The Power of The Butterfly Effect

Photo by __ drz __ on Unsplash

A few weeks back I was reading a sci-fi novel by Stephen King named 11/22/63. There was a character named Jake Epping who one day discovered a portal which can take him to the past or future, basically, he can travel in time then.

Then he decided to go back in time in 1958, and after some experiments, he realized that he can alter the history of the humankind (as he can change the events). So he decided to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy which happened on November 22, 1963 (the book’s title is based on this date).

Somehow he became successful in preventing the assassination. He then thought the world would be a much better place when he will again go back to the present time.

But that was not the case. In fact, when he returned to the present time, everything was the opposite of what he thought. Everywhere there were multiple earthquakes, his own home was gone in that earthquake, and the world was almost at its end due to nuclear war. Jake then realized he has made a blunder by altering history. He again went back to 1963 and fixed whatever he changed.

Why have I mentioned this story? This is just to give an overview that everything in the world is somehow connected and how one small decision can create a huge change.

This entire phenomenon is known as ‘The Butterfly Effect’, a term coined by Edward Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist at MIT (USA) during 1963.

‘Butterfly Effect’ is the basis for a branch of mathematics known as ‘Chaos theory’. Butterfly Effect in scientific terms known as ‘ sensitive dependence on initial conditions’.

How did the ‘Butterfly Effect’ originate?

The entire principle was born when Lorenz tried to predict some weather models using deterministic equations on a supercomputer.

He input an initial set of data, switched the computer on, and waited for the printout. Placing the output next to the machine, he decided to re-enter some of the data and run the program longer.

But when got the results after entering the data second time, that was quite surprising. He soon realized he’d made a very minor error during input on the second run which yielded a drastically different outcome.

He had entered the initial condition 0.506 for the second time from the printout instead of entering the full precision 0.506127 value. We usually believe that a small change would not make a big difference in the results later. But Lorenz observed something different from contrary belief. The results were depicted in a curve as below-

You can see although initially, both the curves were same but over time they started deviating from each other.

That’s the whole idea about ‘The Butterfly Effect’. Little insignificant events (which we overlook many times) can lead to significant results over time.

How ‘Butterfly Effect’ affects our life?

There is a famous metaphor about ‘Butterfly Effect’ coined by Lorenz that ‘The flap of a butterfly’s wings in one corner of the world can set off a tornado in other corners of the world’.

Although it sounds ridiculous, it’s just to convey the idea that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system.

Now you might be thinking that is there any real-life example of ‘Butterfly Effect’?

Of course, and they are happening every day, you are just not giving enough attention to track them.

Think about your own life. Wherever you are today is because of those minute habits you had or small decisions that you took in your life.

I will give you four examples which will make you think about ‘The Butterfly Effect’.

How would be the world today had there been no world wars occurred, I don’t know whether the world would be better or worse, but it would be not same as it is today for sure.

What will you say if I tell you that the world war I started due to a wrong turn in the road? Yeah, it’s true.

So how it all started?

It was 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was going to be the king of Austria. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia.

Six Bosnian-born Serb terrorists were waiting for the royal couple on the route. They were seeking to avenge Austria’s recent annexation of Bosnia, which once had been part of the long-vanished Serbian Empire.

A terrorist threw a hand grenade at the open car carrying the archduke and his wife, but the grenade only wounded people behind him. Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand decided to visit the wounded people in the hospital. While in the road, the driver, unfortunately, took a wrong turn and there one of the frustrated assassins, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, was getting drunk.

Princip stepped out of the crowd and fired two shots which hit Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Both died immediately.

What happens after this is just a tragedy. Austria announced war against Serbia and then one after another country joined them which started the world war I.

Had that driver didn’t take the wrong turn in the road, the king would have been alive and probably nothing like world war would have happened. See how a small incident led to a massive result.

We all know what kind of calamity Hitler has done in the world. But nothing could have happened had the following two incidents not happened with Hitler.

Adolf Hitler in his early life aspired to be an artist. He applied twice in Vienna art academy, Austria. But both the times he failed to secure a position in the institute.

The teachers at art academy rejected him by saying that-

“They are prosaic, utterly devoid of rhythm, color, feeling, or spiritual imagination. They are architect’s sketches: painful and precise draftsmanship; nothing more”

Hitler blamed his Jewish teachers for the failure. He started hating Jews. Although it was not the only reason for his hatred, it definitely enhanced his hatred towards Jews.

What would happen had he got the admission in the art school?

No one knows but probably our history would have been different.

The second incident occurred during world war I when Brtish and German armies fighting with each other. On 28th September 1918, a wounded soldier entered in the firing range of British soldier Henry Tandey. If Henry wanted he could have easily killed that wounded soldier by firing a bullet. But instead of that, he chose compassion. He didn’t kill him and let him go.

That wounded soldier later become the reason for the genocide of millions of Jews. Yes, that wounded soldier was Adolf Hitler.

I know what you are thinking. If only Henry Tandey would have killed that soldier, the world would never know about the barbaric Hitler.

On 7th June 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took a first-class ticket to travel from Durban to Pretoria. But due to his brown colour, he was thrown out of the first-class compartment.

This whole incident shook up him. From that moment he refused to accept injustice and started fight against racial discrimination. We all know what happened after that. He started the biggest non-violence movement against the British and led an important role in India’s freedom

Everything started from that train incident. Had he not thrown out of the first-class compartment, he probably would not become such an inspiring person in the world history.

In 1962, American scientists and military feared about what might happen in the event of Soviet attack on the nations telephone system.

Then a computer scientist J. C.R. Licklider proposed a solution to the problem. He suggested a galactic network of computers that could talk to one another.

Little did they know that this idea would eventually transform the world and used for information, entertainment and social network by more than 2.5 billion people today.

Today it’s known as the ‘World Wide Web’.

All the stories above give us the same message that ‘Butterfly Effect’ is working all the time. One small incident starts a sequence of events which ultimately results in a massive result.

We often hear a line about our life that ‘Our life is the result of our choices’.

If that is true and after knowing the significance of ‘Butterfly Effect’ you must be careful about what kind of people you decide to spend time with, what kind of food you eat, what kind books or articles you read, what kind of videos you watch. All these are micro choices you are making all the time, sometimes even unconsciously. According to ‘Butterfly Effect’ all these will add up with time and will produce bigger results in life.

If you want to shape your life in a particular way or want to be that charming person then be careful about your choices.

Have a productive week. Until next time.


Originally published at on July 28, 2019.



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Jayabrata Das

Hi, My name is Jayabrata Das, in short Joy. I am a lifelong learner, loves to explore and share with the world . Know more about me at