Slim fractals: The geometry of doubly transient chaos

Xiaowen Chen, Takashi Nishikawa, Adilson E. Motter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Traditional studies of chaos in conservative and driven dissipative systems have established a correspondence between sensitive dependence on initial conditions and fractal basin boundaries, but much less is known about the relation between geometry and dynamics in undriven dissipative systems. These systems can exhibit a prevalent form of complex dynamics, dubbed doubly transient chaos because not only typical trajectories but also the (otherwise invariant) chaotic saddles are transient. This property, along with a manifest lack of scale invariance, has hindered the study of the geometric properties of basin boundaries in these systems-most remarkably, the very question of whether they are fractal across all scales has yet to be answered. Here, we derive a general dynamical condition that answers this question, which we use to demonstrate that the basin boundaries can indeed form a true fractal; in fact, they do so generically in a broad class of transiently chaotic undriven dissipative systems. Using physical examples, we demonstrate that the boundaries typically form a slim fractal, which we define as a set whose dimension at a given resolution decreases when the resolution is increased. To properly characterize such sets, we introduce the notion of equivalent dimension for quantifying their relation with sensitive dependence on initial conditions at all scales. We show that slim fractal boundaries can exhibit complex geometry even when they do not form a true fractal and fractal scaling is observed only above a certain length scale at each boundary point. Thus, our results reveal slim fractals as a geometrical hallmark of transient chaos in undriven dissipative systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021040
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 8 2017


  • Nonlinear dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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