FEB 23, 2019 4:34 PM PST

What is the butterfly effect?

Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? This is a phenomenon that refers to chaos theory but also has a significance in psychology. It states the idea that a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. The classic example speaks of the fluttering of a butterfly's wings and the great impacts that small action could have elsewhere in the world - i.e. the evolution of a tornado or an airplane experiencing turbulence. 

The butterfly effect was popularized by Edward Lorenz when he used weather simulation data to demonstrate that even the smallest change of wind speed or air temperature has significant impacts on weather for up to two months after said change. From a psychological perspective, the theory makes almost even more sense: every small act in turn results in another act that would have been distinct had the previous act also been different. Apply this to the history of the world, and be prepared to be blown away. 

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
DEC 17, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 17, 2019
Want a Cozy Fireplace on Your Screen? How About This One with Chemistry Trivia?
Have you ever wondered: underneath the evident smoky smell, what makes up other subtle aromas of a burning fire log?  A diverse group of aromatic (in...
JAN 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 20, 2020
SpaceX Demos Crew Dragon Launch Escape for NASA
SpaceX is one of two major players in NASA’s Commercial Crew program, an attempt to use third-party space companies to bring crewed space launches ba...
JAN 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 27, 2020
This Octopus Emerges From the Water in Search of Food
Most octopuses live and breathe underwater, just like the vast majority of other marine animals. But this octopus endemic to Australia has a special abilit...
FEB 07, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
FEB 07, 2020
Earth's Magnetic Field Debuted Over 4 Billions Ago, and It was Much Stronger
The existence of a diverse atmosphere on our planet is crucial for life. On top of being in the goldilocks zone, another life-supporting feature of our Ear...
FEB 13, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
FEB 13, 2020
Equations for Chaos: A Mathematic Paradox
Equations are ordered, elegant mathematical constructs used to describe specific patterns. Can you imagine some formulas depict the very opposite: chaos an...
FEB 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 16, 2020
Just How Powerful is a Piece of Space Debris?
One of the most commonly discussed topics in space science today is the space junk problem, in which space junk collides with objects to create space debri...
Loading Comments...