Ergodic Theory, Randomness, and "Chaos"

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Science  13 Jan 1989:
Vol. 243, Issue 4888, pp. 182-187
DOI: 10.1126/science.243.4888.182


Ergodic theory is the theory of the long-term statistical behavior of dynamical systems. The baker's transformation is an object of ergodic theory that provides a paradigm for the possibility of deterministic chaos. It can now be shown that this connection is more than an analogy and that at some level of abstraction a large number of systems governed by Newton's laws are the same as the baker's transformation. Going to this level of abstraction helps to organize the possible kinds of random behavior. The theory also gives new concrete results. For example, one can show that the same process could be produced by a mechanism governed by Newton's laws or by a mechanism governed by coin tossing. It also gives a statistical analog of structural stability.

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