The Butterfly Effect

I am writing a post after 14 long days. This hiatus was pretty unintended though. Anyway, I was watching this movie “The butterfly effect” the other day. It’s a psychological thriller dealing with two of the most interesting and less understood metaphysical topics, namely time travel and chaos theory. Although the movie’s excellent, the name appears a bit out of place considering the changes the protagonist brings about in his past so as to alter his future are not exactly “minor” as suggested by the chaos theory. Run Lola Run illustrates this principle beautifully and much more accurately.

For starters, butterfly effect refers to the great sensitivity the final results can have over the initial conditions and the great difference that can be brought upon by a miniscule change in initial conditions. The concept is related to the work of famous American meteorologist Edward Lorenz. In 1961, Lorenz was using a numerical computer model to rerun a weather prediction, when, as a shortcut on a number in the sequence, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127 the computer would hold. The result was a completely different weather scenario. Lorenz published his findings in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noting that “One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever.” Later speeches and papers by Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly.

In course of watching this movie, I realized how well this theory adheres to my philosophy as to how people tend to interpret events as chance, even though most of them are not (see Laws of Luck for more). Harlan Ellison once said-there is no such thing as chance, but only patterns we do not understand. If we understand this philosophy, we will cease to believe in phony religions, astrology, numerology, ghosts and other factors which prevent us from clear thinking. For example, in the movie, Evan (the protagonist), in order to alter the future, goes back in time to save the mother-child from the dynamite he and his friends had planted in front of their house as a prank. Although Evan’s friend manages to save them, Evan finds himself very close to the dynamite resulting in loss of his hands and limbs, leading to another grim future. Had he been thinking logically and been aware of the situation, the scene would have turned out completely differently. There is no chance, only chaos. And Chaos is nothing but entropy misunderstood. It’s our inability to understand the true nature of this randomness that leads us to explain certain events from a pretty unscientific perspective.

Complete understanding of its intricacies may be impossible, but chaos can work to one’s benefit provided one is well- prepared. Life teaches us to pay attention. Whether in Chaos or Entropy, the more we know, the cleverer and more well-informed we are. It becomes easier to ride the tide of chaos and achieve success. As Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind”.

P.S: The last line may appear contradictory to the statement made in the earlier paragraph, but they back the same philosophy, albeit from different viewpoints.


~ by rastapopulus on June 23, 2008.

6 Responses to “The Butterfly Effect”

  1. Didn’t read this post! But, can understand ur urge to write, me 2 going thru d same phase!!

  2. Yeah dude…don’t think much..just start writing a blog..nice timepass..:)

  3. If you like time travel and futurology, come see my Timeship as well. Godspeed!

  4. dude, butterfly effect is one theory I truly admire and believe in. You can may be go ahead for the version 2 of this post and get into some intricacies…Everything here is a variable of a big program running and a change in one variable can affect that program..and this can be in a massive manner! oh…read ahead in my next post 😀
    all in all a great post!

  5. yeah…completely right..the problem is we dont understand this program..neway thnx for the compliment..

  6. […] The Butterfly Effect Lorenz published his findings in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noting that "One meteorologist remarked that if the theory… […]

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