Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Aug 19 16:13:47 UTC 2008

At 10:01 AM -0500 8/19/08, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
>Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>Caveats: NONE
>>   But there are two butterflies in this garden,
>>  both effecting great changes from tiny causes.
>>  One is [Bradbury's] butterfly, whose death in the Jurassic (?)
>>  era tips a close election in our time, a change invisible to
>>  all but the time travelers who left Present[0] and returned
>>  to Present[1].
>>  I don't know who gets credit for the other butterfly, which
>>  is associated with chaos theory. (Terry Pratchett used it,
>>  but didn't come up with it.) This one flaps its wing, & the
>>  tiny air movement eventually causes a hurricane half a world away.
>I wish I had seen this paper by Robert Hilborn yesterday:
>It describes how the term came about.

For those interested, the Bradbury story itself can be read at
It's quite short (2+ pages), and pretty interesting.

ObADS:  the inadvertent destruction of the butterfly in the dinosaur
age affects not only the election noted above but also English
orthography (in the direction of Truspel, IIRC) while leaving the
spoken language unaffected, and the world is now a much more
miserable place.


>OED has for 1st cites of "Butterfly effect":
>[1972 E. N. LORENZ in R. C. Hilborn Chaos & Nonlinear Dynamics (2000) i.
>38 (title) Predictability: does the flap of a butterfly's wings in
>Brazil set off a tornado in Texas.] 1979 Amer. Jrnl. Sociol. 85 504 In
>meteorology, this has been called the '*butterfly effect': 'even if the
>atmosphere could be described by a deterministic model in which all
>parameters were known, the fluttering of a butterfly's wings could alter
>the initial conditions and thus..alter the long term prediction.'
>It would appear that the [1972] cite should be credited to P. Merilees
>as well as Lorenz, and should be preceded by a [1969] cite as described
>in Hilborn's paper above.
>Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>Caveats: NONE
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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