Well, without turning this into the dissertation the topic really deserves, some of what I picked up from James Gleick’s book:
- Very, very complex or unpredicted results can come from simple equations or very minor effects or minute variable changes.
- Making predictions from certain systems is never 100% possible, because the sample size is inaccurate; trying to improve the sample size fails at some point. (Good example: weather.) You can make approximate predictions, and that’s good enough for most daily purposes (weather, again), so long as you don’t mind the outlying possibilities coming back at you and whopping you upside the head (weather again!).
- Sometimes, a simple system and a simple system make a slightly more complex system; sometimes they make some weird stuff happen (such as a pendulum and a spring). You know which one you have after the weird stuff starts happening.
- The nice, comfortable Newtonian/Einstein universe I was living in was a rough approximation or comfortable fiction, depending on how picky you want to get. The quantum mechanical universe exists far, far away, in terms of scale—or at least it did in the 80s, things have shifted since then.
I’m a total amateur at chaos/complexity theory, so I have more questions than answers.