Musing: The Butchering of the Butterfly Effect.

I read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 recently and it reminded me the challenges of writing about time travel.   While Two Destroyers is related to a time loop or time tampering, it’s not quite the same thing.

bill-and-teds-excellent-adventure

Time Travel Pioneers? Or masterminds of Evil?

If you go back to the past and change anything you risk changing everything.   The concept has been repeated in the theory of the mathematical term: the Butterfly Effect.   I know I joke about using the lottery numbers to get rich, but even that could change the world irreparably.

In doing so, you may have discouraged a good Samaritan from buying a ticket next week.   That Samaritan would have gone on to donate money to a charity that spares the life of a young genius that would go on to cure cancer.

It’s like a big Rube Goldberg machine.   You take out one cog and the machine may stop working.  The Butterfly Effect name stems from MIT Meteorologist Edward Lorenz’s suggestion that a massive storm might have its roots in the faraway flapping of a tiny butterfly’s wings.  If you watched the 2004 movie of the same name you probably knew that.

mothrasizedbutterfree

Behold the face of the apocalypse.

The interpretation of popular media actually gets it backwards.   Changing a seemingly insignificant event doesn’t change a person’s predestined fate, it throws it into chaos.  The important part of Lorenz’s theory that is missed is the ‘might’.  The result may be potentially discovered after it happens, but there is no way to anticipate the end result.

If I went back in time and paused to admire a butterfly, it could cause and prevent tragedy in equal portions.   Have you ever been spared from injury by distraction?  Something falls near you moments after you pause to consider something?  And in reverse has being too hesitant ever caused an accident?  You bet it has.

Events that shape the world are so delicate that you simply arriving in the past and doing nothing can change everything.   It can also do nothing.    Time Travel is roll of the dice, but it’s a lot of dice.  Because you’re changing some tiny detail, hundreds of tiny details change too.   Each of those tiny details turns into thousands, and those millions.

Eventually it may cause a freak accident that didn’t happen without your intervention.  If that freak accident kills or wounds someone, the result will affect others.  Someone may be too shaken by the accident to pursue a romance that leads to a marriage.  And conversely it may inspire another person to find love and have a child that didn’t exist.

Any way you look at it, time travel is a terrible idea.

 

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