Chaos Theory

chaos theory, in mathematics, physics, and other fields, a set of ideas that attempts to reveal structure in aperiodic, unpredictable dynamic systems such as cloud formation or the fluctuation of biological populations. Although chaotic systems obey certain rules that can be described by mathematical equations, chaos theory shows the difficulty of predicting their long-range behavior. In the last half of the 20th cent., theorists in various scientific disciplines began to believe that the type of linear analysis used in classical applied mathematics presumes an orderly periodicity that rarely occurs in nature; in the quest to discover regularities, disorder had been ignored. Thus, chaos theorists have set about constructing deterministic, nonlinear dynamic models that elucidate irregular, unpredictable behavior (see nonlinear dynamics). Some of the early investigators of chaos were the American physicist Mitchell Feigenbaum; the Polish-born mathematician and inventor of fractals (see fractal geometry) Benoit Mandelbrot; the American mathematician James Yorke, who popularized the term "chaos" ; and the American meteorologist Edward Lorenz.

See J. Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (1987); I. Stewart, Does God Play Dice?: The Mathematics of Chaos (1989); A. A. Tsonis, Chaos: From Theory to Applications (1992); D. N. Chorafas, Chaos Theory in the Financial Markets (1994).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences
Robin Robertson; Allan Combs.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995
Chaos Theory Tamed
Garnett P. Williams.
Taylor & Francis, 1997
Crisis Theory
David Z. Rich.
Praeger, 1997
Chaos Theory and the Social Control Thesis: A Post-Foucauldian Analysis of Mental Illness and Involuntary Civil Confinement
Arrigo, Bruce A.; Williams, Christopher R.
Social Justice, Vol. 26, No. 1, Spring 1999
The New Sciences of Administration: Chaos and Quantum Theory
Overman, E. Sam.
Public Administration Review, Vol. 56, No. 5, September-October 1996
Order and Disorder
David Z. Rich.
Praeger, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Chaos Theory: Comments and Critique"
The Myth of Global Chaos
Yahya Sadowski.
Brookings Institution Press, 1998
Divine Action and Modern Science
Nicholas Saunders.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Seven "Chaos Theory and Divine Action"
Organizations and Chaos: Defining the Methods of Nonlinear Management
H. Richard Priesmeyer.
Quorum Books, 1992
Putting a New Spin on Groups: The Science of Chaos
Bud A. McClure.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005 (2nd edition)
Dynamic Utopia: Establishing Intentional Communities as a New Social Movement
Robert C. Schehr.
Bergin & Garvey, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Chaos Theory, Metaphor, and Social Movements"
Chaos Theory versus Heisenberg's Uncertainty: Risk, Uncertainty and Economic Theory
Khalil, Elias.
American Economist, Vol. 41, No. 2, Fall 1997
Chaos Theory and Institutional Economics: Metaphor or Model?
Staveren, Irene van.
Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 33, No. 1, March 1999
Dictionary of Critical Social Sciences
T. R.Young.
Westview Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of chaos theory begins on p. 42
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