The conception of randomness

Randomness is defined as a lack of pattern or predictability to events. It has been studied by Mathematicians, Statisticians, Biologists and even Bankers for hundreds of years. Some have even given it formal definitions and equations to try to harness it.

The enigma of random has fascinated scientists as if it were some property of the universe that has escaped true understanding. The Chinese were using random in games of chance and divination over 3,000 years ago, and the Greeks debated its properties at length – but it wasn’t until the 16th Century that it was quantified by Italian Mathematicians and was codified as Calculus.

In the modern day, it has been applied to many branches of science: from the genetic mutation of cells to the decay of a single unstable atom. In computation, randomised algorithms have been seen to perform better than deterministic ones.

By far the most interesting part of random for me is in the field of Chaos Theory. Chaotic systems tend to begin as predictable, deterministic and then after a while appear to become random. Weather is a good example of a Chaos system, the longer range the forecast, the more unpredictable it is.

There are many variables to a Chaos system, but the one I love the sound of is the ‘Strange Attractor,’ that is used to describe a fractal structure created by the evolution of a series of supposedly random numbers (or coordinates on a graph).


Image by Nicolas Desprez –, CC BY-SA 3.0,