What Jurassic Park Gets Wrong About Chaos Theory | Andrew Maris | TEDxAsburyPark

What Jurassic Park Gets Wrong About Chaos Theory | Andrew Maris | TEDxAsburyPark

so I was told not to start my talk with a bad joke I gotta be honest with you guys I have a bone to pick with Jurassic Park it wasn't that bad okay in the original movie there's a scene where Jeff Goldblum's character attempts to explain chaos theory his description really misses the mark viewers are left with this impression that chaos is all about how complex system inevitably descends into chaos and disorder of course this is used to foreshadow all the dinosaurs breaking loose and wreaking havoc on the island spoiler alert I'm not happy with this part of the movie because it sends the wrong message about what chaos is as a scientific concept chaos is actually beneficial immediately it took me a while to come to this realization I first came across chaos in the physics lab as part of my quantum chaos research but I soon came to realize through insights from other fields that chaos can be a wonderful thing so to understand why let's first talk about the scientific definition of chaos because when researchers refer to chaos they don't mean just any type of randomness or disorder scientists use chaos to refer to the butterfly effect which is this idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can create a hurricane in Texas decades of research has shown that weather patterns are sensitive to minut disturbances so something as small as a butterfly could create a hurricane it works in the reverse – a butterfly could stop a hurricane from forming as well another really exciting part about chaos is that it crops up all over our lives from the stock market to wildlife populations to the motion of amusement park ride now I'm a bit of a visual learner so let's take a look at an example of chaos and the butterfly effect in action so you're about to see a simulation of a triple pen job when I press play on the simulation you notice that it moves in a complicated way but if we wait for a moment we notice that we aren't watching one pen job we're actually watching 42 pen jobs it all started with slightly different initial positions if we see this simulation from the beginning again we see how these differences in initial positions which start out imperceptible grow into enormous ly different future trajectories for all these pendulums and that is what chaos is all about these tiny differences having a huge effect on a system's future there's another super fascinating part of chaos that we haven't talked about yeah and that's that chaos can be a limit on our ability to predict the future now to understand why let's think about that pendulum example a little more to predict the future of the pendulum we need to know where it started between but we can never be exactly sure where the pendulum began the laws of physics require that every measurement has some amount of uncertainty associated with it this is a big problem for chaotic systems because as we saw in the case of the pendulum a tiny difference in the initial position had a huge effect on the future motion of that pendulum and that makes a big problem if we have a tiny bit of uncertainty it will grow exponentially and prevent us from accurate accurately making a prediction of the future of the pendulum or of any chaotic system by their very nature chaotic systems are incredibly difficult to predict chaos has many applications beyond just physics it turns out that our social lives to some extent are chaotic to demonstrate this point I'll need your help by show of hands who here is married engaged or dating someone for all the single people out there you can see me after the show okay so for everyone to have their hands up I want you to think how did you meet your significant other was it just a matter of being in the right room at the right time would things have been different if your plane was on time or if you turn down that party invitation or if say you were in a bad mood and decided to swipe left even if you don't personally have a story like this odds are your parents or your grandparents met through some chance encounter the smallest of happen stances can have a huge impact on how we spend who we spend the rest of our lives with and that is how Kaos enters our personal lives this is also how chaos can be an unsettling idea to consider some incredibly important aspects of our personal lives are determined by minor circumstances beyond our control this leads to a negative type of thinking that we see in Jurassic Park we can never keep track of every metaphorical butterfly and all carefully laid plans are vulnerable to minor circumstances but it soon came to realize that chaos can actually be healthy and empowering and perhaps the best example of that has been under our noses the whole time now to be exact I mean under our noses in a bit to the left the human heart has a measurable degree of chaos in its rhythm this might sound surprising at first but there's a good reason for it some researchers believe that this is an evolutionary advantage to see why let's imagine that we are hunter-gatherers out looking for food if we all have some stumble across a predator in that moment we need to go from a resting heart rate to a rapid heart rate in a moment's notice that's really difficult for non chaotic systems non chaotic systems have a hard time changing the repetition but a system with some amount of chaos is sensitive to the signals that we send it allowing it to change its repetition rate on a time and that's all chaos can save our lives it allows the heart to be able to react to a changing environment this example is not isolated healthy systems have been shown to exhibit chaos in economics ecology and computation of too much chaos of course can be a problem now if our heart didn't have a regular rhythm that'd be hard for us to sustain many of our daily activities but some amount of chaos and some amount of regularity a balance often referred to as the edge of chaos appears to create optimal outcomes and so we should think about how we can apply this lesson to our own lives some amount of chaos and some amount of regularity appears to be a good thing so we should see how we can balance those two it's ok to rely on routines and traditions to draw strength while also making sure that we have the time to put ourselves out there into the world and see what surprising opportunities our chaotic world provides after all chaos is how people make important business connections it's how people win the lottery and for many people it's how they fall in love as crazy as it sounds I think we should embrace the edge of chaos in our lives thank you [Applause]


  1. I will explain what Jurassic Park gets wrong..
    Repeats exactly what Jurassic Park says..)))
    What Jurassic Park says is

    Linear (complex or simple) systems can exhibit unpredictable and chaotic patterns depending on miniscule changes in initial parameters or inputs..
    And likewise
    Chaotic systems can exhibit predictable and orderly patterns
    Now that is what the JP book says in case he doesn't know the movie is based on the Book… One of the greatest science fiction books of the 20th century. how the movie adapts that on screen is another matter. And the movie never really contradicts the book.

    sorry mate… don't waste people's time!

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