Chaos at 50

Fifty years have passed since Edward Lorenz published his discovery of the surprising behavior we now know as chaos. With a simple, three-equation weather model, Lorenz demonstrated that even fully deterministic systems can behave in ways that are intrinsically unpredictable.

In May 2013, a half century after Lorenz’s ground-breaking 1963 paper Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow, the journal Physics Today published a retrospective piece marking Chaos’s 50th birthday and elaborating on the ground breaking work of the MIT meteorologist who revealed deterministic predictability to be an illusion giving birth to a field that still thrives.


The cover—shown above—incorporates a simulation of one of the model’s iconic solutions—the Lorenz attractor—plotted as a trajectory in phase space.

(Download the pdf Chaos at Fifty from Physics Today.)