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Otley Science Book Club

Catastrophe Theory Cover

Catastrophe Theory Cover

I’ve joined a science book club. The club has grown out of the Otley Science Cafe and Science Festival (yes Otley has a Science Festival!), see http://otleysciencefestival.co.uk/ for more information.

The club does not follow the usual book club format of everyone reads the same book and discusses it. Instead we were tasked with bringing a science book connected with a controversy. I brought Catastrophe Theory by Woodcock and Davis which was the popular book on the subject in the late seventies and early eighties. Catastrophe theory was predicted to have as big an impact in the biology, economics, psychology and so on as calculus had had in physics. Well of course we know now that it didn’t. Catastrophe Theory was killed off by the over enthusiasm of some of its proponents when they applied it where they shouldn’t, for example to prison riots.

My own view, deeply unfashionable of course, is that Rene Thom, the originator of CT was many years ahead of his time and that the ideas will surface again. At the moment there are only vague signs that his work will return rather than evidence of a fulsome embrace.

We shall see!

A fuller account of the evening is at http://otleysciencefestival.co.uk/2011/06/02/plenty-to-think-about/.

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