Simanaitis Says

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SOMEHOW, STUDYING the etymology of the word “chaos” makes current events seem less disruptive to rational thought. Yesterday was a start; today, we celebrate three forms of the word, spelled and applied variously by Maxwell Smart, Richard Nixon and today’s mathematicians.

TV’s KAOS.. The TV spy spoof Get Smart pitted CONTROL’s Agents 86 and 99 against KAOS, an international organization of evil. This satire originally ran for five seasons, 1965 through 1969, and continues in syndication.

Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, portrayed by Don Adams, 1923–2005, was a spy who managed to overcome his bumbling nature through resourcefulness, bravery, and luck. Barbara Feldon, Pennsylvania-born in 1933, played Agent 99, Smart’s tall, beautiful colleague. Fang, played by Red, was in only seasons one and two.

Agents 86 and 99 with Fang (Agent K 13).

In season four, Agents 86 and 99 marry; in season five, they continue their spy careers even after the birth of twins. It’s conjectured Agent 99 became the first women in American sitcom history to keep her job after marriage and motherhood.

Many of us remember Get Smart for Max’s shoe phone and for Agent 99’s foxiness.

Operation CHAOS. In 1969, President Richard Nixon consolidated existing domestic surveillance operations into Operation CHAOS. Its initial purpose was to have the Central Intelligence Agency monitor U.S. citizens objecting to the war in Vietnam. Before long, the CIA had expanded surveillance to other counter-culture groups with no particular antiwar connections.

Isn’t that always the way?

These included the civil rights and women’s movements, as well as Jewish groups such as the B’nai B’rith. At one point, Operation CHAOS data acquisition included purchase of a garbage collection firm that serviced B’nai B’rith headquarters and the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.

Does anyone think the satire of Get Smart is corny and unnecessary?

Maybe yesterday’s news might change your opinion: According to the (non-fake news, non-failing) Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice had demanded the 1.3 million IP addresses of those who visited a website set up to coordinate protests on the last Inauguration Day.

You might remember the event; it was the one with the greatest crowd in history.

Chaos, as exhibited by a double pendulum. Video by Dirk Brockmann.

Mathematical Chaos. It may seem odd that mathematics includes something called chaos theory. But, in fact, chaotic behavior has recognizable characteristics, namely in its unpredictable divergence from a steady course when perturbed ever so slightly.

Note, chaos is not randomness; it is deterministic, but with this extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. Mathematician Edward Lorenz, a chaos theory pioneer in the 1960s, described it as “when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

Weather is chaotic, in that the slightest change in one place can result in devastation in another. The classic example of chaos sounds far-fetched, but it’s not fake: The flutter of butterfly wings in the Amazon can lead to a blizzard in Duluth, Minnesota. Or a mere flutter of political happenings can lead to a blizzard of tweets.

For completeness of earlier etymological fun here at SimanaitisSays, I cite bully pulpit, hypocrisy, idiot, and witch hunt.

Add chaos to this continuing theme. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017

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