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Edward Lorenz: A pioneer in Chaos Theory


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Posted
  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam

    Some sad news, the pioneer of chaos theory, Edward Lorenz has died aged 90. He famously coined the phrase "the butterfly effect" in a paper he published in 1972: "Predictability: Does the flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?”

    http://www-tech.mit.edu/V128/N20/lorenzobit.html

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    Posted
  • Location: Mytholmroyd, West Yorks.......
  • Weather Preferences: Hot & Sunny, Cold & Snowy
  • Location: Mytholmroyd, West Yorks.......

    Thanks for that Mr D.

    I first encountered his work via a horizon programme in the late 70's/early 80's and was so piqued that I read the book.

    I ,for one, hold the chaos theory as a cornerstone to my understanding of all the natural processes around me. Sadly we are at a time in mankind's development where such understanding seems to be readily confirmed by every bout of extreme weather or climatic 'jolt' we encounter.

    Sad news of the end of a life well spent.

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    Posted
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL

    Sad news at the end of what must have been a good life.

    I ,for one, hold the chaos theory as a cornerstone to my understanding of all the natural processes around me.

    *All* natural processes? Whilst pretty much everything is non-linear, does that mean that every system can, or does, exhibit chaos?

    Also I believe that to have an intuitive understanding of such processes you pretty much have to give up on the chaotic parts and leave that to the computers. Trying to linearise a non-linear problem is pretty key for us humans.

    (In my opinion :lol: )

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    Posted
  • Location: Mytholmroyd, West Yorks.......
  • Weather Preferences: Hot & Sunny, Cold & Snowy
  • Location: Mytholmroyd, West Yorks.......

    As you hint at there are way too many variables to 'imagine' all natural processes but within those infinate combinations I believe the chaotic nature exists. It also allows a lot of 'wiggle room' when hypothesis don't quite fit!!!........

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    Posted
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
    As you hint at there are way too many variables to 'imagine' all natural processes but within those infinate combinations I believe the chaotic nature exists. It also allows a lot of 'wiggle room' when hypothesis don't quite fit!!!........

    I don't really agree with the second statement, as if a hypothesis is wrong you can't always blame it on chaotic behaviour. Such behaviour would be evident through exhaustive enquiries and I believe that almost all the time we make incorrect predictions, it is not because of chaos.

    I just don't like chaos being used as a "cop-out". It's far more important for us to get a handle on the deterministic nature of problems before getting into chaos. Otherwise we're looking at a classic case of "foundations of sand".

    For example, a simple pendulum. It's non-linear. But anyone who's come across it in school and early in university will have seen the linear approximation which is *bloody* good at predicting what it does. The non-linear part does not give you a big picture of the problem at all.

    The other problem is that chaos theory is a buzzword, and the general public can throw it around without actually understanding what it means, and this leads to inevitable misunderstandings. Though really, I should not complain too much since this gives science a higher profile and I believe that's important. Chaos theory is sexy....no changing that now.

    There are so many situations out there which are non-linear, but ultimately they can only be solved through numerical methods. I would find this quite soul destroying. No amount of beautiful mathematics can help you out, and you're merely left to come up with the most efficient iterative processes and then let a computer spend a few hours bumbling through a hideous mess of equations to give you a hideous mess of an answer. Yes, nature may be like this quite often, but it's the beauty of linearity that attracts so many into the sciences in the first place.

    God, I've gone off on a tangent here. I just realised that my last paragraph kind of sums up NWP models!

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    Posted
  • Location: Rochester, Kent
  • Location: Rochester, Kent

    I think that linearity is simply an abstraction of a non-linear reality.

    PS: Sad news indeed about Mr Lorenz. I first learnt of his work in the first edition of this book. A similar book is this one Both equally excellent in their own respects.

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    Posted
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
    I think that linearity is simply an abstraction of a non-linear reality.

    Not an unusual view, most people would agree with it. It's my opinion that the beauty lies in being able to linearise non-linear problems. We cannot cope with non-linearity, only computers truly can.

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    Chaos theory can explain so many things. Chaos is why some species go extinct, why civilisations fall. It is why it is easier to bring down a pack of cards than it is to build it in the first place, or why it's easier to construct a civilisation and how entropy eventually works against the civilisation as it becomes more and more complex, ultimately condemning it to doom. The way our world is going!

    The more complex something is, the more energy it takes to maintain that complexity - the more chaos, then the more rapid and certain the collapse. That can be applied to so many things in the world today, and the world itself.

    People think the world runs on money - it doesn't, it in a way runs on chaos, and energy.

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    Posted
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
    Chaos theory can explain so many things. Chaos is why some species go extinct, why civilisations fall.

    You're extending an immature but advanced mathematical theory to some pretty extensive subjects there. Can you go into more detail?

    It is why it is easier to bring down a pack of cards than it is to build it in the first place or why it's easier to construct a civilisation and how entropy eventually works against the civilisation as it becomes more and more complex, ultimately condemning it to doom. The way our world is going!

    Chaos does not equate to entropy.

    The more complex something is, the more energy it takes to maintain that complexity - the more chaos, then the more rapid and certain the collapse. That can be applied to so many things in the world today, and the world itself.

    Uh-oh! What is your definition of complexity? What is your definition of chaos?

    I think the issue here is that you are mixing the mathematical definition of chaos with the layman's definition of the term. They are not the same. One is not better than the other (or more correct than the other), of course. But it so happens that the mathematical theory uses a fairly specific definition which is perhaps not what the layman would agree with.

    For example, a fairly regular looking oscillation may be part of a chaotic system. It would not look chaotic in the lay terms. But it may be the output of a system which has got "pushed" from its initial state (by a small perturbation) and has "fallen" into the oscillation. The system itself may be chaotic because a small push in the other direction from its initial state would not have led it to fall into its current pattern.

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    Posted
  • Location: Rochester, Kent
  • Location: Rochester, Kent
    I think the issue here is that you are mixing the mathematical definition of chaos with the layman's definition of the term.
    Yes, it is a common problem. Bundle in complexity theory, and emergence theory and I guarentee that you'll be drinking your pint on your own!!

    Just kidding, of course: I'm sure you like to talk about football just like everyone else but me does ;)

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