Carroll and Pecora’s paper is cited over 7,000 times out of more than 50 million articles and proceedings indexed in the Web of Science since 1970, only 5,700 or .01 percent have been cited 2,000 or more times.
Authors from this group are identified and selected as Citation Laureates. They are individuals whose research reports are highly cited and whose contributions to science have been extremely influential, even transformative.
“It is an honor to have so many other scientists using our work,” Carroll said. “As scientists, we all want to do something that makes a difference, and this award shows we have succeeded.”
Carroll and Pecora’s basic research in nonlinear dynamics is the study of how to model, analyze, and measure systems evolving in time, sometimes in complicated ways, including the motion now called "chaos."
Synchronization of chaotic systems started as a basic scientific idea, but the concept of chaotic systems has been widely applied to biology, communications, machine learning, and radar.
“Chaotic signals look like noise to an uninformed observer, but with the right knowledge they can carry information, which can be decoded by chaotic synchronization,” Carroll said. “Recent work has even used chaotic signals to combine communications with radar on the same signal, leading to less spectrum congestion.”
Many machine-learning techniques such as reservoir computing depend on the principles of chaotic synchronization.
“Neither Tom or I thought this would happen, in a lot of scientific breakthroughs serendipity plays a role,” Pecora said. “We came along when there was just enough known about nonlinear dynamics to take to the next step and produce something interesting and, hopefully, useful.”
Carroll and Pecora in 1990 developed a method to synchronize chaotic systems, which they confirmed with simulations and experiments. This greatly stimulated research into the uses of chaos for communication and resulted in a Physical Review Letter entitled "Synchronization in Chaotic Systems,” which is now the 11th most cited paper in Physical Review Letters.
“The research described in the paper was a breakthrough on how to construct a new dynamical system in which two chaotic systems came into complete synchrony,” Pecora said. “This caused an avalanche of research, leading to another ground-breaking paper by Carroll and Pecora on synchronizing dynamical systems in arbitrarily structured networks.”