The Universe. Orderly, Chaotic, or some of both?

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I'm not sure if this is the forum for this question.

Anyway, I was wondering if the universe has orderly, chaotic, or has a measure of both? I see aspects of order when it comes to the nuclear force that tends to have order to it. However, I can't help but find the inner workings of a star to be quite chaotic.

Could you give me a bit of insight on this? Thanks.
 

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  • #2
bapowell
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It seems to me that you need to advance some more precise definitions of what constitutes 'order' and 'chaos'. Sure, the fiery innards of a star seem quite chaotic to the eye, but an examination of the equations governing the nuclear reactions, and the order obeyed by the sequential physical processes, suggests a rather different picture.
 
  • #3
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Interesting. I am asking because I thought that the universe was pretty chaotic, but through that chaos, order can form, . . . again due to the force that makes [for example] snow flakes seem uniform.

Reason why I am asking is because, on a christian forum, they say the universe is ordered, and can only mean that a god exists. I'm not wanting to get into the religious here, but was curious about that since it seems to be that the universe has chaos in the equation.

I'm not well versed on this and am okay with the notion that I need to be educated on it. :-)
 
  • #4
bapowell
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Yeah, you need to have a more rigorously defined notion of order and chaos to be able to address this question empirically. What specific features of the universe cause one to consider it as ordered/chaotic? Of course, suggesting that such order/chaos arises supernaturally is not an empirical statement and is not scientific. One physical quantity, called entropy, provides a measure of the 'orderdness' of a physical system, including the universe as a whole. The entropy of the universe is increasing in time -- i.e. the universe is evolving to a state of higher disorder (only on average -- locally, in our bodies for instance, the increase in entropy is vigorously resisted by our consumption of energy.) However, this is not to say that it is becoming more chaotic. For example, the highest entropy state of a container of gas is one in which the gas is in thermal equilibrium and distributed uniformly throughout the container -- pretty far from 'chaotic'. Indeed, the universe may well end up in such a state in the far future when all the stars have died off, all the black holes have evaporated, and nothing is left but a uniform and equilibrated sea of elementary particle. This is known as 'heat death', and represents a state of maximum entropy (maximum disorder)
 
  • #5
Considering the "Laws" and orderly forces within the Universe I would suggest Orderly over Chaotic, Even Quantum mechanics works within it's own laws. Nothing is truly Chaotic especialy anythinig adhering to cause and effect.

Too many strict laws and systems are in place for it to be deemed truly "Chaotic"
 
  • #6
phinds
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"Nothing is truly Chaotic especialy anythinig adhering to cause and effect"

That strikes me as an interesting and compelling statement, although to make it somewhat more so, I would restate it as "nothing is truly chaotic that adheres to cause and effect" (because I'm NOT sure about the interpretation of the original statement that "nothing is truly chaotic ... that may be true, but I feel less confident of it).

I can think of few things that seem more chaotic at first than the collision of 2 galaxies, but everything that happens is well regulated by physical laws that are well understood, so it seems a logic argument that there is no chaos at all in that example. COMPLEXITY almost unimaginable, yes, but chaos, no.
 
  • #7
bapowell
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This is precisely why it's important to define what the OP means by these terms. Of course, colloquially, the term 'chaos' appears to fit the above descriptions. However, 'chaos' has a precise mathematical meaning, and it does not contrast very directly with the precise mathematical definition of 'order'.
 
  • #8
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Well, that's what I was getting at. To the layperson, a colliding galaxy would be incredibly chaotic. But if I am understanding you all, even in the apparent disorder, the physical laws STILL must be obeyed, . . . thus in time, the order will prove itself

Also, to me, a star would appear to be a chaotic fusion, . . . but I suppose that there are still forces acting to keep it ordered, ie, how the elements interact in that heat.

BTW, is this process [of order] a product of the strong nuclear force?
 
  • #9
bapowell
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Well, yeah. Unless you propose a mechanism or process that does not follow from some fundamental law, then by this definition of 'chaos', nothing will be 'chaotic'. If you do propose such a thing, it is not scientific by definition. I see little use proceeding along these lines in a science forum.
 
  • #10
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I am only interested in what is scientific.
 
  • #11
Chronos
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Science, by nature, is orderly even though its execution often appears chaotic. Moment by moment events are impossible to predict, but, the end result always conforms. God is left out because miracles are unnecessary to explain the workings of our universe. This neither asserts or denies the existence of God. Intelligent design is an exercise in the egoistic, shamanist tradition of grasping at straws to portray the universe as a vessel intended solely for the benefit of humanity - and usually a priveleged subset of a 'chosen' few. It presumes the inability of science to explain absolutely everything as proof of a 'higher order'.
 
  • #12
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Science, by nature, is orderly even though its execution often appears chaotic. Moment by moment events are impossible to predict, but, the end result always conforms. God is left out because miracles are unnecessary to explain the workings of our universe. This neither asserts or denies the existence of God. Intelligent design is an exercise in the egoistic, shamanist tradition of grasping at straws to portray the universe as a vessel intended solely for the benefit of humanity - and usually a priveleged subset of a 'chosen' few. It presumes the inability of science to explain absolutely everything as proof of a 'higher order'.

