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Zebra Butterfly

The Butterfly Effect

Grade 6 Student

Research Question:

What is the butterfly effect and how does it affect our lives?


For millions of years, people have wondered about what future consequences their actions might have on the world. The butterfly effect is one theory that may answer this question. It states that any action, intentional or unintentional, can have profound impacts on the future and can drastically alter it. The butterfly effect theory may explain humankind’s concern for consequences and outcomes. This essay will explore the historical, psychological, and physiological aspects of the butterfly effect. 


The butterfly effect was theorized by Edward Lorenz, a professor at M.I.T, in the 1960s (Forbes, Feb 13, 2018). He was conducting experiments on weather predictability, however, his computer had a glitch where it could only calculate six digits. Thus, Lorenz’s numbers went askew by less than a millionth. The result was that weather predictions changed drastically by over a dozen degrees celsius. This theory has disproved many other theories that are centuries old, and showed many shortcomings in our understanding of physics. Since then, we have theorized what this might mean for humankind’s existence and it has been applied to multiple fields of science.

Hurricane Map



Physiological Applications

In physics, the butterfly effect is a theory proving how deterministic chaos works. Deterministic chaos is defined in scientific terms as: if there is a slight alteration in initial conditions, then the end result would be drastically altered. This is especially useful for showing that Laplacean determinism has multiple flaws and even that some of Newton’s theories have since been disproved (Forbes, Feb 13, 2018). The butterfly effect is relevant in every single deterministic subject that is sensitive to change in the initial conditions such as attractors and predicting the weather. Even physiologically minute things such as dropping a piece of paper could cause an earthquake. In every three or more bodied (complex systems) problems in physics, the butterfly effect can be applied and hold true, but it is most commonly used in fields such as weather, planetary movement and other systems which have multiple things that can alter the end result. 

The butterfly effect deeply alters your perspectice on how your actions affect the world.


Psychological Applications

Psychological determinants indicate that the concept of the butterfly effect could deeply alter your perspective on how your actions could affect the world. Imagine every action you make that you know you shouldn’t be doing and you correct it every single time.

And now imagine that everyone else does the same thing; the world would be a whole new place. People also often hypothesize scenarios of what the theory might mean and interpret it in many different ways. One famous example is that a flap of a butterfly’s wings on the other side of the world could set off a chain of events that cause a tornado in Texas (Forbes, Feb 13, 2018). This scenario is 100% possible according to the butterfly effect as a small change in initial conditions drastically alters the end result. 

It can also help you reflect and make decisions more conciously to spread kindness and aid one another.


All in all, there are multiple subjects where many factors can alter the results of one’s reality. It can be applied to any question about complex systems such as nebula internal movements, swarms or herds of animals, schools of fish or any other complex systems which are proven to be deterministicaly chaotic by the butterfly effect. It can also help you reflect and make decisions more consciously to spread kindness and aid one another. Overall, I really think it makes one see the bigger picture of things and that things don’t always work out as you think they will.





Bradbury, Ray. 1952. A Sound of Thunder. Collier’s.

Harlpen, Paul. February 13, 2018. Chaos Theory, The Butterfly Effect, And The Computer Glitch That Started It All. Forbes.

Veritasium. December 6, 2019. Chaos: The Science of the Butterfly Effect. Veritasium. 

Waugaman, Elisabeth Pearson. May 5, 2015. What Does the Butterfly Effect Offer You? Psychology Today.

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