Sunday, January 5, 2014

Science Mystery: Insight on the Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect-1

The term Butterfly effect is a concept invented by the American meteorologist, Edward Lorenz to highlight the possibility of small changes causing momentous effects; in simple term it was used in chaos theory to describe how small changes to unrelated thing or conditions could affect large complex systems. This term is derived from a suggestion in South America, that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly could affect the weather in Texas showing that the tiniest influence on a single part of a system could have an impact on another part. The butterfly effect occur when small event have an exceeding far reaching and a large impact. This term is used because its wings though fragile do not stir much air as they flap but its minute movement does initiate a series of changes which grow eventually causing a large storm thousands of miles away. It implies that large events may be connected to small or even to the minuscule occurrences. The Butterfly effect in other words is a way of describing the concept that unless all factors are accounted for, major systems like the weather tends to become impossible to predict with accuracy due to various unknown variables.

Butterfly Effect-2
This concept of the butterfly was attributed to Edward N. Lorenz, a meteorologist as well as a mathematician who was the first proponents of chaos theory. He studied the concept mathematically and also drew the attention of other meteorologists. He saw meaningful pattern in what seemed to be random events in weather patterns and these ideas contributed to the new science of chaos. One day as he was running global climate model on his computer with the hope to save him some time, ran one model from the middle rather than from the beginning. The process of the two weather predictions, one based on the whole process inclusive of the initial conditions and the other based on a portion of the data with the process which was already half way, diverged drastically. Lorenz was of the belief that the computer models would be identical regardless of where it had started but realized that the two models differed in tiny and unpredictable variations. It was initially used to explain why weather forecast were often inaccurate and initial conditions at times would go unnoticed or were overlooked and these minute conditions were the cause of hurricanes or similar changes in the weather.

This insight regarding the large impact of minor occurrences led to the butterfly effect in many other fields including psychology and explained why predictions at times remained inaccurate. Hence recognizing the importance of initial conditions can bring about improvement in accuracy of scientific predictions. Several biologist, epidemiologist, physicists, ecologist as well as psychologists presently consider the butterfly effect, nonlinear reasoning and chaos while making certain predictions which have proved to be useful in various social and behavioral sciences as well as physical and biological sciences. The butterfly effect is used to explain various unpredictable behaviors and thinking patterns which though may appear to be meaningless can be understood as a result of nonlinear reasoning. This could lead to an understanding of the creative original insights by taking initial perceptive into account and permitting nonlinear cognitive processes leading to valuable insight or solutions to a given problem.

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