The term chaos often is seen as having something to do with tumult and disarray. But this common use of the term belies its scientific meaning and fails to appreciate the implications for understanding complex systems afforded by chaos theory. Chaos theory provides a way of understanding complex, nonlinear systems that often seem to behave randomly. Although many associate the term chaos with randomness, chaos theory actually describes the kind of order found in the complex, seemingly random behavior of all kinds of systems. At its core, chaos theory is a branch of mathematics involved with understanding behavior in systems whereby seemingly insignificant actions can ripple outward, ultimately leading to highly complex behavior. This includes the idea of the “butterfly effect,” which suggests that the ...

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