The butterfly no longer flaps its wings


One of the key techniques in the understanding of our world is the use of chaos theory. Many of you will be familiar with the common question: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas? What many of you may not be aware of is that is the title of a speech by Ed Lorenz. Dr. Lorenz passed away last week, a victim of cancer. We grieve the passing of this scientist and wish his family well.

Dr. Lorenz work on chaos theory is a key component of the way that we understand our environment. His work was critical to meteorology today. You can read Wikipedia’s excellent write up of Dr. Lorenz and chaos theory.

His work also reached pop culture. You may have watched the movie “The Butterfly Effect” which was excellent. Hopefully, you did not watch the very poor sequel “The Butterfly Effect 2”. Obviously, these movies are in direct reflection of Dr. Lorenz’ work.

Also, a great discussion on chaos theory was related in Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” (the movie and the book). Ian Malcolm continuously tries to explain chaos theory and even tries to give an example with a drop of water on a human hand.

Chaos theory makes up for our inability to model our environment for major climate change in the future. While I have continuously called for the expansion of this ability, today I will simply say thank you to Dr. Lorenz for his contributions.


Edward Lorenz

May 23, 1917 – April 16, 2008

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