The Butterfly Effect Essay

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Geography 1 5/12/14 The Butterfly Effect The butterfly effect is a term that has made it's way into popular culture thanks to movies and television, but the true meaning of the term is based on actual science. From a technical standpoint, it refers to the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory. This theory explains that tiny changes within a complex system, lead to results that are impossible to predict. The name “butterfly effect” was coined after the famous example, “does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”. This concept became well known in 1961 following the weather prediction model created by meteorologist Edward Lorenz. In brief, he discovered that changes that would normally be seen as statistically insignificant, led to completely different weather scenarios. While the concept of the butterfly effect was a significant breakthrough in meteorology, the practical applications to our complex world allowed this idea to transcend science and make it's way into everyones lives. If we look at the butterfly effect in a personal, everyday sense, it occurs all the time. It can begin with something as simple as you stubbing your toe before work. This in turn makes you late, you begin speeding in order to make it to work on time, you then get in a crash due to the speeding and someone is killed in the accident. You've not only impacted your own life in this case, but the other drivers life and anyone connected to them as well. This fictional scenario started with a simple stubbed toe which shows something that is seemingly insignificant can have a profound effect on the world. Regarding the butterfly effect on a global scale, we can look at planet earth and can easily apply the concept simply by treating the earth as if it were a “complex system”. We all inhabit this system and as a

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