butterfly effect

The butterfly effect is one of the more sensational and loudly-touted claims of chaos theory: a butterfly beating its wings could, by a intricate chain of causes and effects, give rise to a hurricane. The gist of the argument is that minuscule disturbances can be amplified unpredictably into major phenomena. However, the overwhelming likelihood is that any effect as small as the beating of a butterfly's wing would be quickly dampened out and play no significant part in future events.