Kaplan-Yorke attractor (created with Dynamics)
Information about this year's Laureates from the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan
Baltimore Sun Article | Washington Post Article

Article from the UM newsdesk:
For Immediate Release
December 18, 2002
Contacts: Lee Tune, 301 405 4679 or ltune@accmail.umd.edu

Maryland Professor James Yorke Shares Japan Prize

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- University of Maryland Professor James Yorke, a founder and leader of the field of chaos theory, today was named a winner of the 2003 Japan Prize.

The Science and Technology Foundation of Japan announced that Yorke and Benoit Mandelbrot of Yale University will share $400,000 (50 million yen) for the Creation of Universal Concepts in Complex Systems--Chaos and Fractals in the prize category of Science and Technology of Complexity. Past winners of the Japan prize include Robert Gallo for the co-discovery of the HIV virus, Timothy Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, MIT's Marvin Minsky for his seminal artificial intelligence work, and Johns Hopkins' Donald Henderson (with others) for the eradication of smallpox. "For a scientist to be awarded the Japan Prize is a distinction as great as any in the world," said University of Maryland President C.D. Mote Jr. "Jim Yorke has now been officially recognized for his original achievements in nonlinear dynamics that have monumentally advanced the frontiers of science and technology and served the cause of peace and prosperity for mankind. I am so pleased for him and for the inspiration his recognition will provide for others who by pursuing their passions can hope to have an impact as great as Jim's."

Making Sense Out of Randomness

Numerous complex patterns of behavior are found in dynamics phenomena such as the motion of the planets, turbulence in water and air, variations of populations of species in ecological systems, and many other instances. These patterns of behavior are described by nonlinear evolution equations. Yorke, the only professor at the University of Maryland to hold appointments in both mathematics and physics, has described the universal mechanism underlying such phenomena and the ramifications of such phenomena. Professor Yorke, who in 1975 coined the use of the term chaos for the mathematical study of nonlinear dynamic systems, has played a leading role in further development of research into chaos, including its controls and applications.

"All along the goal of myself and my fellow chaos researchers here at Maryland has been to find the concepts that the applied scientist needs." Yorke said. "Our group introduced to the field many basic concepts with exotic names like "crises," "the control of chaos," "fractal basin boundaries," "strange non-chaotic attractors" and the "Kaplan-Yorke dimension." One of the areas where Yorke has been doing just that is in the application of chaos theory to weather prediction. Three years ago, Yorke and a team of University of Maryland researchers that also included meteorologists and computer scientists, took an important step towards improving weather forecasting when they discovered not all chaos on a weather map is equal.

Yorke and his team found that there are atmospheric "hot spots," regions in which small changes in local conditions are most likely to turn into large changes in weather. The team is currently using these discoveries in the development of computer models that will more accurately forecast the weather.

"Many universities will tell you that they have faculty that 'create' chaos, said Physics Department Chair Jordan Goodman. "We have one that not only invented it, but also named it and understands it. On behalf of the entire Physics Department, I am very proud of Jim's extraordinary accomplishments. He has led our nonlinear dynamics group to many successes over the years and now he deserves this prestigious Japan Prize and all of our sincerest congratulations."

Nearly Forty Years of Research at Maryland

Professor Yorke earned his bachelors degree from Columbia University in 1963. He then came to the University of Maryland for graduate studies, in part because of interdisciplinary opportunities offered by the faculty of the university's Institute for Physical Sciences and Technology (IPST). Established in 1950, the institute is committed to interdisciplinary research in the sciences. After receiving his doctoral degree in mathematics from Maryland in 1966, Yorke stayed at the university, first as a member of IPST and then for 16 years as its director. Today, Yorke, who holds the title of Distinguished University Professor, continues to be a member of IPST as well as of the mathematics and physics Departments. He is a founding member of Maryland's nonlinear dynamics and chaos research group, ranked number one nationally by U.S. News and World Report.

Professor Yorke's current research projects range from chaos theory and weather prediction to genome research to the population dynamics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He has coauthored three books on chaos, a monograph on gonorrhea epidemiology, and is currently writing a book on AIDS transmission dynamics with Fred Suppe.

Japan Prize Ceremony in April

The announcement of the 2003 Japan Prize laureates was made in Tokyo by the foundation, which has awarded Japan Prizes since 1985 under the auspices of the Japanese prime minister. One of the most esteemed of science technology prizes, Japan Prizes are given to scientists whose "original and outstanding achievements in science and technology are recognized as having advanced the frontiers of knowledge and served the cause of peace and prosperity for mankind." In addition to naming Yorke and Mandelbrot as winners in science and technology of complexity category, the foundation named Ogawa Seiji of Japan as winner of the Visualizing Techniques in Medicine category. Seiji was selected for work leading to functional magnetic resonance imaging. The presentation ceremony for the three winners will be held in Tokyo in April.