East Hawaii News

UH-Hilo Professor, Student Published in ‘Nature’

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A local professor and student have teamed up on a scientific paper on what appears at first glance to be a very un-scientific matter.

University of Hawaii at Hilo physics Professor Philippe M. Binder and recent UH-Hilo graduate Robert M. Pipes co-authored “How chaos forgets and remembers,” which appears in the June 19 issue of the prestigious journal “Nature.”

Their work examined a recent study about chaos theory, a field of study in mathematics which applies to nonlinear science involving seemingly random behavior.

That study by James Crutchfield at the University of California at Davis holds that some information produced by chaotic systems carries into the future and is therefore remembered, while the rest does not and is therefore forgotten.


(Editor’s Note: Probably the best-known introduction of the concept to the general public came from the character played by Jeff Goldblum in the 1993 film “Jurassic Park” when his character, Ian Malcolm, predicted that because of chaos theory it would be impossible to predict behaviors of cloned dinosaurs on their island home which was an “accident waiting to happen.”)

In addition to giving a historical context to Cruthfield’s findings, the paper by Binder and Pipes examines how they can be used to gain a better understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which defines the behavior in time in systems such as gases mixed in a container to the entire universe.

The paper was written as part of a course project in the physics/mathematics 380 course taught by Binder last semester.


Binder said the joint article is a good example of productive collaborations that frequently develop among faculty and students.

Pipes graduated last month with bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy.
“Robert was an outstanding student here, and I am very happy that he will be recognized for this work,” Binder said.

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