We wanted to create a simple and elegant physical embodiment of a dynamic system. The aim is to allow an individual to readily and intuitively observe many of the principles contained within the field of dynamic systems. Exploring the areas of patterns, kinetic art and magnetism we wanted to create a model that surprises us. More specifically we wished to examine the idea of many identical parts producing an unpredictable result, and the concept of small differences in initial conditions manifesting themselves as large variations – in this case the movement of the various arms of our model.
In a dynamical system the evolution rule states that there exists a fixed rule that describes what future states follow from the current state. Thus, an iterative process must be used to solve for the collection of future points, known as a trajectory or orbit. These trajectories, and dynamical systems in general, are highly dependent upon their initial conditions. Small initial variations may turn out to effect large variations in the long-term behavior of the system. This effect was, to some degree, evident in our models. In both the computer simulations and the physical kinetic sculpture various initial conditions produced widely varying patterns.
The audience can experience this same phenomenon on an intuitive level through the large-scale dynamical system we have constructed. For example, when one of the arms is turned we are not surprised that this initial motion in turn affects other arms. However, the actual path of the movement across the grid is highly unpredictable. Sometimes there is almost no motion, and at others we can see `lines' of motion extending to the opposite edge. At the same time as it is unpredictable, we also recognize that it is not irrational. Additionally, after a bit of time we can come to see that recognizable patterns do in fact appear, and we can come to a limited understanding, at least in terms of the immediately adjacent arms, as to what movement will result from the turn of a particular arm.
In many ways we think this can be seen as a metaphor
for life itself. Every human being is a complex system, both physically and
mentally, and the world we find ourselves immersed in is composed of many
overlapping complex systems: nature, society, the economy and so on. In each
of these systems we are acutely aware of both how great an impact a small
change in condition may have in the future, as well as the increasing difficulty
of prediction the farther into the future we attempt to look.