The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month's time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen, does. (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)
Butterfly effect - sensitive dependence on initial conditions. This phenomenon describes that a small change in the initial condition will drastically change the long-term behavior of a system. In 1961, Edward Lorenze (meteorologist) discovered this phenomenon when he was working on a weather prediction. As a shortcut on a number in a sequence, Lorenze entered a decimal .506 instead of .506127 when rerunning the weather prediction, he found a completely different result. Therefore, he believed a small change at the initial condition (butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil) will drastically change the result of the system (a tornado set off in Texas).
The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location. It is based in Chaos Theory.
Butterfly Effect in popular culture
The phrase is frequently used in the popular media dealing with the idea of time travel. It describes a small change in the "past" (history) will bring a completely different "present". No one who travels into the past could ever return to the same version of reality. This phenomenon is clearly display in some of the movies, such as The Butterfly Effect which I watched yesterday. It's a pretty good movie indeed!
We might not realise, every step we take today, will bring a different future for our lives. Many times, we will look back and ask "what if...".
What if I have chosen to study business instead of medicine? What if I have spent more time with my parents? What if I have not speed?......