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The ancient Greeks called it "Chaos" _ the primordial abyss that existed before the creation of the world. But chaos, apparently, is more than a myth. Mathematical chaos theory tells us that it is impossible to predict the distant future in a chaotic system. Even the orbits of some of the small planets in our own solar system cannot be predicted billions of years in advance.
Over the last few years it has become clear that many natural phenomena are of a chaotic nature. We cannot accurately predict the direction of a billiard ball after a large number of collisions. Or the behavior of a high-altitude weather balloon that is released above the equator. Of the 500 balloons released in just such an experiment, most hovered above the equator but two reached the North Pole. Prof. Vered Rom-Kedar of the Weizmann Institute's Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department has shown that the balloons drifted toward the Pole as a result of chaotic movement found in very specific locations (and thus felt only by those balloons). By utilizing chaos theory, she found an orderly explanation for a previously unexplained phenomenon. Her finding may one day make possible more accurate predictions of the movement of various objects in the atmosphere.
In other studies, Rom-Kedar has shown that chaos theory can enable one to predict the stirring mode that most efficiently creates a more uniform mixture of two or more liquids. These findings may help develop efficient yet inexpensive industrial processes, including those involved in decontaminating environmentally polluted areas _ such as those involved in oil spills.
Prof. Vered Rom-Kedar Born - Haifa, Israel Ph.D. - California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Postdoctoral research - University of Chicago Weizmann Institute of Science - Since 1992