High anxieties : mathematics of chaos

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  • For centuries, Western society drew sustenance from Newtonian physics, classical economics, and other orderly systems of thought. But today's intellectual climate offers no such comforts, focusing instead on concepts like tipping points and global volatility. What created such a stark transformation? This program explores the history of chaos theory, shedding light on mathematical, philosophical, and real-world dynamics which have upended long-held notions of cosmic equilibrium. Delving into scientific and political history, the film invokes the research of Henri Poincare, Aleksandr Lyapunov, and Edward Lorenz while studying the clash between chaos and order in warfare, manufacturing, financial depressions, and digital technology.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on Aug. 09, 2009.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Closed-captioned.


  • Anxieties About the Future (3:38) -- Predictability of Mechanistic World (3:19) -- Predictability vs. Chaos (4:34) -- WWI: Humankind vs. Chaos (3:13) -- Tipping Point Between Order and Chaos (3:48) -- Social Stability and Commerce (3:24) -- Historical Tipping Points: Climate Change and Market Crash (3:06) -- The Promise of the Computer (2:57) -- Paradox of the Nuclear Age (2:43) -- Edward Lorenz: The Butterfly Effect (4:29) -- Chaos: Concept of Turbulence (3:21) -- Chaos and Interlinking Systems (3:05) -- Chaos Theory and Global market (3:03) -- Exponential Growth (4:24) -- Unpredictability of Change (3:33) -- Climatic Tipping Point (5:19)
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