Thursday, April 17, 2008

A butterfly stops flapping is wings, and a man passes away 

Dr. Edward Lorenz passed away. The world's lost another great man. He was the founder of chaos theory. He invented the theory of the butterfly effect, that a butterfly flapping its wings in New York can cause thunderstorms in Beijing.

He studied weather systems. While working on a particular weather model on a compter, he intended to run the same model with the same set of input data (numbers that represented baromentric pressure, temperature, wind speed, and so on). He truncated the last digits, to tyoe faster. So instead of entering 8.3333. for example. he entered 8.33. He didn't expect it would make a difference. No one back then would have. But there was a difference, and a difference that became more pronounced as the model displayed its results for each day. So day 1 showed little between the first run and the second, but day 15 was dramatically different. Sunshine instead of thunderstorms - that kind of different.

Little differences in a complex system can lead to huge differences over time. He called that theory chaos theory.

The only obituary I've read so far (because I'm away from home and don't have time to surf for more) is the Washington Post. Registration is required, but you can always use bugmenot.com.

Now that is kind of sad. I've written about the man a couple of times and I'd heard nothing.

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