Scientific trivia: what is the “butterfly effect”

In 1979, the father of chaos theory, American meteorologist Dr. Edward Lorenz proposed the concept of “The Butterfly…

In 1979, the father of chaos theory, American meteorologist Dr. Edward Lorenz proposed the concept of “The Butterfly Effect” in a speech at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, marking this The birth of scientific effects. He simulated the “weather forecast” through a computer and found that if the input data was fine-tuned, the calculated results would be very different. The butterfly effect is vividly described as: A tornado in Texas may have been caused by a butterfly flapping its wings gently in Brazil a month ago.


In fact, the butterfly effect means that in a dynamic system, small changes in the initial conditions can drive a long-term huge chain reaction of the entire system; this is a chaotic phenomenon with nonlinear characteristics. There are constants and variables in the development of any thing. The development trajectory of things in the development process can be followed regularly. At the same time, there are unpredictable “variables”, which are often counterproductive. A small change can affect the development of things and explain the development of things. Development is complex.

Dr. Lorenz found that because errors grow exponentially, in this case, a small error has huge consequences over time. He believes that in the process of atmospheric motion, even if the various errors and uncertainties are small, it is possible to accumulate the results in the process and magnify them step by step to form a huge atmospheric motion. Therefore, it is impossible to accurately predict the weather in the long term. He therefore concluded that the results of the development of things have a very sensitive dependence on the initial conditions.

The concept of the butterfly effect is a dynamic development process. Today’s butterfly effect or “broad butterfly effect” is not limited to the original Dr. Lorenz’s butterfly effect only for weather forecasting, but is a synonym or synonym for all complex systems that are extremely sensitive to initial values. Its meaning is : For all complex systems, under certain “threshold conditions”, their long-term large-scale future behavior is extremely sensitive to small changes or deviations in the initial condition values, that is, slight changes or deviations in the initial values ​​will lead to future prospects. Huge differences, which are often difficult to predict, or with some randomness.

Scientific trivia: what is the "butterfly effect"
Scientific trivia: what is the “butterfly effect”

Enlightened by the butterfly effect, various theories have been proposed. Take an example to illustrate: Professor Zhou Haizhong, a Chinese mathematician and linguist, proposed the “language chaos theory” in 1991 under the inspiration of this effect; this theory mainly examines language and related phenomena from the perspective of chaos theory and applies The method of chaos theory solves the complexity and nonlinear problems of language and related phenomena. Relevant experts believe that the theory of language chaos is highly targeted, practical, forward-looking, and instructive; its proposal is an innovation in language research methods and a contribution to the development of contemporary linguistics.

At present, the butterfly effect has been widely used in the natural sciences and social sciences, and provides a new method and method for the study of various disciplines. It has an important role in studying chaotic problems and explaining chaotic phenomena.

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