It came not from a petri dish, a beaker or an astronomical observatory, but from the vacuum tubes and diodes of a Royal McBee LGP-30.
When visualized in a certain way, they seemed to prowl around a shape called a strange attractor.
Scientists soon encountered other unpredictable natural systems that looked random even though they weren’t: the rings of Saturn, blooms of marine algae, Earth’s magnetic field, the number of salmon in a fishery.
In the paper’s acknowledgments, Lorenz had written, “Special thanks are due to Miss Ellen Fetter for handling the many numerical computations.”
“Jesus … who is Ellen Fetter?” Rothman recalls thinking at the time.
She recalls being out at a party at three or four a.m., realizing that the LGP-30 wasn’t set to produce results by the next morning, and rushing over with a few friends to start it up.