The Butterfly Effect:  Small Events, Big Changes

The Butterfly Effect: Small Events, Big Changes

 

The smallest of occurrences holds within it the capability to alter the course of history forever. This is commonly known as the butterfly effect - a fascinating phenomenon. 

The premise behind it is that the flap of a butterfly's wing can be the final trigger that provides the momentum for a tornado to develop and ravage a small town.  The effect was born into modern science by an MIT meteorology professor named Edward Lorenz, after he inadvertently discovered it during an experiment in 1961.

Lorenz was repeating a weather simulation he'd run many times before that utilized 12 different variables to model potential outcomes.  That day, he rounded one of these variables from .506127 to .506 and what resulted was an entirely different weather scenario, transforming the output of his program over 2 months of simulated weather.

When you break down any event in history, you can trace back to see that it's the sum of everything that came before it.  One thing seems to lead to another in a sequential way, and it makes sense.  Yet a world under the influence of the butterfly effect means that it's nearly impossible to predict the future.  

It applies to everything.  You might drop a dollar on the ground without realizing it and continue about your day - a minor inconvenience for most people.  But maybe there's a lost traveler trying to find his way back home.  Maybe that dollar is the last bit he needed to buy a bus ticket and seeing it on the ground filled him with a warming relief he hadn't felt in a while.  Or maybe that dollar will blow around in the wind for months before a young kid plucks it out of a bush the next town over and buys himself an ice cream cone without telling his parents.  A proud moment of independence in his little, young life.  

Who knows what tiny events may have occurred to make our planet habitable for life...  Do we really know how fragile that whole process was?  How close things might've been to not panning out in this way?  Perhaps a mammoth asteroid just missed colliding with Earth 1,000,000 years ago, after having been set off course by a collision with a rock the size of my hand.  How perfect is this world we inhabit today? 

When I stop and think about it, the butterfly effect gives a whole new perspective on every moment and how far the impacts of our actions can cascade through the world.  The interesting thing is that I'll never witness the effects of all the tornadoes I've started throughout my life.  But by reflecting on what's possible, and how far the ripples of my actions carry, I'm left with more incentive to act with kindness and purpose.  

 
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