The Strange Attractor

We all have past lives and stories, experiences, and moments that mark those lives. One thing that might emerge from that milieu is a life-long curiosity about a certain topic. One such enduring curiosity for me is mathematical chaos. I keep coming back to the idea. It certainly shows up enough in posts – for example, “Your phone and chaos.” There are others. If you are curious too, use the “search box” on this blog to explore. Continue reading

Air Travel and Chaos

Several weeks ago there were massive flight cancellations on Southwest Airlines and then a while later American Airlines experienced similar widespread cancellations. Immediately people began to speculate if this was a reaction to corporate decisions for mandatory vaccinations – a “blue flu” epidemic as people began to call in sick. Cancellations and very long delays were the norm of two different holiday weekend. And why were only two airlines so largely affected? It is not as though this was the first weather event these two airlines had experienced.

Let’s return to one topic that always fascinates me: chaos.  As mentioned in many other posts, mathematical chaos is not the randomness of a butterfly in China who flutters all the time, but on one occasion, the flutters give way to a tornado in Kansas – how random one might think. Such an event depends on the initial conditions in which the butterfly flutters (…. and why aren’t they called flutterbys?). Given the same initial conditions, the same tornado will predictably appear in Kansas. Continue reading

Your phone and chaos

Chaos Theory is often misunderstood, misrepresented, and spoken of by lots of folks who toss around a term to convey the idea of complete randomness of this or that. The study of chaos is branch of mathematics that looks at apparently random states of disorder and irregularities that are actually governed by underlying patterns and deterministic laws. Those patterns and law might not be readily apparent, they are just highly sensitive to initial conditions.

But chaos as always been confusing and had many different meanings. The Greeks understood chaos as the primordial void. For the Roman poet Ovid, chaos was an unformed mass, where all the elements were jumbled up together in a shapeless heap. “Chaos” is held as a synonym of anarchy. Chaos (“19521 Chaos” to be precise) is also the name of trans-Neptunian planet out there in the Kuiper-belt. Just thought you would want to know.

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Controlling chaos

We friars assist as Catholic chaplains at Tampa General. It is not my first time as a hospital chaplain.  That was at Bethesda Naval Hospital. My time at Bethesda was at the beginning of the war in Iraq when the Marines were engaged in combat around Fallujah. Casualties were high. Every evening there was a chaplain assigned to the flight line to be there when marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers were medevac’d from the war zone. All of these service men and women were in grave medical conditions. I witnessed injuries that still left me amazed that the person was still alive. Alive with lives that would never be the same, never as they had planned. But the combat/trauma ICU and the flight line were not the hardest chaplain duty at Bethesda – at least not for me.  For me, the hardest ward was the NICU; the neo-natal intensive care unit. Continue reading

Chaos and Spring Cleaning

ChaosRecently I was given to a fit of spring cleaning in my office. As with most spring cleanings, the day was marked by occasions of, “Oh my gosh, I wondered where that was,” “Where did I get that?”,  “Why in the world did I keep that?” and a host of other on going revelations. Seven large garbage bags of …of…. stuff were collected and sent off for recycling or disposal. There was a point in which my office had the appearance of the primordial swirl of chaos – papers, books, boxes, bags, and all manner of things lay strewn around the floor, on the desk, and parked on and under chairs. All of it waiting for the imposition of order, the creative hand of the Spirit bringing beauty and symmetry, or the simple assignment to its place. Continue reading