Sunday Reverie

Butterfly effect and its influence on our actions

The word “Butterfly effect” can resonate for some to the movie. For most, it might be a simple view of spill over effect. Actually, The Butterfly Effect is a concept invented by the American meteorologist Edward N. Lorenz (1917-2008). It is to highlight the possibility that small causes may have momentous effects. The closely relatable example that always comes to our mind is that, when a butterfly flaps its wings in brazil, it creates a tornado in Texas. Let’s understand how this example came in relevance. For which we need to go back Lorenz himself.

Lorenz Approach

During early 1950’s at MIT, Lorenz was studying about long rang weather forecasting. As with any pattern recognition examples, the fellow research experts felt that, its easy to predict the weather. Their approach was that, when we have weeks or months of day, we should be able to arrive at a pattern. That pattern from the old weather data, can help to predict the future weather condition.

A plot of Lorenz’s strange attractor. The butterfly effect or sensitive dependence on initial conditions is the property of a dynamical system that, starting from any of various arbitrarily close alternative initial conditions on the attractor, the interated points will become arbitrarily spread out from each other. Source: wikipedia

Lorenz on the other side didn’t believe in this idea. He was doubtful about the same. With the complexity of nature and the environment around, weather cannot repeat itself. Hence, it would be impossible to predict a day in the history, which is exact replica of the current situation. He argued that the atmosphere is so complex that it never repeats itself, so it would be impossible to find a day in history when conditions were precisely the same.

Butterfly Effect – How did the name came into existence?

In the due course, accidentally he discovered, the butterfly effect. According to him, even a small different in the initial state or condition, can lead to completely different outcomes. After running an experiment for the weather prediction, he thought of rerunning the same. In the model for weather predication experiment, he entered the value as 0.506 instead of 0.506127. When he returned after getting his cup of coffee, he was surprised to see that, the resulting prediction was completely different from the original output. With this he arrived that a small change in the initial conditions can have enormous long-term implications. That was his eurekha moment.

When Lorenz, failed to provide a title to present about his prediction as a talk for the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1972, Philip Merrilees came with the title, Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?  That’s how butterfly effect came into existence.

An idea that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system. Though, the butterfly flapping its wings cannot cause a storm. However, small events can act as catalyst that influence certain course of events.

Examples from History for Butterfly effect

Having now understood, about Butterfly effect,

Let’s look into one of the easiest relatable incident from World War for the butterfly effect. World War I started all because of a very small incident in June 1914. A revolutionary name Gavrilo Princip along with his accomplice were planning an assassination attempt on crown prince of Hungary, Franz Ferdinand. Franz Ferdinand was on a motorcade towards the town hall. When assassination attempt was made, it was narrowly missed. However after his town hall speech, Franz Ferdinand wished to meet the victims of the assassination attempt on him. His driver was advised to take a specific route. However, the information was passed on lately and by the time, the driver realized he took a wrong route, he tried to reverse his vehicle. In that moment, crown prince car broke down. The revolutionary, who was going in that route saw an opportunity and instantly shot Ferdinand and his wife.

This led to World War I. Austria-Hungary went to war against Serbia and soon countries joined based upon their diplomatic treaties. This one incident led to a full scale war. The World War I.

Coincidence has nothing to do with faith or destiny , it’s just a miss matched eqation of timing and spacing … just like a butterfly effect

One other recent incident that can be explored here, is the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull. Eyjafjallajökull is one of Iceland’s smaller ice capped mountain. It’s located in the far south of the island. This has erupted relatively frequently since the ice age. The eruptions occurred in 920, 1612, and from 1821 to 1823. 20 March 2010, a small eruption began. On 14 April 2010, the eruption entered a second phase and created a cloud of ash that led to the closure of most of the European airspace from 15 until 20 April 2010. This led to the highest level of air travel disruption since the World War II.

A small disturbance in the complex mechanism of life on the Earth, the fact that an ash cloud from a minor volcanic eruption in Iceland brings to stand still the entire aerial traffic in the continent of Europe. This shows a small action somewhere has its power to transform nature.

Though there are multiple referenceable incidents, to butterfly effect let’s take this as our base assumption for today’s discussion on how our tiny thoughts have an impact on our actions? Why do, when we have a bad phone call with someone in the morning, we feel the day turns out to be bad? Or why on the same day, when we happened to bump into a good friend of ours and feel after the meeting, the day was good?

Are these actions any way inter-related? When the answer is yes, then let’s delve deeper into the next topic, how does a thought can leave such action in a future point in time. To better understand, let’s go back to our example stated earlier. When we have an unpleasant conversation, with someone, it leaves a kind of impact on us in terms of our thoughts. We suddenly feel unpleasant, dull and low on energy after the conversation. Our body takes those cues, and starts to slow us down in our actions. It reacts in a way of showing low interest or not much focus into our work.

Daoism on Butterfly effect

Metaphorically, Daoism anticipates something like the butterfly effect.

Way-making (dao) gives rise to continuity,
Continuity gives rise to difference,
Difference to plurality,
And plurality gives rise to the manifold of everything that is happening (wanwu)

David Jones, The Fractal Self

According to Chinese philosophy, this transformation is called Dahua. A principle that seems to express glimpses of universal evolution. The great transformation.

Our thoughts are those butterflies

Can these be called as butterfly effect. Though not in specific, however these can be correlated as an inducing factor. Consider a scenario, where in you had a kind of anger on a simple mistake by your colleague. You gave a thought about it in your mind and then, left it duly considering why you need to show the anger. Day’s pass and again the repeated mistake happens. Probably, couple of times. On one fine day, when you were low on energy due to phone call (as mentioned above) that had happened, you outburst on your colleague for the simple mistake.

Now, the anger of your’s was it because of the phone call or was it due to the anger thought that happened few weeks back. Now relating this to butterfly effect, we can elucidate that small events that can act as catalyst to influence certain course of events.

Few of you would be able to relate, a split second decision of taking a left turn or an u turn on a drive to office, saved you from a heavy traffic or got you struck in traffic jam. How do we relate these course of events. Though, science cannot prove the time factor to roll back the actions, however it can prove to relate the course of events relating to split second decision. Sometimes, we call it as intuition. Though that’s a larger topic to divulge in future. The blink with which we took the decision, when related together can relate a connection to those actions.

A small shift in your thinking, the small changes in your energy can bring a massive impact on you. In your daily actions or the dreams you pursue. It’s the thought that counts. Once, you build on the thought, it’s a start. It awaits to actions to make it count. However, the thought had already, made an alteration in your activity for the day. A simple tweet reply, which you paused for a moment, had already raised a thought in the other end of the receiver awaiting for your reply.

Any small act of kindness or hatred creates reverberation. It spreads across time and distance. It affects the lives known as well as unknown. Everything relating back to the source of echo. Kindness when passed on, grows each time it’s passed. Till it becomes a selfless act of courage. The one who rushed to pull out a kid from falling into the canal, was once a kind kid who shared her cookie with her fellow kid.

Thus, the universe is one connected reverberating wave. A ripple somewhere can cause an impact in the other end. Though the existence of dreams and the parallel universe can be discussed in a different blog, the butterfly effect is proven and here to stay. In the word’s of Benjamin Franklin, let me leave you here to think.

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail