Small causes can make large effects

The butterfly effect is a concept that states “small causes can have large effects”

This concept was initially used in theories about weather prediction but later the term became a popular metaphor in science writing.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

The term itself was coined by Edward Lorenz for the effect which had been known long before, and is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model with initial condition data that was rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.

The idea that small causes may have large effects in general and in weather specifically was used from Henri Poincaré to Norbert Wiener. Edward Lorenz’s work placed the concept of instability of the earth’s atmosphere onto a quantitative base and linked the concept of instability to the properties of large classes of dynamic systems which are undergoing nonlinear dynamics and deterministic chaos.

The butterfly effect can also be demonstrated by very simple systems. For example, the randomness of the outcomes of throwing dice depends on this characteristic to amplify small differences in initial conditions—the precise direction, thrust, and orientation of the throw—into significantly different dice paths and outcomes, which makes it virtually impossible to throw a dice exactly the same way twice.

Source : Wiki


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