chaos theory

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chaos theory,

in mathematics, physics, and other fields, a set of ideas that attempts to reveal structure in aperiodic, unpredictable dynamic systems such as cloud formation or the fluctuation of biological populations. Although chaotic systems obey certain rules that can be described by mathematical equations, chaos theory shows the difficulty of predicting their long-range behavior. In the last half of the 20th cent., theorists in various scientific disciplines began to believe that the type of linear analysis used in classical applied mathematics presumes an orderly periodicity that rarely occurs in nature; in the quest to discover regularities, disorder had been ignored. Thus, chaos theorists have set about constructing deterministic, nonlinear dynamic models that elucidate irregular, unpredictable behavior (see nonlinear dynamicsnonlinear dynamics,
study of systems governed by equations in which a small change in one variable can induce a large systematic change; the discipline is more popularly known as chaos (see chaos theory).
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). Some of the early investigators of chaos were the American physicist Mitchell Feigenbaum; the Polish-born mathematician and inventor of fractals (see fractal geometryfractal geometry,
branch of mathematics concerned with irregular patterns made of parts that are in some way similar to the whole, e.g., twigs and tree branches, a property called self-similarity or self-symmetry.
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) Benoit MandelbrotMandelbrot, Benoît B.
, 1924–2010, French-American mathematician, b. Warsaw, Poland, Ph.D. Univ. of Paris, 1952. Largely self-taught and considered a maverick in the field of mathematics, he was uncomfortable with the rigorously pure logical analysis prescribed by
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; the American mathematician James Yorke, who popularized the term "chaos"; and the American meteorologist Edward LorenzLorenz, Edward Norton,
1917–2008, American meteorologist and pioneer of chaos theory, b. West Hartford, Conn., Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1948. Lorenz became interested in meteorology while working as a weather forecaster during World War II, and after
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.

Bibliography

See J. Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (1987); I. Stewart, Does God Play Dice?: The Mathematics of Chaos (1989); A. A. Tsonis, Chaos: From Theory to Applications (1992); D. N. Chorafas, Chaos Theory in the Financial Markets (1994).

chaos theory

The theory of the unpredictable behavior that can arise in systems obeying deterministic scientific laws – laws that under ideal conditions completely determine the future states of a system from its preceding states. In practice, however, quantities cannot be measured with unlimited precision and the predictability suffers as a result of input errors. In a typical nonchaotic system, the errors accumulate with time but remain managable. In a chaotic system, there is a sensitivity to variations in the initial conditions. Input errors are multiplied at an escalating rate until all predictive power is lost and the system behaves in an apparently random manner.

There are many apparently simple physical systems in the Universe that obey deterministic laws but yet behave unpredictably.

chaos theory

a theory, applied in various branches of science, that apparently random phenomena have underlying order
References in periodicals archive ?
Such a sensitivity of the particle motion on initial condition with its path remaining bound is the necessary condition for onset of chaotic motion.
Aref takes special interest in the possibility of making aircraft or submersibles that could purposely go into chaotic motion to become more maneuverable.
A damped, driven pendulum can exhibit chaotic motion for certain choices of the driving frequency, the driving amplitude, and the damping parameter.
The heated parcel rises, distorting the windflow pattern at higher altitudes and generating chaotic motion.
The physicists also obtained the first experimental evidence of an unusual type of transition from periodic to chaotic motion that had been predicted but not observed.
Theorists had predicted that this chaotic motion would correspond to wave functions having features called scars, which represent concentrations of probability associated with periodic, but unstable, electron orbits (SN: 11/2/91, p.
Starting with a chain of identical pendulums, the researchers selected a pendulum length that resulted in chaotic motion, with no coordination among the linked pendulums.
The researchers studied the breakup of rapidly rotating drops and the transition to chaotic motion as sound waves forced stationary drops to oscillate.
The rectangle and the stadium have long served as geometric playing fields for theorists studying differences between regular and chaotic motion.