The Secret Life of Chaos

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The Secret Life of ChaosChaos theory has a bad name, conjuring up images of unpredictable weather, economic crashes and science gone wrong. But there is a fascinating and hidden side to Chaos, one that scientists are only now beginning to understand. It turns out that chaos theory answers a question that mankind has asked for millennia - how did we get here?

In this documentary, Professor Jim Al-Khalili sets out to uncover one of the great mysteries of science - how does a universe that starts off as dust end up with intelligent life? How does order emerge from disorder? It's a mind-bending, counterintuitive and for many people a deeply troubling idea.

But Professor Al-Khalili reveals the science behind much of beauty and structure in the natural world and discovers that far from it being magic or an act of God, it is in fact an intrinsic part of the laws of physics. Amazingly, it turns out that the mathematics of chaos can explain how and why the universe creates exquisite order and pattern. And the best thing is that one doesn't need to be a scientist to understand it.

The natural world is full of awe-inspiring examples of the way nature transforms simplicity into complexity. From trees to clouds to humans - after watching this film you'll never be able to look at the world in the same way again. Find out more about the secret life of chaos.

  • Tyler

    Pretty interesting stuff.

  • Chris

    It is very interesting, indeed. How does this conflict with physical entropy laws? It seems that the two would be at odds. I will have to re-watch this for more clues.
    Also, he states that from simplicity comes great complexity because of simple laws. However, each system seems to have its own set of 'simple' laws -- some which conflict with each other. And each system needs its simple laws from the start.
    I guess my point is this: If each system starts out with with a set of simple laws and moves to greater and greater complexity, and those systems evolved from earlier systems with their own simple laws, the causal chain must end with the most simple thing to possibly exist functioning by the most simple law there could possibly be with the end product being us. So, start with Hydrogen, add sufficient Time, and get humanity - all by itself.
    Seriously, now. This sounds like magic. One of the problems here is that Professor Jim Al-Khalili - soothing voice notwithstanding - is in love with mathematics. Einstein is quoted as complaining that mathematicians were highjacking cosmology.

  • Jake

    It seems to me that the problem with chaos and order resulting in complexity is in the bias linked with the notion of perception. Complexity implies a standard or limit of perception. The visual array perceived by the eye of a fly can be called 'complex' in relation to our human
    sense of vision, but for a fly it is ordinary, therefore non-complex. Maybe what seems to us to be very complex models are very simple from different perspectives or even different power of computation. Even the term 'chaos' is relative, and can become irrelevant under the examination of that perception bias.

  • dread

    non of the above so called white scientist were the first!!!!!!

    YIN YANG was discovered long before.

    now they call it chaos & order

  • http://Virgin Roger Brown.

    Chaos and order, go hand in hand. You cannot have one or the other. Chaos brings order and sometimes order brings chaos. I think we are witnessing the mechanics of God, if that's what we call it. This is a universal law.

  • Mike

    That was a refreshing documentary on its own. Awesome.

  • Tyler

    If you ask me, chaos and order are the only real forces in the universe, and both are part of the same universal force. Gravity, electromagnetism, these are just manifestations of ordered chaos on different scales.

  • http://muraridas.com Murari

    very interesting indeed.. but the key to all principles of self organizing systems is that they first have to be set in motion. chaos can very well explain all the beautiful and seemingly random patterns in the universe, but there is still the big question of how it all began. perhaps string theory will one day answer that....

  • alex

    excited to see it my friend Dan is a fan of this website and it came highly recommended

  • kian

    That was one of the most interesting docs i've seen in a while, just amazing.
    The next day I just kept noticing patterns in nature and life that was right in front of my face all along. amazing.

  • http://YouTube.com/DancingSpiderman DancingSpiderman

    "Female cage fighters" mentioned at the very end of this vid... Shouldn't that video also be included as part of this show on Chaos? I know I want to see it...

