In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.
Although the butterfly effect may appear to be an esoteric and unlikely behavior, it is exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill may roll into any of several valleys depending on, among other things, slight differences in initial position.
The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction when presenting scenarios involving time travel and with hypotheses where one storyline diverges at the moment of a seemingly minor event resulting in two significantly different outcomes.
Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist best known for his black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park.
With Fred Archer, Adams developed the Zone System as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs and the work of those to whom he taught the system. Adams primarily used large-format cameras despite their size, weight, setup time, and film cost, because their high resolution helped ensure sharpness in his images.
Adams founded the Group f/64 along with fellow photographers Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston. Adams’s photographs are reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books, making his photographs widely distributed.
Ansel Adams’s photograph The Tetons and the Snake River has the distinction of being one of the 115 images recorded on the Voyager Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecraft. These images were selected to convey information about humans, plants and animals, and geological features of the Earth to a possible alien civilization. These photographs eloquently mirror his favorite saying, a Gaelic mantra, which states “I know that I am one with beauty and that my comrades are one. Let our souls be mountains, Let our spirits be stars, Let our hearts be worlds.”
This might look like a distant web of galaxies captured by a powerful telescope, but it’s actually a microscopic image of a newborn nerve cell. The human brain contains more cells than there are stars in our galaxy, and the most important cells are neurons, which are nerve cells responsible for transmitting and processing electro-chemical signals at up to 320 km/h. This chemical signalling occurs through synapses—specialised connections with other cells, like wires in a computer. Each cell can receive input from thousands of others, so a typical neuron can have up to ten thousand synapses—i.e., can communicate with up to ten thousand other neurons, muscle cells, and glands. Estimates suggest that adult humans have approximately 100 billion neurons in their brain, but unlike most cells, neurons don’t undergo cell division, so if they’re damaged they don’t grow back—except, apparently, in the hippocampus (associated with memory) and the olfactory bulb (associated with sense of smell). The process by which this occurs is unclear, and this image was taken during a project to determine how neurons are born—it actually depicts newborn nerve cells in the brain.
‘Sole Solution’ by Eric Frank Russell. (1956)
He brooded in darkness and there was no one else. Not a voice, not a whisper. Not the touch of a hand. Not the warmth of another heart.
Eternal confinement where all was black and silent and nothing stirred. Imprisonment without prior condemnation. Punishment without sin. The unbearable that had to be borne unless some mode of escape could be devised.
No hope of rescue from elsewhere. No sorrow or sympathy or pity in another soul, another mind. No doors to be opened, no locks to be turned, no bars to be sawn apart. Only the thick, deep sable night in which to fumble and find nothing.
Circle a hand to the right and there is nought. Sweep an arm to the left and discover emptiness utter and complete. Walk forward through the darkness like a blind man lost in a vast, forgotten hall and there is no floor, no echo of footsteps, nothing to bar one’s path.
He could touch and sense one thing only. And that was self.
Therefore the only available resources with which to overcome his predicament were those secreted within himself. He must be the instrument of his own salvation.
No problem is beyond solution. By that thesis science lives. Without it, science dies. He was the ultimate scientist. As such, he could not refuse this challenge to his capabilities.
His torments were those of boredom, loneliness, mental and physical sterility. They were not to be endured. The easiest escape is via the imagination. One hangs in a strait-jacket and flees the corporeal trap by adventuring in a dreamland of one’s own.
But dreams are not enough. They are unreal and all too brief. The freedom to be gained must be genuine and of long duration. That meant he must make a stern reality of dreams, a reality so contrived that it would persist for all time. It must be self-perpetuating. Nothing less would make escape complete.
So he sat in the great dark and battled the problem. There was no clock, no calendar to mark the length of thought. There were no external data upon which to compute. There was nothing, nothing except the workings within his agile mind.
And one thesis: no problem is beyond solution.
He found it eventually. It meant escape from everlasting night. It would provide experience, companionship, adventure, mental exercise, entertainment, warmth, love, the sound of voices, the touch of hands.
The plan was anything but rudimentary. On the contrary it was complicated enough to defy untangling for endless aeons. It had to be like that to have permanence. The unwanted alternative was swift return to silence and the bitter dark.
It took a deal of working out. A million and one aspects had to be considered along with all their diverse effects upon each other. And when that was done he had to cope with the next million. And so on . . . on . . . on.
He created a mighty dream of his own, a place of infinite complexity schemed in every detail to the last dot and comma. Within this he would live anew. But not as himself. He was going to dissipate his person into numberless parts, a great multitude of variegated shapes and forms each of which would have to battle its own peculiar environment.
And he would toughen the struggle to the limit of endurance by unthinking himself, handicapping his parts with appalling ignorance and forcing them to learn afresh. He would seed enmity between them by dictating the basic rules of the game. Those who observed the rules would be called good. Those who did not would be called bad. Thus there would be endless delaying conflicts within the one great conflict.
When all was ready and prepared he intended to disrupt and become no longer one, but an enormous concourse of entities. Then his parts must fight back to unity and himself.
But first he must make reality of the dream. Ah, that was the test!
The time was now. The experiment must begin.
Leaning forward, he gazed into the dark and said, “Let there be light.”
And there was light.
A film by David Lynch
Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), a surgeon at the London Hospital, discovers John Merrick (John Hurt) in a Victorian freak show in London’s East End, where he is managed by the brutish Bytes (Freddie Jones). Merrick is so deformed that he must wear a hood and cap when in public, and Bytes claims he is an imbecile. Treves is professionally intrigued by Merrick’s condition and pays Bytes to bring him to the Hospital so that he can examine him. There, Treves presents Merrick to his colleagues in a lecture theatre, displaying him as a physiological curiosity. Treves draws attention to Merrick’s most life-threatening deformity, his oversized skull, which compels him to sleep with his head resting upon his knees, as the weight of his skull would asphyxiate him if he were to ever lie down. On Merrick’s return, Bytes beats him so severely that a sympathetic apprentice (Dexter Fletcher) alerts Treves, who returns him to the hospital. Bytes accuses Treves of likewise exploiting Merrick for his own ends, leading the surgeon to resolve to do what he can to help the unfortunate man.