Animation of a 3-dimensional “chaotic attractor”. This particular visualisation is based on the “Hadley” attractor. It is named after the Hadley cell, a model of atmospheric circulation around the equator. This system was modeled with differential equations by Edward Lorenz in 1984, and is therefore also known as the Lorenz-84 system.

Systems of differential equations allow us to plot values over time, such as with these colourful ribbons. Attractors are systems where these values evolve towards a certain shape or pattern.

Attractors are chaotic if a small difference in input values can lead to wildly different trajectories. This effect is often referred to as the “butterfly effect”.