Natural Sciences Elective
Order and Chaos in the Natural World
Spring Quarter 2013
General Information and Schedule
March 18, 2013
Instructor: Peter O. Vandervoort
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
The University of Chicago
5640 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637
(773) 702-8209 (Office)
(773) 752-8374 (Home)
Readings: The main texts are
Gleick, James, Chaos. Making a New Science (New York: Penguin Books), 1987. (ISBN: 987 014-311-3454),
Stewart, Ian, Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.), 2002. (ISBN 0-631-23251-6),
Lorenz, Edward N., The Essence of Chaos (Seattle: University of Washington Press), 1995. (ISBN 0-295-97514-8),
Course Requirements: Two brief papers will be assigned during the quarter. The first is tentatively due on May 7, 2013, and the second on June 11, 2013. Grades will be based mainly on the papers. However, participation in class discussions will also be considered in the determination of final grades. In order to receive a grade in the course, a student must attend at least eight class meetings. If a studentŐs absence more than twice is unavoidable, then at least one make-up meeting will be arranged.
Schedule: Regular class meetings are scheduled from 6:30 P.m. to 9:30 p.m., on Tuesdays, April 2, through June 4, 2013, at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center.
Course Web Page: A Web Page for MLA31500 is maintained at the URL <http://astro.uchicago.edu/~voort/pov.html>. Handouts and class notes will be posted there, and links to other useful web pages will be provided.
Tentative Schedule of Topics and Readings:
FIRST MEETING: April 2, 2013
SUBJECT: Introduction to Chaos. I. The Weather and Thermal Convection.
READINGS: Gleick, pages 1-45.
SECOND MEETING: April 9, 2013
SUBJECT: Introduction to Chaos. II. Pinball Machines and Iterated Maps.
READINGS: Lorenz, chapter 1; Stewart, Prologue & chapter 1.
THIRD MEETING: April 16, 2013
SUBJECT: Determinism in Classical Physics and the Fate of the Solar System. READINGS: Stewart, chapters 2 & 4.
FOURTH MEETING: April 23, 2013
SUBJECT: Phase Space Methods in Dynamics and the Fates of Dynamical Systems.
READINGS: Stewart, chapters 5, 6 & 8; Gleick, pages 45-53.
FIFTH MEETING: April 30, 2013
SUBJECT: Turbulence; The Road to Chaos.
READINGS: Stewart, chapter 9; Gleick, pages 121-153.
SIXTH MEETING: May 7, 2013 (First writing assignment due.)
SUBJECT: From the Logistic Map to Universality.
READINGS: Stewart, chapter 10; Gleick, pages 59-80 & 157-187.
SEVENTH MEETING: May 14, 2013
SUBJECT: Fractal Geometry in the Natural World; Chaos and the Shapes of Natural Objects.
READINGS: Stewart, chapter 11; Gleick, pages 83-118 & 215-240.
EIGHTH MEETING: May 21, 2013
SUBJECT: Chaos in the Solar System and on Ski Slopes.
READINGS: Stewart, chapter 12; Lorenz, chapter 2.
NINTH MEETING: May 28, 2013
SUBJECT: Predicting the Weather
READINGS: Lorenz, chapter 3; Stewart, chapter 7.
TENTH MEETING: June 4, 2013
SUBJECT: What is the Essence of Chaos?
READINGS: Lorenz, chapters 4 & 5.
ELEVENTH WEEK: June 11, 2013 No meeting. Second writing assignment due.
Return to Course Page: mla315spring2013.html
Return to Peter Vandervoort's Home Page: pov.html
Go to the home page of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
of the University of Chicago: http://astro.uchicago.edu/