We review several examples of nonlinear mechanical and electrical systems and related mathematical models that display chaotic dynamics or strange attractors. Some simple mathematical models — iterated piecewise linear mappings — are introduced to explain and illustrate the concepts of sensitive dependence on initial conditions and chaos. In particular, we describe the role of homoclinic orbits and the horseshoe map in the generation of chaos, and indicate how the existence of such features can be detected in specific nonlinear differential equations.

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