Thursday, 30 June 2011

Chaos and Cap'aphony

New Science Series on Chaos Theory by Aisoorya Vijayakumar

Chaos, clutter, and a cuppa kawphi

“Alright girls… you may begin now… REMEMBER! No extra time” drones the voice of the exam hall’s two-horned invigilator… Kawphi girl tunes that menacing voice out and begins scribbling furiously on the paper in front of her as if she is in a trance… In five minutes, she realizes that the paper in front of her has been replaced with sand – white, silky, smooth, sand!!! And she is making patterns on the sand like a toddler!!! “You moron!!!” screams the invigilator aka mad bull… To her horror, the invigilator effortlessly opens the kawphi girl’s skull up and starts pouring the white silky sand right into her head! HER HEAD – her already-slushy-muddy-braindead head! Kawphi girl finds that she has not only lost her voice but is paralyzed too, while the mad bull keeps at his task – open skull, take sand, pour sand in…

She wakes up with a start!
‘Dear heavens,’ she groans inside ‘The exam begins in less than seven hours, and what I know of tomorrow’s subject wouldn’t practically fill even a quarter of the first page of the answer sheet.Dozing off in the midst of studying and waking up from a nightmare in which you have a sand-infesting mad bull for company doesn’t help!!! DOES ANYONE OUT THERE HEAR ME?!!’ she screams at the roof, where she presumes the heavens to be.
All she is greeted with, in return, is a chipped-off piece of ceiling paper. She looks up in fury. ‘Keep it cool and calm kawphi girl,’ her mind tells her conscience, ‘don’t lose it now. Let’s summon all our warriors to the rescue.’
The heart, the ever active old reliable, is the first of respond with a loud thud, ‘Oh ye mighty! I report to aid you in all your endeavors!’
The mind ticks the names off a checklist, ‘There you go! The heart’s in place now. Where are the lazy left and right brains?’ and meets with a stiff-lipped response, ‘Left brain reporting madam! The guardian of logic, analysis, and things that make perfect sense! I would appreciate it if you can refrain from tagging me along with my bad twin, the right brain! I have never let you down, have been at your beck and call, and would not have allowed the mind to fall asleep at this crucial moment, had I not got gagged and tied up by the right brain!’
There is a gurgling noise in her head as her right brain sputters back to life. ‘Heya bud! I’m the right brain. It would help if you all can keep your noise down, mates! This girl is creatively challenged as she is, ya know?! And I’m trying to catch some much-needed sleep here. It took me all my strength to shut that righteous fellow up – the nerve-wracking left brain, and here ya all start hulla-bullaooing again! Hmphhh!’ spats out the right brain crossly. For a moment, all the faculties of the kawphi girl are dumbstruck. And then the heart thuds again.

The mind regains control and pleads, ‘Look people! We need to stick together and fight this out! In all chances we would flunk this exam and let’s at the least go down in grace! Now, left brain, let’s test you out – what’s our girl’s name?’

Left brain: Coffee girl! Although it beats me as to why on earth she insists on spelling her name as ‘Kawphi’

Right brain (swirls around and stares at the right brain in shock): Are you nuts?!! It sounds so kewl brother, the way she spells her name!

Left brain: If I may point it out, that adjective is spelled “cool” and not “kewl”

Right brain: Oh grow up man! Although you are way too old to make sense of things that are young and kewl anymore.

Mind: Ahem! If you two are done with it, can we get on with the subject for the exam please?

Right brain: Oh you two would be the death of me! Go on!

Mind: Thanks! So now, we got to study about chaos theory and fractals.

Right brain: Huh, “Chaos” theory? You mean someone has been ridiculous enough to say to get a theory out of confusion? The next thing we all know, we would have a theory on hangovers! That’s all folks!

Left brain: It isn’t a ridiculous theory! There’s a lot more to that theory than what you think there is, you retard!

Mind: Cut it out! Now, Left brain, tell us what chaos means, in science.

Left brain: The widely-accepted definition of chaos is turmoil, turbulence, primordial abyss, and undesired randomness. From chaos theory literature, we understand that scientists believe chaos to be of something extremely sensitive to initial conditions. Chaos also refers to the question of whether or not it is possible to make good long-term predictions about how a system will act. A chaotic system can actually develop in a way that appears very smooth and ordered.

Right brain: Whoa! That went right over my head pal!

Left brain: Seemingly trivial differences in small systems might result in diverse and bizarre outcomes, thus making long-term predictions virtually improbable. This is true even in those systems that are considered “deterministic,” implying that their future behavior can be completely determined from their initial conditions with no randomness involved.

Right brain: Huh?!  What the heck was all that babbling about?

Mind: Right brain, stay patient, you might eventually start making sense of all this in a short while. Let the left brain first assemble the learnings that he has collected.

Right brain: Yeah right! All that I’ve ever understood from his learnings are “blah blah blah – err okay, what does that mean now? – blah blah blah – okay now that sounds a bit better – blah blah blah – oh boy! This was harder than what we began with – blah blah blah – over and out!” And you jolly well know that he is the one who “blah”s and I desperately try to keep pace! L

Mind: ENOUGH! Stop cribbing! We need to help kawphi girl with the exam now. Go on, left brain!

Left brain: You see guys, this isn’t really as simple as we think it is. There is a lot of information to be absorbed and understood. Chaos theory is applied in many scientific disciplines: mathematics, programming, microbiology, biology, computer science, economics,[6][7][8]engineering,[9]finance,[10][11]philosophy, physics, politics, population dynamics, psychology, robotics, and meteorology. Now, if we look at what Mandelbrot said…

Right brain: Hold it! Err, if it’s not too much trouble, can you stop rattling things off the Wikipedia and speak in a language that people can understand here??!Who’s this Mandelbrot dude now?

Left brain (Speechless and stunned): Really, Right brain, show some respect! Mandelbrot would be turning in his grave if he heard that now! Don’t you know who Mandelbrot is? He is the father of fractal geometry. He died in October 2010, remember?

Right brain: Alright Mr. Know-all! If you quit showing off we can make some headway. Would that be too much to ask for?

Left brain (sighs out loud): A fractal is something that’s a geometric shape that can split into fragments and parts, and each of those fragments and parts is nothing but a miniature copy of the whole shape. Benoît Mandelbrotcoined that term “fractal” in 1975 from Latin – where “fractus” means “fractured” or broken.”

Right brain: Miniature copy of the whole? Wow, that’s like a cauliflower! See, I told ya all I’d catch up before you realize it! :-)

…. The Kawphi girl faculties would continue to study the chaos theory tirelessly amidst all the din and pandemonium, and all you need to do is visit this column in the next issue to get to know about the progress the team makes… 


With diagonally opposite life trajectories vis-a-vis a masters in biotechnology and a career in technical communications, Aisoorya revels in being able to put down in words all that her mind registers. Forgetful beyond redemption and a hopeless insomniac, her blog world avatar is named "the Coffee Bean," inspired from the 'The egg, the carrot, and the coffee bean" story. She scribbles down her musings in her blog. 

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