Department of Land, Air and Water Resources - University of California, Davis
Phone: +1 (530) 902-6030   Email:


Dr. Carlos E. Puente was born in Cartagena, Colombia and finished his high school at Colegio Alfonso Jaramillo in Bogotá in 1972. After completing undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Civil Engineering at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, he traveled to the United States in 1980 to pursue his graduate studies.

He enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received Master's degrees in Civil Engineering and Operations Research in 1983, and later on his Doctorate in Hydrology in 1984. After remaining at MIT as a Postgraduate Researcher, Dr. Puente joined the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at the University of California, Davis, where he was a Professor for 35 years, from 1986 to 2021.

Dr. Puente is the author of over 70 refereed publications, including the books Treasures inside the Bell: Hidden Order in Chance; The Hypotenuse: An Illustrated Scientific Parable for Turbulent Times, also available in Spanish, Italian and Farsi; and The Fig Tree & The Bell: Chaos, Complexity, and Christianity, also written in Spanish.

His research efforts pertain to: (i) the development and application of fractal geometric ideas to hydrology and geophysics, (ii) the study of an unsuspected route to the Gaussian distribution, the famous bell related with the concept of independence, via iterations of simple mappings, and (iii) the search of linkages between natural and man-made complexity, leading to an unexpected bridge from modern science to Christian faith.

Dr. Puente and his collaborators developed a new deterministic approach aimed at addressing the ever elusive problem of geophysical (hydrologic) complexity. Reminiscent of the Platonic notion of reality being a "shadow,” the ideas are based on studying the many interesting projection patterns obtained while using multifractal measures, commonly present in the study of turbulence in the air, to "illuminate" the so-called fractal interpolating functions.

Dr. Puente’s group established that such notions give rise to a host of patterns over one, two and three dimensions, that may be used to faithfully model a variety of complex geophysical sets, that include rainfall and streamflow time series gathered over a year; pollution spatial patterns in porous medium, and both arbitrary chaotic and "random" time series. It was concluded that while the prediction of pollution in porous medium is possible employing the notions, the ideas not always result in accurate predictions of rainfall and runoff, as the noticeable natural variations, from event to event and/or from year to year, prevent defining trends in successive parameters, thus reaffirming the overall complexity of hydrologic processes.

Experimenting with these same concepts, Dr. Puente discovered that arbitrary illuminations of space-filling fractal interpolating functions, objects that are topologically one-dimensional but that have fractal dimensions that tend to two or three, always result in Gaussian distributions, over one or higher dimensions. This surprisingly universal result, linking the famous bell with fractal objects, provided a counterintuitive conduit between disorder and order, for based on the multifractals of the violent turbulence one arrives always to the calmed diffusion of the bell, reversing the dissipation of energy into its conduction, or said in other words, transmuting death into life.

While attempting to prove the validity of the Gaussian result over two dimensions, Dr. Puente stumbled upon the stunning presence of a host of treasures inside the bell. These are beautiful and exotic mathematical designs that decompose the circular Gaussian distribution into crystalline patterns of arbitrary symmetries, which surprisingly include the geometric structure of nature’s ice crystals and also biochemical rosettes, comprising even life’s own DNA coded via the binary expansion of pi.

Inspired by his discovery of a transformation capable of taking turbulence into the Gaussian curve, and, in particular, by the presence of one peculiar case always positive that yields a bell centered at infinity, Dr. Puente experienced an epiphany that led him to a deeper appreciation of his Christian faith, as shared in detail with celebrated Nobel prize winner José Saramago. Such an unforgettable reawakening, that defined a before and an after, provided a new vantage point to his life, for, from then on, he started noticing that other universal results pertaining to the advent of natural complexity, including deterministic chaos and its Feigenbaum diagram (the fig tree in German), could be used as truthful metaphors to address man-made complexity, leading to useful and impartial lessons for inner and world peace, which turn out to be consonant with the wisdom in the Holy Bible and, in particular, with the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ.

In regards to this topic, Dr. Puente wrote a trilogy of papers in the journal E:CO with the common title "Lessons from complexity," another trilogy of thorough articles from Science to Faith in the theology journal Omega, and, based on such works, the books The Hypotenuse and The Fig Tree and the Bell. Starting in 2002, he used such materials to teach at UC Davis, a record number of 44 times, a popular First Year seminar entitled Chaos, Complexity and Christianity, a formal class that since 2023 is part of the curriculum of the Master's program in Science and Faith at Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, in Rome. In regards to these topics and in an attempt to appeal to both sides of the brain, Dr. Puente has also written a collection of poems-songs in two languages, with the ones in Spanish appearing, with due explanations, in his blog Campanitas de Fe (Little bells of faith) and with some recorded professionally and archived on YouTube under the rubric Puente de Paz: X = Y.

Dr. Puente has shared numerous presentations in Hydrology, Complexity, Peace, and Science and Religion at several national and international forums. In 2016 and to join in the celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy, he prepared a series of special lectures under the title "From Modern Science to God's Mercy." Trying to contribute, he shares, wherever he can, a series of lectures “From the science of complexity to the love of Jesus".

For his contributions he has been named Fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design. He is also a member of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

Dr. Puente lives in Davis, California with his wife and two daughters, in a house whose back yard contains two fig trees, one of which is adorned by a hanging bell that rings sweet reminders.