Butterfly effect – Deterministic nonperiodic flow

Peace by Lee Rosevere

Deterministic nonperiodic flow

On a winter day 50 years ago, Edward Lorenz, SM ‘43, ScD ‘48, a mild-mannered meteorology professor at MIT, entered some numbers into a computer program simulating weather patterns and then left his office to get a cup of coffee while the machine ran. When he returned, he noticed a result that would change the course of science.The computer model was based on 12 variables, representing things like temperature and wind speed, whose values could be depicted on graphs as lines rising and falling over time. On this day, Lorenz was repeating a simulation he’d run earlier but he had rounded off one variable from .506127 to .506. To his surprise, that tiny alteration drastically transformed the whole pattern his program produced, over two months of simulated weather.

The unexpected result led Lorenz to a powerful insight about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences. The idea came to be known as the “butterfly effect” after Lorenz suggested that the flap of a butterfly’s wings might ultimately cause a tornado. And the butterfly effect, also known as “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” has a profound corollary: forecasting the future can be nearly impossible.

The Butterfly Effect

This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results. Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle.


My Butterfly Effect

Almost five years ago she was the first one to say hello to me,
Who would of known that such a simple thing like one word could change your whole life,
Here I sit writing this five years later,
Two days after our biggest fight,
She said hello and I said hi back that was all,
The spark of the best friendship that I’ve ever had and it started with hi just because I was new,
Her and I have been through so many things,
From helping her realize the controlling boyfriend she had when I met her to dealing with the new one,
From being friends to best friends,
I go everywhere with her and I never really thought much about it,
I always had feelings for her and sometimes I expressed them other times I felt  best not to,
I never thought she understood,
Until two days ago during our biggest fight,
She said I can’t be your friend any longer,
When I asked why she said,
Because I can’t be near you without wondering what we’d be like together,
Funny how things seem to work,
I guess that maybe when life throws you a lemon it’s really just not quite ripe enough to give you candy,
It’s funny to think that when she said “hello” she started my….

my butterfly effect.


Lorentz JAS Deterministic nonperiodic flow 1963



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