Arcadia: An Iterated Algorithm 12th Grade

Nature is the embodiment of science and mathematics. From Valentine's grouse to Thomasina’s leaf to human interactions, mathematics transcend the boundaries of mere numbers and symbols to create patterns that function to explain the universe. Yet, paradoxically, the most constant form of nature is its unpredictability. In his play Arcadia, Tom Stoppard examines this enigma: he demonstrates that in the midst of the rigid structure of the patterns and equations, there are inevitable variables that create a chaos that prevents one from completely predicting the future or recreating the past. Through the coexistence of disorder and order in the play, Stoppard incorporates the theory of deterministic chaos in iterated algorithms to depict the limits of human knowledge.

The laws of Newtonian Mechanics dictate a rigid and predetermined structure of the universe. Because an atom lacks many variables in its behavior in space and time, Thomasina claims that if one “stops every atom in its position and direction,” then a “formula for all the future” can be obtained (5). Hence, in the absence of noise or errors, the universe follows Newton’s laws; there exists a single formula which calculates and outputs the exact state of the atom at any...

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