The general case: The celebrated Ergodic Theorems of George Birkhoff and von Neumann in the 1930’s gave rise to a mathematical formulation of Boltzmann’s Ergodic Hypothesis in thermodynamics. This reformulated hypothesis has been described by a variety of authors as the conjecture that ergodicity — a form of randomness of orbit distributions — should be“the general case” in conservative dynamics. I will discuss remarkable discoveries in the intervening century that show why such a hypothesis must be false in its most restrictive formulation but still survives in some contexts. In the end, I will begin to tackle the question, “When is ergodicity and other chaotic behavior the general case?”

Robust mechanisms for chaos, I: Geometry and the birth of stable ergodicity: The first general, robust mechanism for ergodicity was developed by E. Hopf in the 1930’s in the context of Riemannian geometry. Loosely put, Hopf showed that for a negatively curved, compact surface, the “typical” infinite geodesic fills the manifold in a very uniform way, a property called equidistribution. I will discuss Hopf’s basic idea in both topological and measure-theoretic settings and how it has developed into a widely applicable mechanism for chaotic behavior in smooth dynamics.

Robust mechanisms for chaos, II: Stable ergodicity and partial hyperbolicity: Kolmogorov introduced in the 1950’s a robust mechanism for {\em non-ergodicity}, which is now known as the KAM phenomenon (named for Kologorov, Arnol’d and Moser). A current, pressing problem in smooth dynamics is to understand the interplay between KAM and Hopf phenomena in specific classes of dynamical systems. I will describe a class of dynamical systems, called the {\em partially hyperbolic systems}, in which the two phenomena can in some sense be combined. I’ll also explain recent results that give strong evidence for the truth of a modified ergodic hypothesis in this setting, known as the Pugh-Shub stable ergodicity conjecture.