Behaviour in a complex system that appears irregular or unpredictable but is actually determinate. The apparently random or unpredictable behaviour in systems governed by complicated (nonlinear) deterministic laws is the result of high sensitivity to initial conditions. For example, Edward Lorenz discovered that a simple model of heat convection exhibits chaotic behaviour. In a now-classic example of such sensitivity to initial conditions, he suggested that the mere flapping of a butterfly's wings could eventually result in large-scale changes in the weather (the “butterfly effect”).
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