The essence of chaos
The study of chaotic systems has become a major scientific pursuit in recent years, shedding light on the apparently random behaviour observed in ... Show synopsis The study of chaotic systems has become a major scientific pursuit in recent years, shedding light on the apparently random behaviour observed in fields as diverse as climatology and mechanics. In this work, one of the founding fathers of chaos, and the originator of its seminal concept of "the butterfly effect", presents his own landscape of our current understanding of the field. Lorenz presents everyday examples of chaotic behaviour (the toss of a coin, the pinball's path, the fall of a leaf) and explains, in elementary mathematical terms, how their essentially chaotic nature can be understood. His principal example involves the construction of a model of a board sliding down a ski slope. Through this model, Lorenz illustrates chaotic phenomena and the related concepts of bifurcation and strange attractors. He also provides the context in which chaos can be related to the similarly emergent fields of nonlinearity, complexity and fractals. As an early pioneer of the chaos theory, Lorenz also provides his own story of the human endeavour in developing this field. He describes his own initial encounters with chaos through his study of climate, and introduces many of the personalities who contributed early breakthroughs. His seminal paper, "Does the flap of a butterfly's wing in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" is published. This study aims to provide an introductory understanding of chaos for non-specialists; and offers an historical and personal perspective to scientists already familiar with the basic concepts.