Branches of Chaos


Chaos means one thing in everyday language: unpredictable, out-of-control anarchy. In math and science it means something else. This kind of chaos is unpredictable in detail but predictable in its overall form. I recommend James Gleick’s great book on this topic: Chaos: Making a New Science, and I’ve talked about it before┬áso I won’t go into it a lot here, but the one thing we often see here is self-similarity, where zooming in closer and closer you see the same overall pattern. Last winter I took this shot of bare tree branches against the sky. Big branches sprout smaller ones, which sprout twigs, which sprout twiglets (is that a word?), and so on down and down. At each level the type of branching that happens is the same as at the levels above and below. This is just really cool.

Posted in response to the WordPress Photo Challenge: Chaos

The Ornate World: Fractals and Complexity #photochallenge

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is to celebrate the ornate. Where do we find complexity and complication, and find it beautiful? What make complexity beautiful, at least for me, is when there is a pattern behind the complexity. Something that makes each shape inevitable, even as the whole is intricate and surprising. This is one of the hallmarks of fractals, and perhaps of good writing as well.

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