Financial market gyrations and a recent family visit to the beach prompted me to return to Mark Buchanan’s excellent debut novel ‘’Ubiquity, Why Catastrophes Happen’’, a book I had the good fortune2 to stumble across in April 2006, just as the subprime housing crisis was about to trigger a financial catastrophe for the ages.
Applying scientific rigour and an easy writing style, Buchanan focuses his lens on a historical catalogue of real-life natural and human disasters, covering the sudden mass extinction of species, the outbreak of World War I, apocalyptic earthquakes, forest fire infernos and even stock market crashes.
In researching clues about the root causes of tumultuous events in our complex world, Buchanan uncovers a natural structure of instability connecting, underpinning, and potentially explaining, each of these random and seemingly unrelated events: the notion of the critical state.
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