Chronos, thank you for your input on this topic. I believe I have a better grasp on the subject now. I also completely reject the notion of "intelligent design" and see no reason to place a god figure into the equation. But I like what you said. . . . "events are impossible to predict, but, the end result always conforms." :-)
 
  • #13
Claude Bile
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In physics, "chaos" is a measure of the predictability of a system in the presence of uncertainties (which accompany any real measurement). The more chaotic a system is, the less predictable it is. That is, chaotic systems are PARTIALLY predictable, in that, given the state of a system at time t, we can predict how the system will evolve with accuracy within a characteristic time interval. For a chaotic system such as the Earth's weather system, this time interval is a few days (or thereabouts).

Here is the twist; chaotic systems are described by analytic (orderly) equations! So anything chaotic is, by definition, orderly.

The antithesis to order is not chaos, but noise. While chaos is partially predictable, noise is completely unpredictable, that is, there is no "window" in which we can predict how the system will evolve with noise present.

My answer to the OP? The universe is both orderly (in the sense that its behaviour appears to be governed by orderly, analytic equations) and chaotic, which occurs as a distinct consequence of these orderly laws. Order and chaos are not a dichotomy as the OP appears to construe.

Claude.
 
  • #14
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Thank you for your input, Claude!
 
  • #15
NWH
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Personally I think the universe is more chaotic than orderly regardless of how ordered some laws of physics might seem. I mean, the universe was born in one of the most violent events imaginable, our solar systems were formed by rocks and debris violently smashing against each other. Even now in our slightly stable universe nature destroys life, causing mass extinction of species at nothing but a roll of the dice. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, solar storms, asteroid and comet strikes, super nova, black holes; our universe isn't for people who want to cuddle kittens on cushions. For those creatures who were lucky enough to be born, some of them will die a horrible and painful death because of the chaotic nature of our universe. What once might have been a home to a race of soft furry animals who just play and snuggle all day, could be burned alive in a rage of fire and smoke for no reason other than nature decided it was their time to die.

Our universe isn't fit for life, we just happen to be here surviving out of sheer luck, our mere survival has depended on the bloody murder of animals for meat. We fought wars, sent men in to battle, billions of people have died over the millennia just so we can sit here today and have this conversation. These aren't the traits of an ordered universe in my opinion, they're the traits of a chaotic universe. Sure, the laws of physics are well structured and allow some stability in the universe, but it still doesn't stop the inevitable death and destruction of everything around us that laws of physics, like the conservation of energy and E=mc2 create.
 
  • #16
Drakkith
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NWH it seems to me that you are using the word "chaos" to mean "violent" or "turbulent" or some other similar word.
 
  • #17
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If we view chaos as unpredictability, on the quantum level, the physical is completely chaotic.

Or, to put it more disturbingly...

 
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  • #18
Drakkith
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If we view chaos as unpredictability, on the quantum level, the physical is completely chaotic.

Or, to put it more disturbingly...

That's not true. Quantum effects behave in a predictable fashion.
 
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  • #19
bapowell
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...and chaotic behavior is perfectly deterministic.
 
  • #20
bapowell
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That's not true. Quantum effects behave in a predictable fashion.
Not quite. It's true that the wavefunction evolves deterministically, but the act of observation causes the quantum state to reduce to one of the eigenstates of the observable unpredictably.
 
  • #21
Drakkith
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Not quite. It's true that the wavefunction evolves deterministically, but the act of observation causes the quantum state to reduce to one of the eigenstates of the observable unpredictably.
I take that to mean you can't predict what will happen with each individual detection? If so, then yes, I agree.
 
  • #22
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That's not true. Quantum effects behave in a predictable fashion.
You cannot predict with any accuracy the possibility of radioactive decay of a given nucleus.
 
  • #23
Drakkith
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You cannot predict with any accuracy the possibility of radioactive decay of a given nucleus.
Sure I can. It has a 50% chance of decaying within it's half life.

Edit: It occurs to me that I may be misunderstanding what you are saying. Of course we cannot predict when a single nucleus will decay. It just has a chance to.
 
  • #24
bapowell
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You cannot predict with any accuracy the possibility of radioactive decay of a given nucleus.
But even still, if we take chaotic to mean "unpredictable" as you say (and keep in mind that this is not the technical definition of chaos, which is totally predictable), then it's not really correct to say that the quantum world is "completely unpredictable." The time evolution of quantum states is fully determined by the Schroedinger equation: given an initial state, the propagator determines this state exactly at any later time. The inherent uncertainty in QM comes only from the act of measurement.
 
  • #25
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Sure I can. It has a 50% chance of decaying within it's half life.

Edit: It occurs to me that I may be misunderstanding what you are saying. Of course we cannot predict when a single nucleus will decay. It just has a chance to.
Yeah I should have specified "at any given moment."
 

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