butterfly effect


Definition of butterfly effect

: a property of chaotic systems (such as the atmosphere) by which small changes in initial conditions can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variation in the future state of the system

Examples of butterfly effect in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Stevens says it’s thrilling to be involved in a truly planetary-scale information system that can reveal not just the proverbial butterfly effect in weather and climate, but also how local human actions manifest globally. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Europe is building a ‘digital twin’ of Earth to revolutionize climate forecasts," 1 Oct. 2020 But scientists using an IBM quantum computer to simulate time travel say there is no butterfly effect. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "The Big Tech hearing was a good day for democracy," 30 July 2020 But surely the butterfly effect of Hillary and Bill’s breakup didn’t prevent the widening of these major rifts in society? Laura Marsh, The New Republic, "The Flawed Fantasy of a Different Hillary Clinton," 19 May 2020 Traveling back in time, as envisioned beginning with H.G. Wells’s iconic novel The Time Machine, is discussed mostly in the context of the butterfly effect or philosophical debates over whether or not to kill Hitler. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "This Guy Is Pretty Sure His Time Machine Would Work," 6 Jan. 2020 But because the star is nonchaotic, there is no butterfly effect; paths that converge stay correlated. Quanta Magazine, "Strange Stars Pulse to the Golden Mean," 10 Mar. 2015 The butterfly effect relies on tiny rounding numbers. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Computers Suck at Creating Chaos," 30 Sep. 2019 Many accounts, including the one in Gleick’s book, date the discovery of this butterfly effect to 1961, with the paper following in 1963. Joshua Sokol, WIRED, "These Hidden Women Helped Invent Chaos Theory," 26 May 2019 Or could a simple act of kindness have been the butterfly effect that kept him from killing nine people? Kathryn Burak, BostonGlobe.com, "In ‘A Pure Heart,’ a family divided tries to put the pieces together," 7 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'butterfly effect.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of butterfly effect

1976, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for butterfly effect

Time Traveler

The first known use of butterfly effect was in 1976

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Statistics for butterfly effect

Last Updated

10 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Butterfly effect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/butterfly%20effect. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on butterfly effect

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about butterfly effect

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