Chaos on the Web

Physics 161: Introduction to Chaos

Course Description

The idea of this course is to describe chaotic phenomena in physical systems, using a minimum set of prerequisites in mathematics or physics. Thus, for example, dissipative systems rather than Hamiltonian systems will be emphasized since then the heavy formalism of Hamiltonian mechanics can be avoided. The emphasis will be on approaching the phenomena in physical systems, and on theoretical tools that provide results that can be compared with experiment. You can find complementary approaches in other courses at Caltech.

Since chaos is the study of complex dynamics in simple systems, numerical investigations have played a central role in the development of the subject, and remain a vital learning tool. Thus numerical demonstrations will play an important role in the course. I have set up a comprehensive set of demonstrations using JAVA: these will be available over the internet for the student to use within their standard web browser. No programming or computer skills beyond web browsing will be needed.

In the 1999-2000 academic year the student will be expected to work through the class notes and demonstrations - usually covering three lessons from the outline - before the class each week. You can preview the first lesson to get a flavor of the material. There will be a one to two hour class meeting each week, which will take the form of a review of the material of the previous three lessons, a preview of the material for the next week, and a discussion period. There will also be opportunities to contact the professor online at other times during the week (times to be arranged), both in private and group discussion.

List of topics

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Last modified Monday, December 13, 1999
Michael Cross