iFOCUS Science Colloquium Lecture Series


On the Importance of Visualization in Nonlinear Dynamics: From Huygens' Clocks to Hurricanes

Streaming Media

Document Type

Video File


52 minutes 44 seconds

Publication Date



Dynamics and Dynamical Systems | Fluid Dynamics | Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics


Many systems in science and engineering are governed by nonlinear evolution equations. Starting with the familiar case of the simple pendulum, Daniel Borrero discusses some of the ways that nonlinear systems differ from linear ones and how nonlinearity can lead to unexpected behavior. One famous example is the so-called "butterfly effect," where small differences in initial conditions can lead to drastically different long-term behavior. Another consequence of nonlinearity is that systems can have multiple solutions for a given set of parameters. The competition between solutions often leads to very complicated spatial and temporal dynamics. As it turns out, many of the most time-honored mathematical techniques used in the analysis of linear systems fail miserably in the analysis of the complex systems, forcing humans to resort to more qualitative and graphical approaches. As an example of this, Borrero discusses recent advances in identifying a special class of solutions of the Navier-Stokes equations (the governing equations for fluid flows) and how these are being used to shed light on one of the oldest open problems in mechanics: the study of hydrodynamic turbulence.


Sponsored by the Hearst Foundations and the Linfield College Physics Department.