Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


I looked up Chaos Theory again. So far as i understand  it the origin was a bit like this. A man (Edward Lorenz) was running some sort of mathematical process that started with a number (say 959935.705) and  told his computer to do THIS and THAT to it – a long sequence of instructions – and got an answer at the end. (Say the answer was  42.6783). He wanted to run it again for confirmation but something interrupted him. So he stopped the program and wrote down the number as it was part-way through. (Say 92.078392).  When he resumed, he put in 92.0783 by accident and told the computer to get on with it. He expected a small difference from the original answer because of the two missing digits. He got something wildly different from 42.6783. The after-the-break calculations had treated 92.078392 in exactly the same way as 92.0783  but got figures at the end that were dramatically different. The conclusion at the end of it all is that a tiny and possibly unmeasurable difference in the original state can make a huge difference to the outcome, despite the forces subsequently applied to it being exactly the same. How does thar relate to my car breaking down on a dirt road fifty years ago?

No mobile phones in those days and the road was little used and the nearest place I could hope to find a phone was twenty miles away. I had to meet my fiance arriving from England at Bulawayo railway station in three hours time. I had no idea what was wrong with the car – engine refused to fire at all. An oncoming driver stopped to help, and  diagnosed a broken contact-breaker inside the distributor. He said, “I have got a spare one of those in my toolkit. I can fix this for you.” His car was not the same as mine. I got to the station just as the passengers were climbing down from the train.

Was that a miracle, or was it not? What constitutes a miracle? Religious folk would define it as “An act of God.” So unless God is involved it’s not a miracle and if you are not a believer then miracles can’t happen. The other idea is that the ‘happening’ is caused by an unlikely sequence of events. Many different events preceded the meeting with my rescuer, and if any one of them had been different I would not have met the train. But something else would have happened – to another person elsewhere – that might or might not have seemed miraculous. My meeting was not an end, but only a single event in a long, long chain. Chaos Theory assumes that we can’t define things accurately enough to predict outcomes far down the line. I was the beneficiary of a particular cause/effect sequence whose details we can’t know. There was nothing magical about it. Or was it the work of my Guardian Angel? Or hers? It is another example of how little we know about what surrounds us.

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