    Seems evident to me that the universe is itself a Mandelbrot Set, with infinite bidirectional nested Baby-Brots-- Those structures our scientits currently recognize as: Groups of galaxy clusters / individual galaxies/ solar systems / planetary-moon groups / groups of living organism-communities / an individual animal / groups of differentiated cells / collaborative molecules / atoms / sub-atomics / p-branes / back down-up to another whole set of next-order galaxies, of the kind I've mentioned in a previous post on my Mr. Bubble Theory of The Universe.

    Do not condemn people just because they seem different than you.
    The world requires them too.
    RIP Alan Turing.

  • hellosnackbar

    I've a passion for science documentaries;but the secret life of chaos is Khalili's most outstanding to date.
    Very well done Jim; let's have more;you've clearly got a talent for broadcasting in simple terms that which we mortals can understand and goggle at.

  • http://groups.google.com/group/aristomafia/files?pli=1 Old Git Tom

    Fascinating, up to the point where this contemporary thinking is claimed to rescue Darwinian evolution. No, that is staggering on to death, altho the Neo-Darwinian old guard will doubtless seize on this as a last-gasp. Perry Marshall has demonstrated from information theory that random DNA mutations cannot enhance, only degrade. At most, these developments are mathematical descriptions of the dance of chaos & order. They do not 'explain' it. Eg., the computer modeling exercises are impressive, but depend on the primary input of human intelligence. The acid test of a scientific theory is its predictive power. There seems to be a paradox here. Insofar as there is understanding of chaos, those claiming it must have some power to predict where evolution is leading. Instead, we are told this is impossible, becos the process is chaotic. Hmmmmm! OGT

  • Achems Razor

    Sounds interesting.

  • http://Virgin Roger

    I wonder what it would be like without Chaos. To me it makes sense to have chaos. (Paradox)???????

  • http://YouTube.com/DancingSpiderman DancingSpiderman

    Chaos is the Great Equalizer.

  • Achems Razor

    Good doc.
    Without appearing redundant, as I have had discourse about similar on many posts.
    We are talking about series of events, albeit from the very small, "Quantum" from which everything generates.

    These are courses of probable actions from the sea of unlimited probabilities.
    "The butterfly effect", one probable action no matter how minute will cause a direction of ongoing change that will become a concrete of reality. The unresolved other courses of probable actions however are just as valid and real, to our other multidimensional selves, other probable reality's. Which are limitless. But not in the scope of our vibrational "now's".

    This falls into the realm of unpredictability, and of course comes from the realm of Quantum mechanics, the unpredictability of Quantum.

    And all I can say is that from this new science should come some answers. Of which none fundamentally concrete as yet.

    Because, alas, just like the Mandelbrot sets, they are mathematical constructs.

  • Max

    If anyone is interested, James Gleick's 'Chaos-Making a new science' Penguin books. Covers the history, beginning with Edward Lorenz.

  • Max

    Eloquently put Eric.

  • laowho

    Indeed (to echo Max),

    I'll be looking for more of your posts Mr. Howe.

  • Ronaldo Sinigayan

    This is another awesome documentary. Professor Jim Al-Khalili is awesome as well. He's so easy to understand even though the subject matter is pretty complex. Thank you again for having this here. =)

  • Robert Whelan

    This is one of the most profound documentaries I have ever seen. On the level of Carl Sagan's Cosmos.
    I would love for everyone to see and discuss this information.

  • sixto

    isn't this dialectic materialism?

  • yourboycal

    Cute documentary i'll send it to a few darwinists to help them sleep better at night =p

  • lazibonz

    i think is simply the best science documentary i have seen to date and i have seen quite a lot of them since discovering this site. it just goes to show that clear and well presented ideas are better than the sensationalised mostly deep voice i have heard in most science documentaries

  • nino

    beautiful |

  • isitus

    **** at the same level of art, talking strait to the hearth like poets and painters, confirming/telling/showing what we always knew.

    Even this website is an cell of chaos in its own, spreading rapidly in an unpredictable way from simple choices -

    So spread this site to your friends along with good docus like?,
    Adam Curtis,The Trap, Power of nightmares

    Flow

    Food Inc.

