Mathematical Digest
Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics in the Popular Press"Flirting With Catastrophe, " by Robert H. Leary. Science, 14 September 2001, page 2013. This short article describes the application of catastrophe theory to the studyof potential energy surfaces (PES's). PES's govern the behavior of atomic andmolecular assemblies, and they are often conceptualized as ndimensionallandscapes determined by some number of parameters. When one of theseparameters is perturbed, critical points in the landscapesbasins, peaks, andpassesmay suddenly appear or disappear. These "catastrophes" can beanalyzed mathematically, and their possible behaviors can be classified as longas the number of parameters does not exceed 5.  Rafe Jones
