Sunday, August 3, 2008

Catastrophe Theory

René defends his mathematical theory’s ability to predict history.


Student: Can you give us a definition?

René: It’s the loss of stability in a dynamic system.

Student: And can you give us an example?

René: Well, a river flowing along suddenly drops into a catastrophic waterfall.

Student: Catastrophic for the river or the swimmer?

René: Both. But the maths can also predict why stockmarkets jump around. That’s its use in the financial markets.

Student: Have you used it to buy stocks?

René: I’m more interested in applying it to history. Here, this calculation shows that the French Revolution was the precipitating factor for France caving in so quickly when Germany last invaded us.



Typical pattern of presenting an idea.

(1) Provide a definition.

(2) Give examples.

René Thom’s Catastrophe Theory got a lot of attention in the 1970s until it became difficult to apply it to scenarios involving more than five variables.


No comments: