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​The Butterfly Effect: The Theory of Cause and Effect


In the natural sciences, there is a concept that denotes a property of a number of chaotic systems. It is this concept that is the so-called butterfly effect, the theory of which implies that any, even the smallest and most insignificant action, can lead to the most incredible, large-scale and significant changes at another time and in another place.

The emergence of the term

The concept of the "butterfly effect" itself was first mentioned in 1972 by Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist from the United States. The thing is that Lorenz observed weather changes using a computerized model. It was inconvenient to use very long digital series, so he simply rounded them, believing that this would not affect the final result in any way.

Imagine Lorenz’s surprise when it turned out that rounding even such small and seemingly insignificant numbers can radically change the entire forecast. Surprised by his discovery, the meteorologist wrote an article entitled "Prediction: Butterfly flap in Brazil will set off a tornado in Texas" and submitted it to Washington.

This article refuted the assertion that everything that happens in the world is subject to strict laws, and all causes exclusively clearly follow from the consequences. What the butterfly effect is about is that any of our actions, even the smallest, in the future can lead to the most unexpected consequences.

​The Butterfly Effect: The Theory of Cause and Effect

Chaos theory

Chaos theory is a special branch of research in which physics and mathematics are interconnected. According to her, in complex systems (of which society, the atmosphere, or a population of a biological species can serve as examples), everything depends primarily on the initial conditions.

Simply put, such a mathematical apparatus is necessary in order to describe the behavior of some physical systems that cannot be described using only the laws of physics. Even super-powerful computers cannot cope with such a complex system.

Predictions that can be obtained using chaos theory are rather generalized, since they are based only on the likely behavior of a particular system. The reason for this inaccuracy lies in the fact that it is impossible to find out absolutely thoroughly what the initial conditions were.

​The Butterfly Effect: The Theory of Cause and Effect

How are these concepts related?

Butterfly effect, chaos theory – often these expressions can be found together. So what is the relationship between them then? The thing is that the concept of dynamic chaos itself, which is just used in chaos theory, has one of its main properties that insignificant changes in the fundamental conditions of the system will cause such a sequence of events that will lead to large-scale changes in the future. .

It turns out that the butterfly effect is a property of a chaotic system. And in itself, chaos in this case appears only as an accident, which theoretically can be predicted or predicted.

That is, it can be said that seemingly very small and imperceptible differences in the initial conditions will eventually cause incredibly large differences. Any change we make now will one day affect our future. But when this will happen and what the scale of these changes will be, we cannot now know.

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