So recently, I picked up an old book from 1987, the national bestseller entitled “Chaos”. I think this is the book which solidified chaos theory in the public consciousness. I didn’t know much about chaos theory. I think most people still think it’s some far out, acid trip, wacko theory that has to do with controlling disorder. A tool for mad scientists, in their dark, smelly basements. But as I’m reading this book (at the end of the third chapter now), I can see it is actually a revelation across multiple scientific disciplines. It is merely an acceptance of nonperiodic behavior.

Chaos theory depicts how the interaction of simple rules can create complex, unpredictable behavior. The natural, logical assumption which mathematicians, physicists, and scholars in general have been taught: that systems always seek an equilibrium. I mean that’s the essence of thermodynamics, right? But chaos theory has been able to prove the prevalence of behavior which never reaches an equilibrium because it doesn’t have one. Simple systems can create unpredictable behavior, which remains unpredictable.

One example is a waterfall powering a waterwheel. If the water’s flow gets too fast, it will overflow the top buckets and spill to lower buckets. This makes it slow down and reverse. At this point, the direction, speed, and duration of it’s turning becomes erratic. Even if the experiment is replicated exactly, even an extra drop could affect it’s behavior an hour down the road. This has been termed sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Minute changes in numbers far down the decimal range, create radical changes in outcome. It’s the reason meteorology isn’t an exact science. Even if we had accurate weather sensors for every square foot on the Earth, we wouldn’t know the in-between conditions, and our predictions would break down after a few months.

Chaos theory is a whole new principle across multiple scientific disciplines, that where equations and problems which have no solution, rather being thrown out, are worth studying. The unpragmatic quality of chaos makes it unattractive to our logic-oriented minds, but it keeps us from seeing the larger picture about the nature of our universe. I will keep you guys updated as I continue reading the book.

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One response »

  1. Gunta says:

    Excellent! I think I’ve read something about this and find it utterly fascinating (being a bit chaotic myself 😉 )

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