O'Reilly logo

Information-Driven Business: How to Manage Data and Information for Maximum Advantage by Robert Hillard

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter 9. Complexity, Chaos, and System Dynamics

In the late nineteenth century, mankind was enormously confident in its mastery of the physical world. Engineers were reshaping society and physicists were confident they were masters of their universe. Only a few small niggles remained. For instance, no matter how carefully the orbit of Mercury was plotted, it never quite matched the equations, and there was also the strange behavior of light, which seemed to act like both a wave and a particle—but everyone was confident consistent explanations were close. Newtonian physics was king and no challenge was even contemplated.

Then, at the dawn of the twentieth century, an upstart patents clerk knocked over the first domino with the special theory of relativity, and the rest is history. (By the way, Einstein's slightly later general theory of relativity explains the minor inconsistency in the orbit of Mercury through the curvature of space-time.) We now know that Newtonian physics gives a very good description of the world that we deal in every day at the scale of millimeters through to kilometers but that it breaks down when we deal with the very small in particular (and, to a lesser extent, the very large).

Einstein's major contribution was the concept that the one constant of the universe is the speed of light and all else is measured relative to that. In fact, although it is usually described in terms of the speed of light, the foundation of the relativity is in fact a limit on the ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required