Complexity and Chaos
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date: May 2006
Duration: 2 hours 38 minutes
Traditional scientific determinism has suggested that the natural world is regular and predictable, and that timeless and universal nature is best understood by studying its parts in isolation. For centuries scientists have viewed nature in terms of the conceptual and mathematical tools available—like the regular shapes of Euclidean geometry. But chaos theory suggests that nature is unpredictable and irregular, and that it is better understood by studying the complex and unstable interactions among nature’s many components. Nature’s order and pattern is seen in a complex-looking geometric shape called the fractal, whose fundamental importance was discovered by Benoit Mandelbrot; these well-defined (yet not completely knowable) shapes pervade nature. We see and understand new patterns in what once seemed too complicated to explain—yet uncertainty is complete, inevitable,and necessary.
Science is becoming more rooted in the particular circumstances of time and place. Natural processes are seen to be less smooth and linear than once thought; life itself seems to thrive on non-linearity, in the conditions of far-from-equilibrium systems. The scientist Ilya Prigogine has produced insights into how some natural objects are “self-organizing”. Others have explored how patterns in the exchange of information form a logical or symbolic level of life known as “emergent computation”.