The Secret Life of Chaos

Chaos theory conjures up images of unpredictable weather, economic crashes and science gone wrong. But there is a fascinating and hidden side to chaos, one that scientists are only now beginning to understand. 

Winner Best Film: International Science Film Festival 2010

1 x 60 minutes for BBC4

How nature transforms simplicity into complexity

In The Secret Life of Chaos, a Furnace film for BBC 4, Professor Jim Al-Khalili sets out to uncover one of the great mysteries of science – how does a universe that starts off as dust end up with intelligent life? How does order emerge from disorder?

It’s a mind bending, counterintuitive and for many people, deeply troubling idea. But over a breathtaking sixty minutes Professor Al-Khalili reveals the science behind much of the beauty and structure in the natural world and discovers that far from it being magic or an act of God, it is in fact an intrinsic part of the laws of physics.  Amazingly it turns out that the mathematics of Chaos can explain how and why the universe creates exquisite order and pattern.

And the best thing? You don’t need to be a scientist to understand it. The natural world is full of awe-inspiring examples of the way nature transforms simplicity into complexity. From trees to clouds to humans – once you’ve seen The Secret Life of Chaos you’ll never be able to look at the world in the same way again.


  • This crash course in chaos theory was brilliant – although I did have to watch it twice.  Jim Al-Khalili is a brilliant presenter, clear and engaging… the science was beautifully woven in with the human stories of  pioneers such as Alan Turing

    The Guardian
  • Never let it be said that BBC4 documentaries don’t aim high.   This approachable and fascinating film… which over the course of an hour bowls along far more merrily than the subject matter suggests it has any right to…  sees Professor Jim Al-Khalili addressing the biggest questions of all: how did we get here? And where are we going?

    Time Out
  • Jim Al-Khalili delivers a mind-blowing examination of the weird relationship between order and chaos in the natural world.  It’s a terrific mix of vivid storytelling, big ideas and stunning visuals.  It’s only the second week of January and already here’s a candidate for science documentary of the year.

    Radio Times