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Explained - What Is Scientific Chaos Theory?


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#1 ScienceAndUniverse

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Posted 24 June 2020 - 01:40 AM

Explained - What Is Scientific Chaos Theory?

 

Many people think that Chaos Theory is about disorder and randomness.

However, it is not literally about disorder in science.

It is stranger than you might think.

Then what exactly is Chaos Theory?

Let's find out the real meaning of chaos and chaos theory in science.

 

The word "chaos" means disorder. However, the scientific chaos theory is not about disorder as we use it in our daily lives. The Chaos Theory is about statistical disorder, which has nothing to do with the disorder of your room. It is similar to non-determinism in Quantum Mechanics.

 

Statistical disorder is about predictability of (the future of) a system. When a system is easily predictable and can be predicted in a straightforward way, then the system is statistically ordered. When a system is less predictable, then it is scientifically more chaotic, no matter how ordered the objects are in it.

 

After development of Newtonian Physics, scientists thought that if we knew the initial conditions of any system, then we could predict what will happen to that system in any other given time. This was a common belief among many scientists. For example, the solar system is a statistically (almost) ordered system, since when an initial condition is known, we can predict the system in a different time, like we can predict all the solar and lunar eclipses. We can predict the position of any planet or satellite in the solar system in any other given time.

 

Things changed dramatically with the emergence of Quantum Mechanics. Because it turned out that Quantum Mechanical events are non-deterministic. Especially when we make an observation or take a measurement, the Quantum state collapses non-deterministically. Great scientists like Einstein and even Schrodinger argued against QM. It took some time until we accepted that in Quantum world, things can go very weird and behave without any predictability. Then Quantum Mechanical events were separated from Classical Mechanical events. It was then thought that Quantum Mechanical systems are non-deterministic, or chaotic, and Classical Mechanical events were completely deterministic.

 

This was the new common belief until Edward Norton Lorenz found out that the atmosphere and the weather were chaotic systems. He was a meteorologist scientist who found out that the weather is an unpredictable system beyond a particular period of time. The famous "Butterfly Effect" was indirectly named by his work. So, Chaos Theory was the second serious shock, after Quantum Mechanics, on the opinion of a deterministic universe even in Classical Mechanical events. Further analyses and simulations showed that even our Solar System is not completely predictable when long periods of times are considered.

 

Shortly, Chaos Theory is actually about how predictable a system is. A less predictable system is more chaotic.

 

Here is a video that discusses the Chaos Theory and the works of Lorenz in more details.

 

What do you think?

Is our universe deterministic/predictable as whole, or not?

Did you find this post useful?  :)