Tuesday, June 10, 2008


A Boston Globe article comments on the Butterfly Effect and it's misinterpretation. I had been unaware of it's origin.....

As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?"

In the paper, Lorenz claimed the large effects of tiny atmospheric events pose both a practical problem, by limiting long-term weather forecasts, and a philosophical one, by preventing us from isolating specific causes of later conditions.

Which is why weather forecasts over a week in advance aren't much good.

Philosophically I put this into a group with the Uncertainty Principle, which is a quantification of the Observer Effect. They all essentially say that we can only account for so much without messing it up, or as Clint Eastwood said in Magnum Force, "A man's got to know his limitations".

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