The Butterfly Effect
We often laugh about how wrong weather forecasts can be, but it turns out that predicting the weather is an enormous challenge that even the supercomputers used by modern meteorologists struggle with. This is due to a remarkable phenomenon called the “Butterfly Effect”: what if the simple flapping of a butterfly’s wings created a ripple effect that led to a hurricane three weeks later?
Because the weather is so greatly influenced by tiny disturbances in the air, it becomes increasingly difficult to make predictions as time goes on, which is why forecasts are typically accompanied by statistics (as in “A 50% chance of rain tomorrow”). In fact, an entire branch of mathematics called Chaos Theory has evolved to tackle this and similar problems. And despite humanity’s continued scientific advances, it is very likely that understanding many aspects of nature as “simple” as the weather will never be fully possible.