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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Researchers on Complexity Ponder What It's All About," by George Johnson.Science Times, New York Times, 6 May 1997, page C1.

This article discusses the problem of developing a quantitative measure for theslippery notion of complexity. "A brain seems more complex than a kidney; acell more complex than a crystal; a symphony more complex than a song," writesJohnson. "But how can the essence of complexity be captured and quantified ina precise definition that scientists can use?" Such a definition would have tobe subtle enough to distinguish between complexity and randomness. In fact,some scientists see complexity as a "phase transition" between order andrandomness, akin to the phase transition that occurs as liquid water turns toice. Johnson's conversations with some of the leading thinkers in this areashow that attempts to quantify complexity are still very much in thespeculative stage.

--- Allyn Jackson