Flashback


Last night, I tried to explain to L (an architect) what this “Chaos Theory” thang is.  She’s doing a thesis on the “Tectonics of Smoke”, and has been asked to actually try and understand the physics/maths behind how smoke behaves.  Not a particularly easy subject…

Still, she pulled out an old book of mine: Chaos by James Gleick.  God knows what I’d have done with out it, if only for the pictures.  In half an hour we covered complex numbers, iterative functions, rounding errors, the Lorenz attractor, and the Mandelbrot set, Mitchell Feigenbaum, and weather prediction.

This isn’t the first time I’ve explained these concepts to architects, and I find it amazing that that they hadn’t exposed to these ideas before.  With few exceptions, people in this profession often seem to be polymaths – understanding aspects of social policy, engineering,  law, aesthetics, and design.   It occurred to me that architects are the idealogical children of Newton’s era; the end of the 17th century being the last time that a single person could really understand everything about many subjects.

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