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What’s the butterfly effect...Add to favourite
The butterfly effect is a principle of the chaos theory. The concept was deeply embraced by the pop culture over the last decades; the 1990 movie “Havana” borrows the theory and prompts it like this:”A butterfly can flutter its wings over a flower in China and cause a hurricane in the Caribbean.
They can even calculate the odds". The 2004 thriller “The butterfly effect” starring Ashton Kutcher played along the same idea: the main character travels back in time in order to alter significant moments of his troubled childhood. To illustrate the butterfly principle, every little change he does in the past has dreary effect in the present.
For connoisseurs, the movie is pretty much a “Donnie Darko” for dummies.
Back to the theory, it’s easy to see that these movies got the idea precisely backwards. The theory isn’t meant to show that we could track such connections between independent and seemingly unrelated events. The bigger idea is meant to show that we can’t.
The only question to be raised in this topic is “How could we possibly tell what actually caused the storm when something as feeble as a butterfly could have done it?” This confusion really emphasizes the difference between the unaltered scientific truth and the attractively modified version that makes its way to the screen.
The origin of the butterfly effect is related to Edward Lorenz, meteorologist and mathematician. One day he was running weather simulations on the computer and he entered 0.506 instead of entering the full 0.506127. The result was a radically different weather scenario.
The conclusion to be drawn was that a small different input in the initial conditions may give birth to a massively altered result. Like the connection between a slight flip of a butterfly’s wings that happened to be in the right place at the right time and the great hurricane that occurred somewhere else on the planet.
The butterfly principle is even more wonderful as it applies to many aspects of our lives, to all the small decisions we take every day and it shows how every little thing is connected in the universe.
Philosophically, it reduces to preventing us from believing that the world is meant to be comprehended and that events around us make sense and happen for a reason. They don’t; it’s all about entropy or, how we call it, it’s a matter of luck.
• The original quote Lorenz used was “One meteorologist remarked that if the theory was correct, one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever.”
• Only later, at the recommendation of his colleagues, did he use the more poetic “butterfly” in his papers and speeches. Though the butterfly remained the same from that moment on, the location of the butterfly, the result and the location of the result varied.
• The theory is also used in a short story - and later a theater adaptation – written by the famous Ray Bradbury, “A sound of thunder”. The plot shows how the killing of a butterfly during the time of dinosaurs changed the future in small but significant ways: it influenced a political election and the spelling of English.
• A market analysis in 2007 showed that a hypothetical problem at Sony could affect transporters, retailers and business men all over the globe. Sony would be the Japanese butterfly to set off the chain.
• Since its arrival, the butterfly theory met a lot of contradictory ideas. The counter theories implied that the large systems that may experience a butterfly effect are complex enough to follow some kind of order, so it’s improper to be classified as “chaos”.
• There are also many voices arguing that theory isn’t applicable to the macroscopic world and that it only looks good on paper - beautiful “chaos-math”.
Published by Cristina Negrutu