    Life BBC

  • marta

    Awsome doc!...These ideas of "feedback" and "auto organized systems" remind me the Chilean scientists Varela and Maturana who talked about "autopoyesis" and the "systems' theory"...I dunno if they might be related.

  • Max

    I wondered where this all fits with recent studies of brain function, and I didn't find a layman's quick fix.

    I used:- brain function nonlinear dynamics
    as a search.

    Many years ago a friend was working on neurone networks.
    Specifically metabolism.

    He gave me a couple of prototype glass etched matrices used for neurone network research.
    The guy had grown proto brains(biological neural networks)in a glass dish. Using rat neurons and data communication via the matrices.

  • Keith

    I think that our understanding of the universe that we live in
    is what the fractal represents.
    Physicists have always tried to explain nature using mathematical equations yet there is always something vital missing.
    The observed is always there...
    What ever we seem to be looking for at a certain time mysteriously with time materializes. Hhmmm !?
    I believe that we truly create our reality, and this material aspect of life, with the life force energy that powers everything in the universe.
    I think that physics is our way of proving to ourselves that the knowledge we have tuned out or forgot or have ignored for to long is fact.(its easier to put on TV)
    When I looked at the Mandelbrot fractal for the first time I felt like I had seen it before.
    It's almost relaxing to just look at it , an awesome confirmation of that ,that has no words.
    My theory of what powers everything kind of falls into place with the infinity aspects of the fractal as well I have long been looking at the fact that everything swirls .
    Witch has led me to believe that the universe is infinite in a way that is not visible.
    Imagine trying to see out of a molecule while the earth is a spec wising around inside the inner workings of an electron.
    I don't think that you would be able to tell where the molecule ended or what it was a part of without using your imagination.
    At the same time the molecules at our scale have the capacity to contain infinite scales of time and space,
    If universes are like molecules than atomic energy is the power that fuels everything the big bag may have been an atom of inconceivable proportions splitting.
    Like the way an atom bomb makes its cloud or the sun is burning on a time frame that is hard to comprehend.
    And if matter extends to a scale that becomes perceptively invisible.we have are 11 to 8 dimensions.
    I can't help but believe that this is still a construct of conscious thought.
    And the awakening of an individual is knowing that you are creator along with every other,and it is all energy.
    Somehow we have chosen to be more singular and maybe that is the drive that comes with being able to create whole worlds with mere thought.

    I honestly appreciate and enjoy information like this video the one with Arther C Clark is a must see if you enjoyed this one.
    The more people start having something tangible to rap there brain around the farther our perceptions and imaginations can reach.
    "Perceptions create new worlds".K.D.
    "It's not what your looking at that matters,its what you see" FB ?
    My favorite Quote
    From a book that was taking a more realistic view of religion.
    " Immortality is not access into heaven as reward for living an upright life,it is the immediate realization of your true identity here and now,which was never born so can never die "
    Thanks for sharing and allowing me to do the same.
    KEITH

  • Frostbeard

    I hope Ralph Abraham is in this, oh god I hope so. Otherwise it is meaningless.

  • XHerakleitos

    Though he lumps philosophy and religion together at the start.... it is funny that the critical feedback dimension sounds a lot like Aufhebung. Its not like certain philosophical movements haven't anticipated this recent "scientific" trajectory. .... and it though it works to move past a Newtonian conceit, and a stranglehold on the imagination of science, it seems naively confident that certain metaphors and distinctions can still be pitched about.... when thinking on the basis of these phenomenon may well throw the attitude into question.
    XHerakleitos

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M6F3RJVEWJ24QKMCHFNVK7ADVE Winston Smith

    'we cannot predict the exact shapes' perhaps because our mathematics have not reached that level, or (more likey, like fingerprints, eyes, etc) because there is inherent variability in the organism itself.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W6KC6T5UQEDJODYMRKKU2MUXZE David Copas

    Such confident statement proclaimed!

    For sure the Universe is more than simple dust. Is a photon of light simple dust? Is heat simple dust? Is your thought reaction to those questions simple dust? (yet Jim keeps telling us otherwise). We don't know what Space is actually made of - what phenomena might be infused with it (e.g.: think Dark Energy).

