Phase Space, a study of chaos

A collaboration with Jill Naiman and Rachel Strickler




Phase Space is a study of the nature of chaotic systems. A double pendulum-a pendulum mounted onto the bottom of another pendulum-is a system that swiftly becomes unpredictable, yielding a wide variety of exciting and unpredictable movements. To give light to some aspects of this chaotic system, a display next to the pendulum produces 'drawings' of various physical quantities of the pendulum's movement.

When a chaotic system is mapped in a six-dimensional space (also known as “phase space”: three spatial dimensions and a corresponding velocity to each), it becomes possible to display properties of both deterministic and chaotic systems. The resulting plot, called a “surface of section”, can be used to see order within a chaotic system. This order from chaos reveals the deeper nature of chaotic system.


The pendulum consists of steel pipe bent into rings and put on ball bearings. Two sensors send back its position along with a timestamp to a computer. That information is then processed to display a number of different physical quantities chosen by the viewer.


Technical Info

Produced through the Art and Physics Research Laboratory at UCSC