The Chaos Theory


Where Chaos begins, classical science ends. Ever since physicists have
inquired into the laws of nature, the have not begun to explore irregular side
of nature, the erratic and discontinuous side, that have always puzzled
scientists. They did not attempt to understand disorder in the atmosphere, the
turbulent sea, the oscillations of the heart and brain, and the fluctuations of
wildlife populations. All of these things were taken for granted until in the
1970\'s some American and European scientists began to investigate the randomness
of nature.
They were physicists, biologists, chemists and mathematicians but they
were all seeking one thing: connections between different kinds of irregularity.
"Physiologists found a surprising order in the chaos that develops in the human
heart, the prime cause of a sudden, unexplained death. Ecologists explored the
rise and fall of gypsy moth populations. Economists dug out old stock price
data and tried a new kind of analysis. The insights that emerged led directly
into the natural world- the shapes of clouds, the paths of lightning, the
microscopic intertwining of blood vessels, the galactic clustering of stars."
(Gleick, 1987)
The man most responsible for coming up with the Chaos Theory was
Mitchell Feigenbaum, who was one of a handful of scientists at Los Alamos, New
Mexico when he first started thinking about Chaos. Feigenbaum was a little
known scientist from New York, with only one published work to his name. He
was working on nothing very important, like quasi periodicity, in which he and
only he had 26 hour days instead of the usual 24. He gave that up because he
could not bear to wake up to setting sun, which happened periodically. He
spent most of time watching clouds from the hiking trails above the laboratory.
To him could represented a side of nature that the mainstream of physics had
passed by, a side that was fuzzy and detailed, and structured yet unpredictable.
He thought about these things quietly, without producing any work.
After he started looking, chaos seemed to be everywhere. A flag snaps
back and forth in the wind. A dripping faucet changes from a steady pattern to
a random one. A rising column of smoke disappears into random swirls. "Chaos
breaks across the lines that separate scientific disciplines. Because it is a
science of the global nature of systems, it has brought together thinkers from
fields that have been widely separated...Chaos poses problems that defy accepted
ways of working in science. It makes strong claims about the universal
behavior of complexity. The first Chaos theorists, the scientists who set the
discipline in motion, shared certain sensibilities. They had an eye for
pattern, especially pattern that appeared on different scales at the same time.
They had a taste for randomness and complexity, for jagged edges and sudden
leaps. Believers in chaos-- and they sometimes call themselves believers, or
converts, or evangelists--speculate about determinism and free will, about
evolution, about the nature of conscious intelligence. They feel theat they
are turning back a trend in science towards reductionism, the analysis of
systems in terms of their constituent parts: quarks, chromosomes, or neutrons.
They believe that they are looking for the whole."(Gleick, 1987)
The Chaos Theory is also called Nonlinear Dynamics, or the Complexity
theory. They all mean the same thing though- a scientific discipline which is
based on the study of nonlinear systems. To understand the Complexity theory
people must understand the two words, nonlinear and system, to appreciate the
nature of the science. A system can best be defined as the understanding of
the relationship between things which interact. For example, a pile of stones
is a system which interacts based upon how they are piled. If they are piled out
of balance, the interaction results in their movement until they find a
condition under which they are in balance. A group of stones which do not
touch one another are not a system, because there is no interaction. A system
can be modeled. Which means another system which supposedly replicates the
behavior ofthe original system can be created. Theoretically, one can
take a second group of stones which are the same weight, shape, and density of
the first group, pile them in the same way as the first group, and predict that
they will fall into a new configuration that is the same as the first group. Or
a mathematical representation can be made of the stones through application of
Newton\'s law of gravity, to predict how future piles of the same type - and of
different types of stones - will interact. Mathematical modeling is the key,
but not the only modeling