    Documentary still came across, to me anyway, that Chaos has inherent organizing characteristic; and that Order & Chaos are yet another example of opposite extreme each both vieing for ultimate supremacy - as though fabricating process set-in motion.

    The film certainly confirms that nothing is determined, and that the course of all event is random - which appears, to my way of seeing thinking, a concept perfectly designed - one certain to eliminate, eventually weed out, all trial & error.

    Sand grains only form into sand dunes by wind acting as influence - semi solid heaps sculpted blown into exquisite form by {external} invisible flowing gas. Energy also flows - right ? Flow is the governing force that shapes everything, shaping chaos, shaping order, shaping morphogenesis, evolution, fractals, rivers. After studying physics I'm confident that every thing is oscillating, and that life, evolution, functions as wave. Fractal, tree, blood vessel, lung, river, ice, lightening are all example of this inherent dendritic pattern appearing throughout the Universe, and which represents the pattern of flow - of flow though available space: it even represents an undulating bird flock managing vicinity's available space (as shown in the film).

    Time lag / feedback / loop? - ". . .and with a slight tweek to the system" Sorry, but wasn't the visual effect (screen and camera) used as demonstrative example, produced by configured system that was DESIGNED by DESIGNER, aka: computer - does a computer's processing capability prove anything other than inability to process information quick enough? All it demonstrated was an amplification's disturbance (check out the principle of linear super position).

    Perhaps chaos is design configured for the purpose of liberation; and spark of life flowing through Universe set on course liberation - trapped, but inevitably acquiring the knowledge, know-how, expertise to emerge and break free: all part and parcel of its inherent design!

    It seems to me the Designer is Flow.

    Poor Turin.

  • http://twitter.com/parkerjwill Parker Williams

    I liked this one, "Unfortunately, I have to tell you that all of this is true. And there's nothing anyone can do about it." All glories to the Supreme Person, the actual, ultimate controller.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mikola-Stewart/599780098 Mikola Stewart

    How can I actually see this movie?

  • white_gazelle

    I am sorry but how can 'mindless rules' give rise to such an intricate system? The rules as simple as they may be, the initial conditions as incomplex as they might be, have been set by a Cause that is un-caused. What appears to be spontaneity might just be a personal choice of this Cause- just because it is unintelligible and unpredictable to us, does not mean it can be dismissed as thoughtless and unconscious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chewsterr Kieran Reid

    If something is unintelligible and unpredictable to us, how then can we possibly know if it is conscious or not, certainly does not seem like qualities of a conscious system.

  • white_gazelle

    Yes, human beings cannot reach absolute certainty as human reason is quite evidently limited. However, one can reach enough certainty to choose to believe that an intelligent Force exists if one does their research.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NYMTFP37X3N4QK4OJOCKWP3TNA Sophie

    Choosing to believe in an intelligent Force does not make it so...

  • white_gazelle

    I agree..but choosing not believe also does not prove anything and that is why everybody has an intellect at their disposal.. to reason for themselves after they have done their homework what they want to believe. That is important. Blindly making a choice is sheer laziness and an utter failure to use a rational mind.

  • Abdullah Ömer Aydar

    I thought it was a great documentary until the last 10 mins of it. As Jim says " a design doesnt need a designer, all universe, mountains, sand heights in deserts, oceans, all living things happened randomly." Well, he uses the analogy of " evoulotinary programming". But there's a programmer who writes it, why he cant think about that :( I see a pantheistic view in that doc. Actually, it's emphasized that God made a mould of everything, and everything randomly happened by itself. Actually, maybe that's right, but again here there has to be a creator who writes the codes of that programme, and knows what will happen at the end. So, what i mean, it's not a random process, it's God directed evoulotion and God knows the rules of probabilty, so he knows what will happen at the end. Anyway, at least, that's what i understood at the end of the doc.

