We at XIMB get a lot of feedback from our seniors, regarding courses, professors, projects etc. Relying on the feedback we eagerly wait for attending the classes of few Profs….Prof. IC is one of them.  He took our first class yesterday…. Was it the best lecture I had ever heard? Did I understand all of it? I dont know… I really don’t. What I really know is that he made me think, he forced us all to think…

While delivering the lecture he mentioned of Chaos Theory, to which one of our batchmates pointed as ‘The Butterfly Effect’. Believe me, I had never heard of this term. And when I got to know the meaning, it got me thinking!


Edward Lorenz a mathematician & meteorologist at MIT while studying weather thought of combining mathematics and meteorology. He constructed a mathematical model of the weather, which contained set of differential equations representing  changes in temperature, pressure, wind velocity, etc.

One day, Lorenz decided to re-examine a sequence of data coming from his model. Rather than restarting the entire run, he  restarted it from somewhere in the middle. He entered the inputs using some printouts. He was surprised to see that the model now had given a different curve than the previous one. As per the wiki, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127.

He looked into the matter and found that his data printouts showed three digits while the data in the computer’s memory had six digits. Lorenz had assumed that the difference was inconsequential. He realised that many a times, a small change in the conditions can trigger off a huge event.

Once he was giving a talk on this, one of his peers suggested him to keep the title ‘Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?‘ This is how, it came to be known as ‘the butterfly effect’. It means that the flapping wing can represent a small change in the initial condition of the system, and this may cause a chain of events leading to large-scaled effects.

But as Prof. IC says, not every butterfly can cause a tornado. But one should always remember that how small an event might be, one should be careful enough and remember that this may have a ‘snowballing effect’ or ‘domino effect’ or ‘the butterfly effect’.

And Oh yes, this is not a new theory…. you would be remembering the rhyme ‘For Want Of a Nail’ which has been considered as a proverbial rhyme for centuries!

For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.