Sunday, April 20, 2008
Edward Lorenz 1918-2008
I don't know how I missed it until now, but Edward Lorenz, the father of chaos theory, died on Wednesday.
Lorenz, a meteorologist from MIT, was was perhaps best known for the title of a 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" The memorable title pithily summarized the essence of chaos theory -- that very small changes in a system can have very large and unexpected consequences.
Wolfram Mathworld and the Wikipedia both have adequate summaries of the math behind the Lorenz attractor pictured above.
Considering NASA's miscalculation earlier this week, Apophis Closer Than NASA Thought , I think it would behoove them to revisit Lorenz' work.