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Quantum Chaos – A Launching Point for Discovery

by Kathy Chambers on Mon, October 19, 2015

Image credit: NASAImage credit: NASA

Like a beautiful sunset, the wobble of the moon, or the formation of a cloud, simple systems we are familiar with cannot be predicted because they are sensitive to small variations in their present conditions.  This unpredictable behavior is called chaos.

Before the 20th century, these unpredictable behaviors were known to be consistent with classical or Newtonian theory, but we now know these theories are incomplete. Quantum theory has been found to account for a much wider range of phenomena, including atomic and smaller phenomena that classical theory got wrong, so quantum physics is thought to underlie all physical processes.  Yet it’s not immediately apparent how quantum physical laws allow for chaotic systems’ sensitivity to their initial conditions.  

Quantum chaos is the branch of physics that studies the relationship between quantum mechanics and classical chaos.  Researchers are taking the conditions that cause chaotic behavior in these simple systems and are studying them on the atomic level.  Quantum chaos is being used as a launching point for discovery and to create new models in the exotic, quantum world to further understand the familiar, classical models of physics throughout our universe.  

Research and academic communities have an entire science and technology library available 24/7 at, providing access to DOE-sponsored, free collections of research papers, journal articles, e-prints and preprints, datasets, patents, and multimedia databases. delivers scientific resources from U.S. federal agencies, and leads users to information from international science organizations.  Those interested in quantum chaos research will find this library invaluable.  Read more about quantum chaos theory also in Dr. William Watson’s latest white paper In the OSTI Collections: Quantum Chaos.

Page last updated on 2017-03-16 08:50

About the Author

Kathy Chambers's picture
Kathy Chambers
Technical Writer, Information International Associates, Inc.