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