Thursday Forum embraces chaos

Extra: Lonnie Zingula, Associate Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8613 or

2012-02-23 15:21:04 - General

What do the formation of snowflakes, the shape of a sea coast, and “Jurassic Park” have in common? What do the movements of a pinball machine ball, the weather, and the motion of Neptune have in common? They are all related to chaos, the subject of March’s Thursday Forum at Coe College.

The scientific and mathematical term “chaos” did not exist until the mid-1980s, at which time it was often dismissed by those who found the principles behind the theory unsettling. This forum will focus on the history, intrigue and divisions created in the scientific and mathematical communities due to this new idea in the 1980s as well as descriptions of how the theory is now being used to predict our limitations under some circumstances.

Forum participants will learn some new terminology, such as strange attractors or fractals. Attendees will learn about the contributions made by the relatively unknown Mitchell Feigenbaum and Edward Lorenz that assured that this branch of mathematics is taken seriously. The audience will get to experience chaotic art and music, and you might even learn how to draw your own fractal.

Longtime forum attendees may remember that Coe College’s beloved Mathematics Professor Charles Lindsay presented a Thursday Forum titled “Order and Chaos” in March 1991. Dean of the Faculty Marie Baehr revisits this topic in tribute to Dr. Lindsay, in the spirit of his love of learning, and guided by his forum notes, which Phyllis Lindsay presented to her last year, over a decade after her husband’s death in 1998.

The lectures will be held in Kesler Lecture Hall in Hickok Hall on the Coe campus. Each session begins with coffee and pastries from 8:45-9:15 a.m., followed by the class until 11:30 a.m. The series will conclude with a luncheon on March 29.

The courses are open to all adults and registration is on-site. The cost is $30 for a four-week course or $10 per week. The closing luncheons cost an additional $8. Thursday Forum gift certificates are available. For more information about the Coe College Thursday Forum lecture series, call (319) 399-8619.

Thursday Forum schedule:

  • “The Order in Chaos” – March 8, 15, 22, 29.
  • “Environmental Issues: Past, Present and Future” – April 5, 12, 19, 26.