Maths in Art 5: Chaos Theory

lorentz 84 eq

The beautiful shape above may look like a modernist sculpture but in fact it has been generated by mathematics! Chaos theory is famously termed the ‘Butterflies and hurricanes’ effect but chaos isn’t a special part of physics that gives insects superpowers, it’s the study of situations where a small change in the starting conditions can lead to a totally different outcome.


The Lorenz Attractor is the simplest example a point obeying some equations traces out lines. The cups in the following video are an example of a Lorenz attractor, no matter how long you watch it for you won’t be able to see a pattern because of the chaotic nature.

Peter Jansen has seen the beauty of these chaotic traces and by adding lighting and texture transformed equations into art.

Istvan (Chaotic Atmospheres) has had a similar idea and created the awesome images below. I love that they include the equations, it’s great to see such a complex structure summarised by a couple of letters.  I’d love to have these as posters on my wall.

The Three-Scroll Unified Chaotic System Attractor

The Halvorsen Attractor

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