I think the Butterfly effect (Or the Chaos Theory) is an interesting thing. In fact, I would go as far as saying I think it is amazingly interesting.
Let’s take for example, you’re on a snow covered mountain, your village is at the bottom of the mountain (a good two miles down). You pick up a clump of snow, roll it into a ball and throw it at your village. Obviously you aren’t going to hit your village. You’re two miles up into the mountains. So you walk back down to go home. Upon getting home you see the local post office half destroyed and covered in a mound of snow.
When you threw that small clump of snow, you didn’t realise that it would roll as far as it did. It rolled, grew, rolled faster, grew faster until it was a giant force to be reckoned with and eventually met the small village and ended up in the front window of the local post office.
Things like this can happen all the time. Some effects are noticeable, some aren’t. One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever. If that’s true then some seaside towns are in for a troublesome time.
The famous expression of the concept has been the butterfly. Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? Although the location of the butterfly changes, the concept remains the same to this day.
The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. Note that the butterfly does not power or directly create the tornado. The flap of the wings is a part of the initial conditions; one set of conditions leads to a tornado while the other set of conditions doesn’t. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different – it’s possible that the set of conditions without the butterfly flapping its wings is the set that leads to a tornado.
Possibly one of the most interesting things to think about the next time to see a butterfly out in your garden. Could the tiny wings of that butterfly be causing a terrible hurricane across the other side of the world?