The University of Chicago News Office
September 9, 1997 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

"The Chaos Revolution": Fall Compton Lecture Series

What is “chaos” and why is it important in understanding the world around us? Learn about the physics of chaos and its exotic-sounding companions, “fractals” and “strange attractors,” in a series of free public lectures at the University of Chicago. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 27, the series of 10 lectures, titled “The Chaos Revolution and Beyond: Physics in a Nonlinear World,” will be given Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. through Dec. 6, in Room 115 of the Kersten Physics Teaching Center, 5720 S. Ellis Ave., on the campus of the University of Chicago.

Physicist Shankar Venkataramani will deliver the lectures, explaining what chaos is and how the study of chaos may help reveal order and simplicity underlying many irregularities found in nature. “People once believed that to have complex behavior in a system, you need complex rules,” he said. “But we now know that even very simple rules can lead to very complex behavior. Also, this complexity is not something rare or exceptional, it is all around you.”

Examples of systems that exhibit such complex, chaotic behavior–based on simple rules–include weather patterns, the turbulent flow of liquids (like cream added to a cup of coffee), fluctuations in the stock market and irregular heartbeats. Chaos is at the forefront of current research in many disciplines, including chemistry, physics, meteorology, biology, economics and mathematics.

Venkataramani, who uses mathematical tools to investigate the behavior of chaos in physical and biological systems, received his B.Tech. in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, in 1992. He received his M.S. in 1995 and his Ph.D. in 1996, both in physics, from the University of Maryland. He is currently a Research Associate in the James Franck Institute and an L.E. Dickson Instructor in Mathematics.

This is the 46th series of Arthur Holly Compton Lectures, sponsored each fall and spring by the Enrico Fermi Institute. Compton was a University of Chicago physicist and a Nobel laureate best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He was also a member of the research team that in 1942 produced the world’s first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

The lectures are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. Previous topics have ranged from the smallest fundamental particles of matter to the history of the Universe. All of the lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call (773) 702-7823.
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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