Re: "Chaotic Forces"

Wed, 20 Apr 1994 11:51:25 -0400

>Crowley writes:

Err... D. Read, that should be "Seeker1 writes..." Was this a joke on your
part, or did your software just grab the last line of my .sig for the

>" Saying that ... chaos theory will never do humanity any good is silly.
>Let's ignore the former. But if human systems are governed by chaotic forces,
>wouldn't an understanding of chaos theory help us to understand human
>systems? "
>A common misunderstanind of chaos theory whose mathematical usage refers to
>the study of a certain class of non-linear differential
>equations that leads to systems with so-called chaotic behavior even though
>they are completely deterministic, with chaos as used in ordinary parlance.
>Chaos theory has nothing to do with systems "goverened by
>chaotic forces."
>D. Read

Sigh, I misspoke myself again. D. Read, I have taken a course on this
very topic, about nonlinear dynamical equations and chaos theory. If you
would prefer, I'll substitute the term "nonlinear dynamical equations" or
"complexity" for "chaotic forces." The equations are indeed deterministic;
but as is well known, they are highly susceptible to perturbations in
initial conditions - so susceptible to such infinitesimal perturbations
that, in fact, they are in practice almost non-deterministic. Hence,
unexpected bifurcations - the essence of Rene Dubos' catastrophe theory in
biological populations.
There is, of course, emergent order in chaos - the "strange
attractor," the "soliton wave," and all that. But this has something to do
with fractals and multiple dimensions, and mathematicians are still trying
to figure out why it happens, and where within the output plot.
As James Gleick points out in his book _Chaos_, Lorenz was able to
reduce the weather to a few nonlinear equations. But when his computer
churned out the results to those equations, since they were iterative, he
found that the weather became impossible to predict for more than three or
more days into the future - that's about what any meteorologist can tell
you about the 'real thing.' Hence, Gleick cites the phrase, "A butterfly in
China can cause a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico."
Same thing with the solar system. Turns out that when Newton's
equations involved more than two bodies, and became a three (or more) body
problem, they became hopelessly nonlinear. The Earth's orbit isn't stable
for all time; in fact, there is a distinct possibility it could go
screaming off into the outer solar system at any time within the next
several billion years or so. Laplace's deterministic, clockwork dream was
dashed into pieces. Or the brain. Anything involving interconnections and
esp. self-referentiality (reflexivity) will involve nonlinear dynamics, e.g
To repeat an analogy I think I've mentioned before. Anthropology
seems to look at societies as two-body problems: examining the social
relationships between two bodies (oppressor-oppressed, ruler-ruled,
male-female, parent-child, etc.) in various contexts, failing to realize
that this a multiple-body problem, hence nonlinear and chaotic.

Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, Guerilla Ontologist, Chaotician
Matrix Master Control Node #3, Gainesville, Fl.
"I slept with Faith & found a corpse in my arms upon awakening/ I drank and
danced all night with Doubt and found her a virgin in the morning." --