The Effect of a Butterfly


The butterfly flapping here in my garden
might be somehow changing something in China.
Perhaps, this is not chaos but synchronicity.
Far away, a child watches another butterfly
and is thinking about me writing this.


In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

The term, “butterfly effect,” is associated with the work of Edward Lorenz. His metaphorical, not literal, example was that a tornado’s exact time of formation and the exact path it takes could be influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

A very small change in initial conditions can create a significantly different outcome. It’s a theory I consider valid for much more than the weather.

Butterfly Effect


I don’t think I accept chaos theory,

but I know that small wing flaps

in my life have probably caused tornadoes.

Present determines future, but approximate present doesn’t

approximately determine the future. That is chaos.


Learn more about the butterfly effect and chaos theory