Honors 183: Chaos Theory: The Making of a New Science

"Chaos Theory" (Nonlinear Dynamic Systems) is a collection of concepts and phenomenon that have been recently observed, or successfully applied, throughout the natural and social sciences. Consequently, scientists' understanding of deterministic systems has been altered, and unexpected regularities have been observed across a wide range of natural domains, for example, physics (turbulence), physiology (neurological processes), chemistry (reactions), biology (structure and growth), and economics (stock market behavior).

The main purpose of this course is to review the major concepts of Nonlinear Dynamics and to assess their relevance to the social sciences. An incidental by-product will be some useful computer expertise.

Nonlinear dynamic topics covered include iterative functions, bifurcation diagrams, tests for strange attractors, pink noise, fractals, complexity, and Mandelbrot sets.

Reading assignments

Introductory concepts in nonlinear dynamics and fractals arecovered in drafts of chapters written by the instructor. These and other readings, mostly original articles, are available in a ClassPak. Other homework assignments include discussion questions and computer simulations.

A mid-termscheduledn Thursday February 13.
The final exam is based on the class material, readings, and questions on the student project presentations.
The final grade is weighted as follows: midterm, 25%; final, 25%; project, 35%, class and homework, 15%. Electronic Classroom (120 Wilson Hall)

Since much of this new perspective relies on graphical (as opposed to more mathematical) analyses, the course is taught in the Electronic Classroom, allowing computer-generated hands-on demonstrations of simple systems. No prior computer experience is assumed.

Class projects

Students present one-hour projects on selected topics in Chaos theory. These projects include a presentation with an accompanying internet Web page.


Keith Clayton
Office: 503 Psychology Building. Telephone: 322-0060.

Internet Links

Basic Workshop - Chaos Society 1996
Society for Chaos in Psychology and the Life Sciences
Chaotic Links

Policy on Honors

Vanderbilt's Honor Code governs all work in this course (i.e., tests, papers, homework assignments). All written work must be your own. Examples of actions that are impermissible include (a) examining another student's test during an examination, and (b) failure to properly credit sources in a research paper. Examples of actions that are permissible include (a) discussing, with other students, possible test items prior to an exam, and (b) discussing, with other students, homework assignments prior to writing the homework report.

If you have any doubts about how the Honor Code applies to any assignment in this course, please ask me - not another student - for clarification. Uncertainty about the application of the Honor Code does not excuse a violation.

Last modified: 9 July 1999