August 7, 2009

Beauty in Simplicity / Order in Chaos

I got introduced to the topic of chaos and the beauty and order implicit in chaos in 1991 when I did a senior year project on the order seen in fractal agglomerates and through the mid-90s, I read many articles and books about chaos theory. Though I do not claim to understand all the math behind it, there is something about the topic of chaos that draws me to it every few years.

So, I recently got two books from the library: Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop and Deep Simplicity - Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity by John Gribbin.

Prefaced in the second book, I found this wonderful quote from Richard Feynman.
‘It always bothers me that, according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time. How can all that be going on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to figure out what one tiny piece of spacetime is going to do? So I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed, and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities.’  - Richard P. Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, November 1964 Cornell Lectures, broadcast and published in 1965 by BBC, pp. 57-8. 
[Also, seems Bill Gates has now put the full video of the lectures online, as part of Project Tuva.]

Leave you with these words from Feynman in the same lecture series:
‘Nature has a simplicity and therefore a great beauty.’
Indeed! And how many of us live our lives completely oblivious to the great beauty of nature!

Updates: Couple more quotes about chaos -- though not necessarily in the scientific sense:
“Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.”   Tom Barrett

“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.” - Chuck Palahniuk“
Chaos is a friend of mine.” - Bob Dylan
“When tempest tossed, embrace chaos” - Dean Koontz 
"Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.” -  Henry Miller

“Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.” -  George Santayana

“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit” - Henry Brooks Adams
In short, in chaos, there can be an opportunity to be creative, to grow, and to even flourish!

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