Justin Dowd: True story of nature’s Chaos

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What does your future have in common with your morning coffee, hurricanes, gambling, sports and the galaxy? All are intertwined by a mysterious property of nature called chaos.

The key to chaos is the poetically named butterfly effect, which is a slight change in a chaotic system drastically effecting what happens in the long run. Weather is an example of a chaotic system. A shift in wind as subtle as air passing around a butterfly’s wings can trigger the development of a hurricane weeks later, on the other side of Earth.

Your B.S.. meter may be off the charts but before you dismiss the idea consider football, a chaotic American pastime.

Like the weather, football is chaotic. One detail, one step can alter the outcome of the game, the season, the franchise and people’s lives for generations.

If Drew Bledsoe stepped out of bounds to avoid a season ending hit in 2001, second string quarterback Tom Brady would have remained sidelined. A single step changed careers, contracts, Super Bowl wins, retirement plans etc. This is the essence of chaotic systems, two slightly different starting points result in completely different outcomes.

Order and chaos are even in atoms. The players, ball and field are like electrons, photons and space. The nucleus and atoms are connected by forces like players’ movement connected by the rules of the game.

Similar to free will causing unpredictable behavior in humans, exact movement of individual particles in an atom cannot be measured or predicted. The laws of nature don’t allow it, resulting in a fundamental link between chaos and order.

Stirring cream into coffee causes a spiral pattern to emerge while the motion of molecules is turbulent. The same pattern in coffee can be seen in a hurricane, even though the movement of air is unpredictable. The spiral pattern even shows up in the galaxy we live in, composed of billions of stars, planets, dark matter and dust.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages.


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