butterfly effect

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Related to Sensitive dependence on initial conditions: Chaotic system

butterfly effect

A phenomenon in which a small perturbation in the initial condition of a system results in large changes in later conditions. Such phenomena are common in complex dynamical systems and are studied in chaos theory.

[From the idea that the tiny atmospheric changes caused by the flap of a butterfly's wings can ultimately have major effects on the course of the weather.]

butterfly effect

(General Physics) the idea, used in chaos theory, that a very small difference in the initial state of a physical system can make a significant difference to the state at some later time
[C20: from the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world might ultimately cause a hurricane in another part of the world]

but′terfly effect`

a cumulatively large effect that a very small natural force may produce over a period of time.
[1980–85; so called from the notion that the fluttering of a butterfly's wings may set off currents that will grow into a large storm]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.butterfly effect - the phenomenon whereby a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere, e.g., a butterfly flapping its wings in Rio de Janeiro might change the weather in Chicago
consequence, effect, result, upshot, outcome, event, issue - a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon; "the magnetic effect was greater when the rod was lengthwise"; "his decision had depressing consequences for business"; "he acted very wise after the event"
References in periodicals archive ?
In general, Levy flights arise out of chaotic systems, in which a sensitive dependence on initial conditions plays a crucial role.
Further, chance and sensitive dependence on initial conditions are important--both in their own right and in suggesting that individual action can have far-reaching consequences.
The popular notion of chaos as catastrophic disorganization and unpredictable change driven by random forces is encapsulated in the scientific theory of chaos as sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

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