I would...urge that people be introduced to [chaos] early in their mathematical education. [Chaos] can be studied phenomenologically by iterating it on a calculator, or even by hand. Its study does not involve as much conceptual sophistication as does elementary calculus. Such study would greatly enrich the student's intuition. Not only in research, but also in the everyday world of politics and economics, we would all be better off if more people realised that simple nonlinear systems do not necessarily possess simple dynamical properties.

Sir Robert May, 1976

Course Goals

  • I want you to gain a solid understanding of the basic mathematical ideas behind chaos and fractals. As part of this, I hope you'll leave this course thinking somewhat differently about order and disorder, simplicity and complexity.
  • I want to help you improve your basic facility with algebra and functions, your problem solving skills, your ability to create and interpret different types of graphs, and your overall mathematical confidence.
  • I want you to gain a sense of how math and physics is done, and gain an awareness that these are not static, "dead" disciplines. I want you to gain a greater understanding of science as an institution and science as a culture.