Where is the chaos in the universe

Chaos and order

When systems are so sensitive to change that long-term predictions become impossible, we speak of chaotic behavior. And our world is full of chaos. Sometimes, however, order forms all by itself.

The weather is so sensitive to changes that in principle the flapping of a butterfly's wings in China can influence the weather in Hamburg. This so-called butterfly effect describes what chaos means in science: Tiny causes can have such great effects that predictions about the development of systems over time are almost impossible.

The researchers succeed in making better and better prognoses; the scientific examination of chaos also shows us the limits of what we can know about the future. The diversity of our world is formed from the interaction of very different players: There are elementary particles from which atoms and molecules are formed. Biological cells, for example, are made up of complex molecules. And from the interplay of cells, organs and ultimately complex living beings are formed.

These individual levels of description differ greatly: each can be characterized with different properties, and scientists have worked out very different rules for the development of each one over time. Although the levels build on one another, structure is formed on the higher level that was not yet predictable on the lower level. Scientists speak of emergence, the appearance of new, unpredictable qualities when several factors interact.

Physicists also work with theories, computer simulations and experiments to fathom how something new is created. Nothing else lies on the dissecting table than the diversity of our world.