Between order and chaos
James P. Crutchfield
Nature Physics 8, 17–24 (2012)
Received 28 October 2011
Accepted 30 November 2011
Published online 22 December 2011
What is a pattern? How do we come to recognize patterns never seen before? Quantifying the notion of pattern and formalizing the process of pattern discovery go right to the heart of physical science. Over the past few decades physics’ view of nature’s lack of structure—its unpredictability—underwent a major renovation with the discovery of deterministic chaos, overthrowing two centuries of Laplace’s strict determinism in classical physics. Behind the veil of apparent randomness, though, many processes are highly ordered, following simple rules. Tools adapted from the theories of information and computation have brought physical science to the brink of automatically discovering hidden patterns and quantifying their structural complexity.
Subject terms: Statistical physics, thermodynamics and nonlinear dynamics, Information theory and computation