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Impacts of Chaos Theory

  1. Nov 11, 2005 #1
    The question i would like to raise is what exactly are the implications of chaos theory on the way science is developping? More specifically, is there any trouble in changing framesets from a deterministic view of the universe to a perhaps more chaotic or probabilistic one? If so, what changes had to be made from the definition of classical science and of its method from the days of Newton and Galileo? Does the idea of a clockwork universe still hold?
    What do we think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2005 #2
    I was under the impression that chaos theory was deterministic at low level processing.
  4. Nov 11, 2005 #3
    But can we still say that every event is the consequence of another, and given the same initial conditions, the same results will be obtained? If so, where does human will fit in? ( i realize this is an expansion, so that question can be ignored if need be)
  5. Nov 11, 2005 #4


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    Chaos as studied by mathematicians is deterministic, in fact it is often called Deterministic Chaos. The tracks of a chaotic system in phase space are perfectly well defined paths, but they get so close together so fast that you can't separate them in finite time.
  6. Nov 11, 2005 #5

    So what does this mean exactly? I feel that perhaps i did not quite understand what Ilya Prigogine was saying about how Newtonian determinism has failed. Do scientists still believe that the universe is regular and predictable, or has chaos invoked slight changes to this view?
  7. Nov 11, 2005 #6


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    Quantum mechanics pretty much ruled out the 'predictable' aspect long ago.
  8. Nov 11, 2005 #7


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    I would strongly suggest you don't use a philosopher like Prigogine as a basis of understanding the principles of physics.

    The term "chaos" should not be confused with the pedestrian use of the word as defined in a standard dictionary. Chaos in mathematics and physics does not mean "it's all a jumble of event and no one can deterministically predict an outcome". This is not true. The principle of classical chaos theory is deterministic - it is why it is called deterministic chaos.

    However, there's an emerging area of quantum chaos which isn't deterministic. This is still a new, active research field and should NOT be used as the predominant definition of the whole field of chaos research.


  9. Nov 11, 2005 #8
    thanks for the link. But in this case, am i to understand that the introduction of probability into physical equations has had no effect on the underlying principles of science? I would really like to understand the implications. If not just chaos theory, then could such a conclusion (against regularity and predictability) be drawn from quantum physics in general?
  10. Nov 12, 2005 #9
    Look at it this way. Chaos generally means classical chaos, and classical means predictable, deterministic etc.

    In the early 20th century, classical mechanics was shown to be wrong for certain phenomena; it was replaced by quantum mechanics, as the most fundamental physical framework we have. This is where we get unpredictability, non-determinism etc. from. There is also a special kind of quantum chaos which is chaos but based on quantum principles; but fundamentally it's the quantum bit that makes it non-deterministic, not the chaos bit.
  11. Nov 12, 2005 #10
    yes hypermonkey given the same Initial conditions(exactly 100% the same exact ICs a system should repeat)...however unfortunately the human brain constitutes 100billion neurosn with an even higher exponential environmental factor. so ideally setting the same ICS may be impossible, in the physical sense.
  12. Nov 12, 2005 #11
    Does this apply for radioactive decay as well? Or is it more in the sense that given the same ICS, the probabilities will remain the same?
  13. Nov 12, 2005 #12
    i think the issue is rather not will the mechanism be the same...but whether one can truly perform the exact same ICs.
  14. Nov 13, 2005 #13


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    In QM, even if the probablilities are the same, the outcome will not be (which is why systems are only described in terms of probability functions).
  15. Dec 4, 2005 #14
    I do not think it is fair to dimiss Prigogine so casually offhandedly. Progogine was a talented physicist whose work on Nonlinear dynamics is greatly respected among those of the mathematics community who study such. I will not go so far as to say he was a leading authority on the subject but I do not feel it is fair to dismiss his work as nothing more than philosophy.

    I think what he meant by the failure of Newtonian dynamics is nothing more than the insensibility of a concept of a clockwork universe.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2005
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