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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.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
(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]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
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]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
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|Noun||1.||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|
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