic unison; the moon spins in perfect resonance with its orbit around the Earth; the intense coherence of a laser comes from trillions of atoms pulsing together. All these astonishing feats of synchrony occur spontaneously -- almost as if the universe had an overwhelming desire for order. On the surface, these phenomena might seem unrelated. After all, the forces that synchronize fireflies have nothing to do with those in a laser. But at a deeper level, they are all connected by the same mathematical theme: self-organization, the spontaneous emergence of order out of chaos. Steven Strogatz, professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University and author of Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, will convey the excitement of this new field in a lecture aimed at a general audience. He has been hailed as " a gifted and inspiring communicator" (New Scientist) and "a first-rate storyteller and an even better teacher" (Nature). Popular Science called Sync "the most exciting new book of the spring... masterful... a gem." A question and answer period follows the presentation.