  • young_brejin

    Creationism and religious dogma is in gradual collapse. As more research cultivates our understanding of how the universe emerged, more and more rational people will disbelieve in childish religious fairy tales. I rather know that there are things which I don't know, than to believe any divine creationism. Great claims require great proof. People claim that god exists, they need to objectively prove its existence and its influence on daily events in our world and outer space. Any claim that cannot be proven through scientific measures, is good for nothing. Creationists' and theists' main issue is that they view themselves as highly important, as if the entire universe revolves around humans. They need to digest the notion that we are simply a spec in this 13.7 billion year journey. Hypothetically, even if we were the ultimate creation of God, the special species that we so proudly think of ourselves to be, why would God the omnipotent take 13.7 billion years to start sending revelations through profits/messengers only in the last 5 thousand years? Many grow up to become highly intellectual and influential individuals, but they still hold on to their religious beliefs. I have always found this a mind-boggling phenomena. Perhaps this can be accounted by the early indoctrination of kids into believing and practicing which ever religion they happen to be born into, hence, never really getting an opportunity to explore and view the world from a more neutral and objective angle.

  • Oliver Leslie

    Religious dogma will never be in collaspe. What will cause the planet to collaspe, it people, plants, animals and other species, is man's science, man's scientific creations that pollute the waters, the soil, etc. Mans science that creates products that bring about cancer, man's science that creates atom bombs.
    I am not religious, but when we do eventully blow this place up, and the human species, hopefully (or hopefully not) starts up again, their will again arise the idea of a higher power. You just can't get around that. To that, we should dispense with the debate any way - it's a waste of time. beleive what you want to believe and move on. Who really cares who is "right". One can't prove god's existence as much as one can't disprove it.
    And you must remember that many a great scientist was also religious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707442152 Faith Morgan

    I enjoyed the debate in the comments before mine as much as the film. As far as I am concerned I know two thinks for sure: 1) I don't know everything and 2) God was the designer of everything we humans ponder. Pondering is good, though. I think God gave us this mind. We have been here a few thousand years and the planet has been here tens of billions of years. Humility makes learning new things much more fun.

  • Abdullah Ömer Aydar

    exactly...

  • Abdullah Ömer Aydar

    and what do you think about that? Jim Al-Khalili says: "as the son of a Protestant Christian mother and a Shia Muslim father, I have nevertheless ended up without a religious bone in my body". look at what Einstein says:"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."

  • Anamon

    That Einstein said a lot of brilliant things doesn't mean that everything he said was brilliant. He called himself a "religious nonbeliever" by the way.

  • Abdullah Ömer Aydar

    What Einstein said is very reasonable. I'm a religous nonbeliever too. I dont believe in God. Because believing isnt something certain.I dont believe because I prove him. I know him. I sense him. That's not believing, that's scientifically, humanly knowing.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZPS6T3F36LVWSBL22N2PJHTP4A John

    I REALLY LIKED THIS DOCUMENTARY. Order Over Chaos is the hallmark of our existence. This Doc explains it so well.

    An atheist here... As a "reasonable" person, I question myself EVERYDAY about what I believe to be true -mostly because I'm astounded that so many live by this supernatural notion. Over the years the clarity of the situation has become PAINFULLY OBVIOUS -We humans, as par for the course, have placed ourselves at the center of the universe again when we believe some super-being cares for and listens to each of the 7 billion of us. Here are the points I would like you to read.

    1. EVERYONE should look DEEP at exactly WHY they believe what it is they believe. Was it only because someone told you? Or are there good reasons? Yes, this can be very upsetting to "examine" one's self.

    -just because you have a feeling. -just because you can't fathom an answer. -just because the alternitive is too scary. IS NO REASON TO EVOKE THE SUPERNATURAL.

    2. Any person inducted into ANY religion will believe that religion 100% and will defend it just as much as the next person & religion. Therefor, If one has no good evidence to back up their religion, they must question the validity of it. Because they would have to admit that they would be just as vigorous to defend ANY religion they were brought up in. Without evidence I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU -or the next guy.

    3. Cross Level Coherence occures when: what one believes, how one acts, and the environment one lives in, all agree with eachother. It's a stable spot in someone's life. A mountian of people behind you, who agree with you, DOESN'T make it ture. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    I invite everyone to step into the light of reason. Yes, it's scary at first I admit, but the joys of the "examined life" are truely great AND REAL.

