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Six Sources of Collapse

Six Sources of Collapse

By Charles R. Hadlock

Print ISBN: 978-0-88385-579-9
Electronic ISBN: 978-1-61444-514-2
221 pp., Hardbound, 2012
List Price: $52.00
Member Price: $39.00
Series: Spectrum

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Beginning with one of the most remarkable ecological collapses of recent time, that of the passenger pigeon, Hadlock goes on to survey collapse processes across the entire spectrum of the natural and man-made world. He takes us through extreme weather events, technological disasters, evolutionary processes, crashing markets and companies, the chaotic nature of Earth's orbit, revolutionary political change, the spread and elimination of disease, and many other fascinating cases. His key thesis is that one or more of six fundamental dynamics consistently show up across this wide range.

These "six sources of collapse" can all be best described and investigated using fundamental mathematical concepts. They include low probability events, group dynamics, evolutionary games, instability, nonlinearity, and network effects, all of which are explained in readily understandable terms. Almost the entirety of the book can be understood by readers with a minimal mathematical background, but even professional mathematicians are likely to get rich insights from the range of examples. The author tells his story with a warmly personal tone and weaves in many of his own experiences, whether from his consulting career of racing around the world trying to head off industrial disasters to his story of watching collapse after collapse in the evolution of an ecosystem on his New Hampshire farm.

Creative teachers could use this book for anything from a liberal arts math course to a senior capstone seminar, and one reviewer suggested that" it should be required reading for any mathematics graduate student heading off into a teaching career." This book will also be of interest to readers in the fields under discussion, such as business, engineering, ecology, political science, and others.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Predicting Unpredictable Events
3. Group Behavior: Crowds, Herds, and Video Games
4. Evolution and Collapse: Game Playing in a Changing World
5. Instability, Oscillation, and Feedback
6. Nonlinearity: Invitation to Chaos and Catastrophe
7. It’s All About Networks
8. Putting It All Together: Looking at Collapse Phenomena in '6-D"
About the Author

Excerpt: What is a collapse? (p. 1)

Can you name ten occurrences that you would regard as “collapses”? Just think about this for a moment before reading on.

In case you’re having trouble getting to ten, let’s think about categories: civilizations, empires, governments, economies, technologies, industries, companies, species, fads, styles, banks, buildings, bridges, cranes, just to name a few. No problem getting to ten now, right? And if you’re getting up in years like me, you can probably recall seeing or hearing about at least ten in almost every single one of these categories, as well as others.

Can you think of any good, i.e., beneficial, collapses? If you grew up in a Western country during the Cold War, then the collapse of the Soviet Union might be one of the first items to come to mind. And then there’s the collapse of major diseases such as smallpox and polio, or even the occasional mysterious collapse of cancerous tumors, often not fully understood. There are of course many more.

About the Author

Charles Hadlock received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Illinois in 1970. He has studied collapse processes from many points of view: from one career as a world traveling consultant with Arthur D. Little, Inc., working to head off catastrophic risks in the chemical, power, transportation, and mining industries; to another as the Dean of a business school witnessing collapses of corporations, currencies, and markets. Add to this his broad mathematical and scientific background; collaborative work with political scientists, engineers, and others; and extensive experience with management challenges at the top levels of corporations and governments. He is an award winning author with a Carus Monograph on field theory and an acclaimed text on mathematical modeling in environmental management. He has served on the mathematics faculties of Amherst and Bowdoin Colleges, as a Visiting Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT, and is currently Trustee Professor of Technology, Policy, and Decision Making at Bentley University.


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