This little beauty of a blog post is one I wrote about 6 years ago. I still think about the situation now. Amid this self-quarantine time of the 2020 COVID-19 crisis, I figured I would share a more entertaining story instead of a structured lesson or tips-and-tricks style blog post you are used to. Enjoy!
The Great Debate: Butterfly Vs. Fate
There has been a huge debate going on inside my head recently and I cant make it stop. So I have decided to “air it out” in public to see if it shakes anything loose.
The Butterfly Effect (minus Ashton Kutcher) versus Fate.
In a brief nutshell, the Butterfly Effect states that something as simple as a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world can create a hurricane on the other side of the world. It works under many assumptions, but if you really sit and think about it, it does have some sense to it. In essence: The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events.
Fate on the other hand, is seemingly more deliberate. Fate defines events as ordered or “inevitable” and comes in many different forms: religious Gods or deities, Mothers, pure dumb luck or chance, and the atheist view; Shit just happens.
My debate here though, is also under a few assumptions. One, I assume the butterfly does not flap his wings in order to attempt to create a hurricane. The butterfly needs to flap the wings to go get food, or pick up his hot date on the next leaf. Whatever. In my debate it isn’t a hurricane that happens it is a tree falling over.
Here is how the Butterfly knocks over a tree
The butterfly spots his hot woman butterfly and flutters over to get her for their hot date. The air movement from his little rendezvous causes a slight change in the atmosphere. This change is carried over the plains where the butterfly is located.
The slight change forces a flower to bend in a direction it normally doesn’t while being blown around in the wind. This different bend causes the petals to fly off the flower and get carried away, swirling around in the air. These petals are mistaken for food as they are carried out over the water. A hungry fish jumps out of the water to catch the delectable morsel of red herring (pun intended).
The splash caused by the fish re-entering the water coincides with the break point of a wave crashing to shore, which in turn adds a little force to the undertow. The extra current eventually builds until the wave is a wall of water due to the extra under current force. This wall of water is a lot higher coming to shore than it normally is and hits on a rock cliff.
The force of the wave pushed a rock off the cliff, and as it falls to the Earth it smacks a dying tree branch. This branch breaks off due to the force of the rock and is flung out to sea. A whale is cresting and the branch is caught under its tail fin. The poke causes the whale to think he is being attacked and he swims and dives and jumps in and out of the water trying to dislodge the branch from his tail.
But it Gets Worse
On a successful jump the branch comes loose and is vaulted into a flock of seagulls headed to shore. The commotion in the flock causes a disruption in their flight pattern and a seagull is sucked into a propeller of a passing plane. This causes the plane to lose an engine and force it to make an emergency landing. It heads towards a highway missing it by a few football field lengths. The plane smacks down in dense woods and chops a tree trunk in half.
The 20 foot pine falls crashing to the ground pushing over another and another tree until finally a tree comes to rest across the highway, stopping traffic for miles. The tree crushed a red Geo Metro, with Mary inside. Mary dies.
Now, Butterfly Effect supporters will blame the butterfly for killing Mary. But is this the case? Let’s see what Fate has to say about it.
The Fate argument (I prefer to call it the Telephone Effect)
We start with Mary at home, 40 miles away from where the tree falls that eventually kills her. It is 8:20 in the morning. Mary bolts up out of bed, realizing she is already 20 minutes late for work. She phones work to let them know she is on the way, and jumps in the shower. She is hurried and doesn’t bother to shave her legs. No skirt today, it is the pants-suit.
Mary doesn’t dry well because she is in a hurry, she puts her hair in a pony tail and dresses as fast as she can. Her pants leg sticks to her calf and she falls over trying to pull her pants up over wet legs (it’s happened to all of us). As she stumbles she curses, gets up and finishes dressing. Too late for a good breakfast, she searches the cabinet for a few minutes hoping there is something she can eat. The phone rings.
Mary is About to Get it
Mary is in too much of a hurry to answer it. She grabs a Kellogg’s (R) Pop-Tart (TM) and rushes out the door. But Mary, of course, forgot her keys on the counter. Then Mary, goes back in to grab them and the phone is ringing again. She looks at it, takes a step towards it, decides against it, and rushes out the door into her car. She drives a little faster than the speed limit, but not enough to be pulled over (she is late enough as it is).
As she approaches a curve in the freeway… BAM! A tree falls out of nowhere and crushes her poor little Metro.
Now, here is where the debate begins in my head.
Who is at fault, the butterfly or Mary?
You see, the phone call was Mary’s boss. Had she answered the phone, she would have learned that the boss was not mad, and actually glad she was late because he needed her to stop by and pick up something from Kinkos.
But Mary didn’t answer the phone. If she had, that extra 3 minutes on the phone would have been more than enough to avoid the tree. It would have fallen well in front of her. Point to the butterfly.
Mary fights back though, Had the fish not seen the red flower petals and mistaken them for a treat, the waves wouldn’t have built up and eventually knocking the tree over. Point Mary.
Ahh, but the butterfly responds: Sure, but if you hadn’t fallen over putting your pants-suit on and not have left your keys on the counter, you would have been a few seconds ahead, and the tree would have fallen behind you.
We Could Debate Each Point…
Now, I could go back and forth all day blaming each part of each scenario, and that is correct, if this one thing hadn’t happened, none of this would have happened. So where does that leave us?
Well, here is where I am at: There are a ton of assumptions, and a ton of what-if’s. The assumptions I can live with. But I think fate has the upper hand in this argument.
What if Mary had answered her phone? She wouldn’t be crushed by a tree. Or would she have been? The extra delay in answering the phone seems like it is a simple win for the butterfly. Just answer the phone and you live. But what you don’t know is that by answering the phone, Mary wouldn’t have caught 3 green lights in a row, each lasting 49 seconds in red, 8 seconds in yellow, and 4 seconds to get through the intersection from a dead stop.
After those 3 red lights, Mary is back to 3 extra minutes ahead. So it is either lose 3 minutes by answering the phone, or lose 3 minutes by catching red lights.
I am under the assumption Mary is the loser here. The butterfly did nothing wrong, and Mary should have set her damn alarm.
Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that the butterfly is smirking at me from behind the double chocolate milkshake he is sharing with his lady friend.