Edward Lorenz and the Discovery of the Butterfly Effect
“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
If you’ve been following ‘the challenge’ initiated last week, you hopefully experienced the magic that happens when people break out of their comfort zones and inspire others to do the same.
If you missed out on some of the action, Tanya, our Incurable Dreamer, summed it up perfectly in “the losing of my poetry virginity“
“Last week, she [that’s me] wrote a poem [inspired by George Ella Lyon’ original ‘Where I’m From’], and what has transpired since then has been nothing short of extraordinary.
The poem she wrote was inspired by a prompt – Where I’m From.
Her idea was to post it on her blog and challenge someone to write a poem about where they are from, and then hopefully they too would pass it forward. Well, that is what she did, and that is exactly what happened. She challenged Tom who challenged Wulf who challenged Susan who challenged Bojana.
* image from http://thebutterflyeffect.org/
This wasn’t a competition, by any means. But we were all nervous to try something that isn’t exactly our strong suit. Even our celebrated poets expressed some anxiety about presenting their piece. I suppose it’s because we are all following the same model- one that requires us to reveal some of the most intimate parts of our stories- and create something on the heels of the previous person who blew us away…
But no pressure…really.
So, back to the whole butterfly thing. Yes, I will acknowledge that I set this in motion…flapping my wings if you will. But, as Edward Lorenz, creator of the chaos theory postulates: (Cool article discussing the butterfly effect here)
“Subject to the conditions of uniqueness, continuity, and boundedness … a central trajectory, which in a certain sense is free of transient properties, is unstable if it is nonperiodic. A noncentral trajectory … is not uniformly stable if it is nonperiodic, and if it is stable at all, its very stability is one of its transient properties, which tends to die out as time progresses. In view of the impossibility of measuring initial conditions precisely, and thereby distinguishing between a central trajectory and a nearby noncentral trajectory, all nonperiodic trajectories are effectively unstable from the point of view of practical prediction.”
Simply stated, the noncentral trajectory of my challenge was effectively unstable and wouldn’t have unfolded the way it did if you all had let it die out…
Okay, enough of that. In short, it was not I who accepted the challenge and wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person, who wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person…
Maybe I did initiate a breeze. But you all gave it the momentum necessary to make the next person’s words take flight, compelling them to dig deeper and soar to heights that took our writers and readers by storm and left us all spinning.
So Tanya, thank you for finishing off this whirlwind week of words with such grace, depth and courage. And thanks to the rest of you brave souls who gave us an enchanting glimpse into…where you are from.
See where Mirian, from Out an’ About takes us next…