Is the ‘Butterfly Effect’ actually a genuine occurrence?
The ‘Butterfly Effect’ is a concept researched by Edward Lorenz. In theory, the concept states that a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the globe can cause a hurricane on the other. This has since become a popular metaphor; ‘small causes can have larger effects’. But is it really true?
According to meticulous research, this seemingly-absurd concept could actually be genuine. Studies have shown that a butterfly could actually cause a hurricane – if the weather, wind direction and wind speed are perfect for the occasion.
The beginnings of the theory of the Butterfly Effect were first developed by two mathematicians called Henri Poincaré and Norbert Wiener before Edward Lorenz advanced further on the theory and gave it a name.
Edward Lorenz researched the Butterfly Effect through building a model of the way air moves around the atmosphere. Through this study, he realised that sometimes the weather patterns could be wild and unpredictable. He found out that very small changes could lead to colossal effects. This means that a weather forecast taken a week before the desired date could be inaccurate.
The Butterfly Effect takes place over a series of weeks; if a butterfly flapped its wings, it would take a few weeks before there were any large changes in the weather.
The Butterfly Effect does not only apply to butterflies and weather; it applies to everything. For example, if a woman going to buy a lottery ticket stops to pick something up in the street, she might win the lottery because of the delay; instead of buying the ticket that she would have bought before, she would buy a different one.
Many metaphors have been made out of this phenomenon; especially in schools, the ‘small actions can lead to big things’ is a popular metaphor. This is partially why it is widely believed to be untrue.
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BY LUCY MONCKTON, JUANA CENTENO AND ROMY GORDON-CRAIG