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Chaos theory is like biology used to be

Looking through the International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, the thing that strikes me is that chaos theory seems to be at the same kind of point that biology was at, before Darwin's work gave it a structure and an explanation. In the 19th century biologists would publish articles describing new species they'd found, saying it's a bit like this one, a bit like that one, but without evolution and genetics you can't really say much more than that - and you get the same feeling from modern chaos papers: look, I've found a new chaotic attractor, it's a double-scroll, it makes patterns like this.

There are all sorts of ways of categorising chaotic systems, characterising their general surface behaviour, even controlling them, but it looks like nothing really gets to the heart of what's going on. Is the study of chaotic systems waiting for some big explanation?

Wednesday 4th February 2009 | science | Permalink

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