Peter Dizikes: Writings on Science and Society


The Meaning of the Butterfly
Why pop culture loves the “butterfly effect,” and gets it totally wrong
By Peter Dizikes. The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008

The Butterfly EffectSome scientists see their work make headlines. But MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz watched his work become a catch phrase. Lorenz, who died in April, created one of the most beguiling and evocative notions ever to leap from the lab into popular culture: the “butterfly effect,” the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences. The name stems from Lorenz’s suggestion that a massive storm might have its roots in the faraway flapping of a tiny butterfly’s wings.

Translated into mass culture, the butterfly effect has become a metaphor for the existence of seemingly insignificant moments that alter history and shape destinies. Typically unrecognized at first, they create threads of cause and effect that appear obvious in retrospect, changing the course of a human life or rippling through the global economy.

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My work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Slate, Salon, Technology Review, and numerous other publications. You can learn more about me here.

SELECTED ARTICLES BY PETER DIZIKES

E. Coli and You
The New York Times, June 29, 2008

The Meaning of the Butterfly
The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008

Joseph Needham's Grand Question
Seed, May/June 2008

Pure Science
The New York Times, April 13, 2008

Nature Nurtures Learning
The Boston Globe, December 31, 2007

Genes Open New Frontier in Privacy Debate
The Boston Globe, September 24, 2007

Cambridge Scientists Put on a Show
Nature Network Boston, May 1, 2007

Edward O. Wilson Sees Accord on Climate Action
The Boston Globe, January 29, 2007

Genome Human
The New York Times, July 30, 2006

Galileo Groupies
Slate, February 3, 2006

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Peter Dizikes: Writings on Science and Society


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Measure for Measure
Technology Review, July/August 2010

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