"Since Descartes and Newton... a chief goal of science has been a reductionist explanation of all phenomenon", says Mitchell in the introduction.
Fortunately for her book, "new sciences such as chaos, systems biology, evolutionary economics and network theory move beyond reductionism." Mitchell claims that "no background in math or science is needed to grasp what follows" but "I have tried to make it substantial." In other words, brace yourself.
Her guided tour takes in the Koch curve rule for fractals, the Prisoner's Dilemma for cooperation problems... Some readers will feel a strong kinship with Mitchell's eight-year-old son, who, when told to put his socks on, put them on his head: "He thought this was hilarious."