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On Chaos Theory

My dad, a fan of Chaos Theory, just sent me this interesting article about it and some of its history. Some of these things I already knew, but for the most part it was greatly revealing.
When I visit my parents home this winter, there will be a greater chance of me finally reading the pile of books he left on my desk a few months ago ;)


The following points are made by Nigel Calder (citation below):

1) Go out of Paris on the road towards Chartres and after 25 kilometers you will come to the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques at Bures-sur-Yvette. It occupies a quite small building surrounded by trees. Founded in 1958 in candid imitation of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, it enables half a dozen lifetime professors to interact with 30 or more visitors in pondering new concepts in mathematics and theoretical physics. A former president, Marcel Boiteux, called it “a monastery where deep-sown seeds germinate and grow to maturity at their own pace.”

2) A recurring theme for the institute at Bures has been complicated behavior. In the 21st century this extends to describing how biological molecules — nucleic acids and proteins — fold themselves to perform precise functions. The mathematical monks in earlier days directed their attention towards physical and engineering systems that can often perform in complicated and unpredictable ways.

3) Catastrophe theory was invented at Bures-sur-Yvette in 1968. In the branch of mathematics concerned with flexible shapes, called topology, Rene Thom found origami-like ways of picturing abrupt changes in a system, such as the fracture of a girder or the capsizing of a ship. Changes that were technically catastrophic could be benign, for instance in the brain’s rapid switch from sleeping to waking. As the modes of sudden change became more numerous, the greater the number of factors affecting a system.

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