The Stunning Complexity of the Universe
'he year was 1889. The French physicist-mathematician Henry T Poincare could not believe his eyes. He had worked for months on one of the most famous problems in science-the problem of three bodies moving around one another under mutual gravita- tional attraction-and what he was seeing dismayed and trou- bled him. Since Newton's time it had been assumed that the problem was solvable. All that was needed was a little ingenuity and considerable perseverance, but Poincare saw that this was not the case. Strange, unexplainable things happened when he delved into the problem; it was not solvable after all. Poincare was shocked and dismayed by the result-so disheartened he left the problem and went on to other things. What Poincare was seeing was the first glimpse of a phe- nomenon we now call chaos. With his discovery the area lay dormant for almost 90 years. Not a single book was written about the phenomenon, and only a trickle of papers appeared. Then, about 1980 a resurgence of interest began, and thousands of papers appeared along with dozens of books. The new science of chaos was born and has attracted as much attention in recent years as breakthroughs in superconductivity and superstring theory.