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A major breakthrough of the 20th century, which has been facilitated by computer science, has been the recognition that simple rules do not always lead to stable order but in many circumstances instead lead to an apparent disorder characterized by marked instability and unpredictable variation for reasons intrinsic to the rules themselves. The phenomenon of rules causing emerging disorder, counterintuitive to many people, is the environment currently being explored as self-organization, fractals (a fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced-size copy of the whole, a property called self-similarity), nonlinear dynamical systems, and chaos.

Chaos theory, also called nonlinear systems theory, provides new insights into processes previously thought to be unpredictable and random. It also provides a new set ...

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