    The Secret Life of Chaos hints that life and evolution are self orginizing, AND still at work creating more and more complex designs. Intelligent life is it's greatest design yet.

  • thomas4444

    why is there something instead of not?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LK6B2HGMK4EHZ6YJ3I6WFKY77U DigiWongaDude

    @thomas4444, apparently, in the beginning, there was a kind of soup of matter and anti-matter, but there was slightly more matter than anti-matter (i don't know why), so when all the anti-matter and matter annihilated each other, there was some matter left over...the 'something' is that matter.

    [this is available on Youtube in several parts, search for "Secret Life Of Chaos"...going to watch now :-)]

  • thomas4444

    DigiWongaDude you mean at the beginning of the universe as we know it but it doesnt answer to why a beginning or an eternity instead of nothing?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LK6B2HGMK4EHZ6YJ3I6WFKY77U DigiWongaDude

    @ thomas4444, I can only speculate and open myself up to much stone throwing, but why not, here goes...I might learn something new :-)

    Here's what I'm going to attempt to show: A beginning, from nothing, to an infinite multiverse, without end. Brave or stupid? ...I'll leave you to decide.

    Here's how:
    Where is the beginning or end of the Mandelbrot Set? Or a circle? Or in counting numbers? There is none because, as I see it, these are infinite sets.

    If the universe had a beginning, it must be through a finite set, and include an end. Everything around us appears to have a beginning and an end: life, stars, galaxies and even a cup of coffee. Finite sets.

    Can a finite set come into being from nothing? Yes, according to this documentary of order coming in to creation, out of chaos. Where no pattern existed, comes pattern. You might say well, the pattern comes from the chemicals in this dish, but no. The pattern comes from no pattern...'not pattern'...spontaneously.

    A finite set, can create infinite sets within it. Consider, for example, that a black hole forms a singularity (a point where all our known physics no longer applies as mathematics goes infinite - a wall through which we can not see or pass). Stephen Hawkings got is PhD Masters Degree for his theory that the big bang also began as a singularity ...interesting no? I like to imagine (though correlation doesn't equal causation) that this is no coincidence; that the two are somehow related and part of a bigger picture. This is not an original idea, nor does it have basis in fact, just pure supposition. A Black hole might somehow, through a shared singularity, give birth to a new universe.

    This would allow for a beginning, from nothing, to an infinite multiverse without end.

    {ducking for cover}

  • ???

    what about shapes,vibrations/sound,time,(stars,planets ect have their own clocks), and everything repeated diminishing in size like atoms and molecules looking similar to stars and planets ect...

    what if there are universes within universes,each diminishing in size and our universe contained within a single atom,could be infinite according to our perception.now wouldn't that be ironic ;-)

  • ???

    and what (god forbid ;-) if genesis was right in some way and the universe was contained in a single thought.
    if our mind could power a locomotive,think what an infinite mind could do....just a thought :-p

  • ???

    and there's similarities like galaxies,tornado's,whirlpools,snail shells ect,(spirals),stars,planets,electrons,neutrons ect (spheres),branches,roots,lungs,veins (similarities)
    then there's the effects of different sounds and pitches....
    what if there are infinite multiple worlds,i mean if sub atomic particles can be in 2 places at once,would we see alternate worlds doing the same,(dimensions),it could go in infinite directions,quick,get will smith,the aliens could be here already :-S

  • Achems_Razor

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation

  • Dunerz

    With a feedback system you don't need a creator. The system creates itself. Evolution is just trial and error in response to a particular environment with a goal of surviving. A fish evolved into a land animal into a mammal into a sea mammal (ie. dolphin) only because the environment allowed it and where survival was maximized.

  • suomynona

    I would call that.. insanity. You don't prove him. You don't know him. You don't sense him. And please do not throw the word "scientifically" into that jumble of nonsense you call a thought. That was the most irresponsible use of the word I've seen in a while.

  • wheezer

    Yes, they are related. Both have to do with self-organizing systems.