|Time-travel story for young adolescents with a little bit of chaotic
dynamical systems thrown in. The plot follows Max, a high school student
with an interest in math and science, as he becomes involved in a dangerous
contest between two copies of Dr. Sylvan and his beautiful daughter...but
which is the dangerous pair from another universe and which is the pair
that he ought to be helping? One
Dr. Sylvan has the shape of an athlete and the guile of a politician while
the other is serious and a bit out of shape. One of the Eve Sylvans is
thin, made-up and in love with Max, the other doesn't wear mascara,
slouches a bit, and wants to have as little to do with Max as possible.
Each pair claims they need Max's help to stop the other pair from
destroying his time-line with their time machine!
The math here is little more than window dressing, and not used correctly
at that. Bifurcation diagrams are described several times in the text, but
the bifurcation diagrams that are used in chaotic dynamics do not indicate
a splitting of universes but rather the location of periodic points in a
parametric family of dynamical systems. (I suppose if you made a graph
showing splitting of universes you could call it a bifurcation diagram too,
but there is no reason to think the two are at all related.) Worse is the
author's idea of a strange attractor as an attractive person who pulls a
system into chaos. (In fact, a strange attractor is simply a measure-zero
attractor in a dynamical system which has fractal dimension. This is a
hallmark of a chaotic system, but it does not "create" the chaos.) The
closest we get to actually learning anything is from the several mentions
of the idea of sensistive dependence in chaotic dynamical systems.
(However, he fails to recognize that this notion is believed to apply to
our universe as it is now, and that one would not need to imagine people
and things appearing randomly to be able to claim that reality is chaotic.)
That's what the adult me, the mathematician me, thinks about this book.
Too much of the math is used incorrectly. But, reading this book awoke
part of the young teenager I was back in the 1980's, and I can say for
certain that the boy I was would have really loved this book!