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Chaos brought to order by randomness

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Chaos = Order: WUSTL physicists make baffling discovery

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David Kilper/WUSTL Photo

Wessel (left), Brandt and Dellen with “oscillating” pendulums.

Pandemoniumm on demand
April 3, 2006
By Douglas M. Main

Retrieved by DonEMitchell 15:36, 10 October 2013 (MDT) from http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/6845.aspx

According to a computational study conducted by a group of physicists at Washington University in St. Louis, one may create order by introducing disorder.
While working on their model — a network of interconnected pendulums, or “oscillators” — the researchers noticed that when driven by ordered forces the various pendulums behaved chaotically and swung out of sync like a group of intoxicated synchronized swimmers. This was unexpected — shouldn’t synchronized forces yield synchronized pendulums?
But then came the real surprise: When they introduced disorder — forces were applied at random to each oscillator — the system became ordered and synchronized.
“The thing that is counterintuitive is that when you introduce disorder into the system — when the [forces on the pendulums] act at random — the chaos that was present before disappears and there is order,” said Sebastian F. Brandt, Washington University physics graduate student in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the study, which appeared in the January 2006 edition of Physical Review Letters.

Retrieved 15:36, 10 October 2013 (MDT) from http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/6845.aspx