A Serendip Experience

ON BEYOND NEWTON:
FROM SIMPLE RULES TO STABILITY, FLUCTUATION, AND CHAOS

Order results from rules ... and change and disorder from a lack of rules, or from some outside force which disrupts well-ruled systems which would otherwise be better behaved. These "Newtonian" ideas seem so obvious as to be not worth mentioning, to say nothing of questioning. Because they are so? Or because our brains contain them as in-built assumptions? Or because science and our culture have in the recent past found it productive to proceed believing them to be so, whether they actually are or not? One or both of the last two explanations is likely to be correct, because the first is not.

A major intellectual insight of the latter twentieth century, greatly facilitated by the development of computers, has been the recognition that simple rules can indeed lead to order, of a particularly stable kind, but that many sets of simple rules instead lead to variability, and even to high degrees of unpredictable variation, for reasons having to do simply with the rules themselves, rather than with with any outside force.

The phenomenon of rules giving rise to not only order but also disorder, and, beyond that, to previously unknown forms of order, is the terrain currently being explored as "self-organization", "non-linear dynamical systems", "chaos", and "fractals". Whatever the reasons for it, these ideas are counter-intuitive to many people. At the same time, the new ideas have important and as yet to be fully explored implications ranging widely across human understanding and social organization. So come along for some experiences intended to make the ideas more intuitive. That way you too can participate in explorations of their significance.


Let's go ...





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