entropy and chaos query

Fri, 28 Oct 1994 12:14:32 EDT

Wednesday my art history students and I were discussing a film
made in 1974 by Nam June Paik in homage to Marcel Duchamp
and Merce Cunningham, with heavy input from John Cage's chance/
determinacy methods of composition. Say I, in one of my off-the-
cuff-moments-that-always-get-me-in-trouble, "Looks like
Nam June Paik is about ten years out in front of Chaos Theory
with that fish sequence..." Said my very good art history
student, "No, chaos theory is lots older than that. It's the
same as entropy. Check any dictionary, or better yet read
Hawking's _Brief History of Time_."
Oh my. Yet another one of those books I own and haven't read...yet.

Since Wednesday, I have however ploughed through the Britannica,
several dictionaries, and, yes, even dipped into Hawking. I am
now thoroughly muddled. Could someone please, dear-colleagues-
in-the-person-friendly-sciences, help me with the following:

a. What is the relationship of entropy and chaos theory?
b. Does entropy, the second law of thermodynamics (Clausius,
1850), have an appropriate wider application--ie, decay/new life--
life cycle...??? Or is this just overgrown fuzzy metaphor?
c. When did chaos theory become part of public conversation? I know
I remember a PBS program ca.1989 on it (with fish).... How
far off the mark is popular understanding from the real thing,
whatever that is?

(And you thought art was about pretty pictures...!) That class meets
again next Wednesday.
Thanks much,
Maureen Korp, PhD
University of Ottawa

mkorp@uottawa mkorp@acadvm1.uottawa.ca