<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

In traditional physics, the discipline of complexity may yield insights in certain areas. Thermodynamics treats systems on the average, while statistical mechanics deals in some detail with complex systems of atoms and molecules in random thermal motion. Yet there is organization, adaptation, and evolution in those complex systems. Non-equilibrium phenomena, such as heat transfer and phase changes, are characteristically complex in detail, and new approaches to them may evolve from complexity as a discipline. Crystal growth is another example of self-organization spontaneously emerging in a complex system. Alloys are also inherently complex mixtures that show certain simple characteristics implying some self-organization. The organization of iron atoms into magnetic domains as they cool is another. Perhaps insights into these difficult areas will emerge from complexity. But at the minimum, the discipline of complexity is another example of human effort to understand and organize the universe around us, partly rooted in the discipline of physics.

A predecessor to complexity is the topic of chaos, which has been widely publicized and has become a discipline of its own. It is also based partly in physics and treats broad classes of phenomena from many disciplines. Chaos is a word used to describe systems whose outcomes are extremely sensitive to initial conditions. The orbit of the planet Pluto, for example, may be chaotic in that it can change tremendously due to small interactions with other planets. This makes its long-term behavior impossible to predict with precision, just as we cannot tell precisely where a decaying Earth satellite will land or how many pieces it will break into. But the discipline of chaos has found ways to deal with such systems and has been applied to apparently unrelated systems. For example, the heartbeat of people with certain types of potentially lethal arrhythmias seems to be chaotic, and this knowledge may allow more sophisticated monitoring and recognition of the need for intervention.

Chaos is related to complexity. Some chaotic systems are also inherently complex; for example, vortices in a fluid as opposed to a double pendulum. Both are chaotic and not predictable in the same sense as other systems. But there can be organization in chaos and it can also be quantified. Examples of chaotic systems are beautiful fractal patterns such as in [link] . Some chaotic systems exhibit self-organization, a type of stable chaos. The orbits of the planets in our solar system, for example, may be chaotic (we are not certain yet). But they are definitely organized and systematic, with a simple formula describing the orbital radii of the first eight planets and the asteroid belt. Large-scale vortices in Jupiter’s atmosphere are chaotic, but the Great Red Spot is a stable self-organization of rotational energy. (See [link] .) The Great Red Spot has been in existence for at least 400 years and is a complex self-adaptive system.

The emerging field of complexity, like the now almost traditional field of chaos, is partly rooted in physics. Both attempt to see similar systematics in a very broad range of phenomena and, hence, generate a better understanding of them. Time will tell what impact these fields have on more traditional areas of physics as well as on the other disciplines they relate to.

The computer-generated image shows a blue white red rainbow arc on top of which is a very complex two-fold symmetric pattern of what looks like bubbles interlaced with fine thread. The background below the arc is black, whereas above the bubbles-lace pattern the colors fade into a deep blue. The main feature of the bubble-lace pattern is a large black hole with very complex and self-similar features defining its edge. From the top of the black hole grows a progressively finer spiky tip that is mostly white. Smaller versions of this black hole are repeated symmetrically to the right and left of the main black hole.
This image is related to the Mandelbrot set, a complex mathematical form that is chaotic. The patterns are infinitely fine as you look closer and closer, and they indicate order in the presence of chaos. (credit: Gilberto Santa Rosa)
The picture shows what looks like a flowing orangish liquid into which some milk has been mixed. The main features are two eddies or vortices: a larger one that is a darker orange than the background and the other, smaller one, that is more milky than the background.
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is an example of self-organization in a complex and chaotic system. Smaller vortices in Jupiter’s atmosphere behave chaotically, but the triple-Earth-size spot is self-organized and stable for at least hundreds of years. (credit: NASA)

Section summary

  • Complexity is an emerging field, rooted primarily in physics, that considers complex adaptive systems and their evolution, including self-organization.
  • Complexity has applications in physics and many other disciplines, such as biological evolution.
  • Chaos is a field that studies systems whose properties depend extremely sensitively on some variables and whose evolution is impossible to predict.
  • Chaotic systems may be simple or complex.
  • Studies of chaos have led to methods for understanding and predicting certain chaotic behaviors.

Conceptual questions

Must a complex system be adaptive to be of interest in the field of complexity? Give an example to support your answer.

State a necessary condition for a system to be chaotic.

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply
Practice Key Terms 2

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play

Source:  OpenStax, General physics i phy2201ca. OpenStax CNX. Jul 03, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11523/1.4
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'General physics i phy2201ca' conversation and receive update notifications?