A butterfly flaps its wings over Times Square in New York. We’ll forget how such a wonderfully absurd creature would come to stray so far away from the trees of Central or even Bryant Park. People below aren’t paying attention at all. Most scientists don’t either—well, no, that’s not true. Scientists do care for the premise of the story of this particular butterfly, just not for all aspects of the story itself.
See, the movement of the butterfly’s wings pushes a little air out of place. It isn’t much. It modulates the weak remnants of the outflow of a strong but distant air vent.
This modulated wave doesn’t move very far until it encounters another air stream from a different vent. The interaction is a modulation, too. Ever larger waves modulate ever larger other air movements. This process happens quite a few times, but eventually an actually significant current makes its way over Times Square.
This flow resonates with a convective current induced by the hot asphalt and the warmth of countless people, lights and cars below. We encounter a proper gravity wave for a split-second. The wave immediately breaks because, truth be told, how could it not in this urban cauldron of energy?
In addition, there are numerous other complex energy transfers taking place, too, such that we end up with a small volume of turbulence, of which our butterfly doesn’t know a thing.
A pigeon notices. It’s derailed in its flight, and bumps head first into another pigeon. Both fall and hit the ground right in front of an already scared little kid.
“You know, this is wrong.” the kid’s mother says.
“Sorry.” the father answers. “I didn’t know it was going to be this busy.”
I should add that they haven’t seen the birds fall.
“What a hell-hole.” she says.
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?”
The kid screams as both birds jerk up and fly away. Father and mother end up crouching over their child. They don’t notice the pickpocket who removes first his wallet from the pocket of the jacket, then her wallet from her purse.
“I’m hungry!” the kid says.
A little while later they sit at a window table in a restaurant, content and happy, expecting the bill. As the bill arrives, both father and mother find out that they no longer have their money.
“What are we gonna do now?” the father asks.
“There are several options.” the waiter answers.
The kid understands what happens. This wasn’t a good day. The mother, who sits next to him, attempts to console him. She can’t do it. Salt mill and ketchup bottle fly around on the table, the waiter calls for his colleagues and the manager. The father raises his voice, while other guests get involved after their own fashion, some less, some more. There is even a wolf, bred to obtain short legs and a long, sausage-like body, who contributes to the conversation.
We’ll stop at this point. We’ll calmly assume knowledge of the dynamics and motivations of everyone involved, including the dog, yet it’s nearly impossible to give justice to what happens with words anymore. The scene has simply descended into chaos.
I’ll let you make up your mind whether the entire thing is the butterfly’s fault.