The Other I

July 1, 2009

Reverse Chaos Theory

Filed under: Just Stuff,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 5:00 pm

According to Chaos Theory, some small event – like the flapping wings of a butterfly – can ultimately lead to some very significant event — like a hurricane that is first felt thousands of miles away.

Given its name, I suppose it’s not surprising that the theory is used most often to explain catastrophic events caused by some minor seemingly-unrelated and distant disruption.

But I would like to propose a twin theory which I have called Reverse Chaos Theory.  This brilliant idea is the result of a few moments I spent this morning in the parking lot of our local DIY store.  We were lifting some sharp-edged lawn equipment into the car when it slipped.   In the process of trying to catch it, I put the can of oil I was also carrying on the roof of the car.  After arranging our purchases in the trunk, I slammed down the door and started to get into the passenger seat.

A stranger passing by called over that I’d left something on the roof.  It was the can of oil.  I expressed my gratitude effusively.

My gratitude was effusive because, along with the can of oil, my wallet – containing my credit cards, Peter’s credit cards, store and loyalty cards, my driver’s license and insurance, and about $50 – was also on the roof.

I was shaking as I got back in the car.  The oil was nothing.  But the upheaval of losing my wallet somewhere on the road between Cambridge and home still elevates my heart rate.

I doubt very much that stranger is sitting at home tonight thinking she did a good deed.  But I know she did.  And if she’d just passed by deciding that can of oil was none of her business – or if she’d passed by sixty seconds sooner or later – my life right now would be in chaos.

So I’m dedicating this theory to her.  I don’t know her name, so I’ll just have to call her Reverse Chaos.


  1. here’s another example – Im a cognitive psychologist, living outside of Cambridge (Boston) thinking about reverse chaos.

    In a nutshell (I wont bore you with the details) Im curiouse about the underpinnings of cryptography, in general and as applied to cryptocurrency specifically. The big idea behind encryption is called the avalanch effect ( ). In a way, it says that when something gets encrypted it gets scrambled…big time…totally unpredictable, random…and perhaps chaotic.

    My theory, like yours I think, is that within chaotic systems there can emerge unexpected instances of surprising order. If it comes in the form of your “stranger”, well thats good news. If its an unexpected thread of predictability in a fancy SHA-256 hash function used to encrypt your bank records and the internet,…not so good.

    So, I went to google and she brought me to you 🙂

    Thanks for putting your thoughts out there!


    Comment by Greg — April 29, 2014 @ 8:30 am | Reply

    • And thank you for adding your own thoughts. You have given some substance to my conviction that we don’t come near to understanding this seemingly paradoxical universe we live in. What looks like chaos sometimes causes order – sometimes terrifying order as you suggest, but also sometimes beautiful. And when we look at what seems to be the heart of things (at least from our human scientific point of view), there is indeterminancy. Oh, and let us not forget these weak and strong forces, including gravity. We might be able to describe them with mind-boggling mathematical accuracy, but we really don’t have a clue about how they work without any apparent physical interaction. Or how the brain produces something which seems to be as immaterial as thought. I totally disagree with Plato, but I understand the problem he was grappling with.
      By coincidence, btw, I too am a cognitive psychologist living outside Cambridge, except that the Cambridge I live outside of is in England.
      It would be interesting to hear more about your thoughts on cryptography.


      Comment by theotheri — April 29, 2014 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

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