In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is about how a small change in one part of system can result in large differences in another part. Chaos theory came from an MIT meteorologist, Edward Lorenz. He discovered that natural systems, like weather, are governed by this butterfly effect.

The explanation may seem farfetched.  Lorenz’s metaphorical example was that a hurricane’s exact time of formation and its exact path taken  could be influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model  with a very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.

According to the National Weather Service, the remnants of the Pacific cyclone, Hurricane Ana, was partly responsible for the snows in South Carolina this past weekend. A cyclone is a lot more powerful than a butterfly.

Yesterday, the news was reporting that the polar vortex will be dropping its cold weather on much of the United States this week as a result of Typhoon Nuri moving northward in the Pacific Ocean. One of the strongest storms on Earth in 2014, Super Typhoon Nuri, morphed into a Bering Sea extratropical cyclone.

Last winter was the snowiest and sixth-coldest on record. The National Weather Service’s winter outlook predicts this winter’s weather closer to normal, with perhaps slightly colder-than-normal temperatures in early 2015.

The butterfly effect is also exhibited by very simple systems, like the outcomes of throwing dice. Small differences like the direction, thrust, and orientation of the throw make significantly different dice paths and outcomes.

Very small examples of the butterfly effect are found in studies of quantum systems.  Albert Einstein said that “God does not play dice with the universe.”  Another physicist, Joseph Ford, said “God plays dice with the universe, but they’re loaded dice. And the main objective is to find out by what rules were they loaded and how can we use them for our own ends.”


The film called The Butterfly Effect compared the flutter of a butterfly and the flutter of the human heart. I was more interested in the film’s protagonist being able to travel back in time when he reads from the journals he kept as a teen.

Time travel is one of the things that might illustrate a butterfly effect. You go back. You make a very minor change and there are larger consequences from it in the present.

I think I see the effect more evident in retrospect in small things in my life, like missing a phone call and it setting off a chaotic chain reaction.

Greek myths said the creation of our world came out of chaos, is surrounded by chaos, and will end in chaos.

Not all chaos is bad. Some experiments have shown that you have better recall when you learn something randomly rather than in a more orderly fashion. Other researchers have shown that your thinking becomes most productive when your brain waves appear most chaotic.

You read this article. I wonder what will happen because of that?