Speaker: Clint Sprott, University of Wisconsin/Dept. of Physics/Plasma
Abstract: Easter Island in the South Pacific, with an area the same as the city of Madison, is one of the most remote inhabited spots in the world, located over 2000 km from its nearest inhabited neighbor. As such, it offers an opportunity to study a relatively simple ecology with possible global implications. Its human population is thought to have grown to a peak of about 10,000 during the millenia leading up to the year 1700, and then to decline to a mere 110 by the year 1877. The usual explanation is that the inhabitants overconsumed the abundant palm trees that were used for cooking, housing, fishing boats, and for transporting the large stone statues for which the island is famous, leading to starvation, war, disease, and possibly cannibalism. In this talk, I will describe some recent simple mathematical models for the rise and fall of their civilization and will show that one of these models has chaotic solutions, not previously known.
This talk is available as a PowerPoint Presentation.