Catastrophe theory has been applied, with varying degrees of success, to phenomena as diverse as earthquakes, stock market crashes, prison riots, and human conflicts, at the personal, group, and societal level. The theory was first developed by Thom in a paper published in 1968 but became well known through his book Structural Stability And Morphogenesis (1972).1 Many mathematicians took up the study of catastrophe theory and it was in tremendous vogue for a while, yet it never achieved the success that its younger cousin chaos theory has because it failed to live up to its promise of useful predictions.
Late in his career, the surrealist Salvador Dali painted Topological Abduction Of Europe: Homage To René Thom (1983), an aerial view of a seismically fractured landscape juxtaposed with the equation that strives to explain it.
Related categories CHAOS, COMPLEXITY, AND DYNAMICAL SYSTEMS
• SYSTEMS THEORY
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