by: Tom Stoppard

Important Quotations Explained

When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backwards, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before. Do you think this is odd?

Thomasina speaks this quote to Septimus in the first scene of the play. This quote reveals Thomasina's scientific curiosity, even while eating her rice pudding. Thomasina attempts to find scientific explanations for the world around her and, quite successfully, sees the basis of chaos theory in the movement of the jam in her bowl. The trails of jam move toward a larger disorder that cannot be stirred back together by going the other direction. This move toward greater and greater disorder is characteristic of chaos theory as explained by Valentine later on. Chaos theory, Valentine explains to Hannah, helps scientists get closer to the everyday happenings of things around them from "what happens in a cup of coffee." Like the repeated algorithm in iteration, the jam continues to be more disorder because of where it came from; each equation uses the answer of the last equation for its unknown values. In other words, the iteration or stirring continues and the equation continually changes.