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The seagull effect or…what’s all this flap about decimal rounding?

May10

edwardIn 1961, Edward Lorenz was putting data into a weather prediction program and mistakenly entered 0.506 rather than the longer and more accurate 0.506127. Now, this was not really an error, was it? After all, we round to 3 decimal places all the time in high school Mathematics? However, the abbreviated entry resulted in a completely different weather model, and Lorenz marvelled at the incredible difference one small change could make to the larger outcomes within a defined system.

In a later paper on the subject, he commented that, “one flap of a seagullseagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever”. Over time, the analogy morphed into, “the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas”, and the ‘Butterfly Effect’ was born.

Whatever the label, the core principle of this theory remains the same: that a seemingly small and insignificant action in one part of a system can become sufficiently amplified to bring about large-scale, high-impact change. The truth of this theory has been affirmed time and time again, across a wide range of fields. So, when you are rounding your decimal answers, remember that you may be making a big difference to the correct solution and enhancing the “seagull effect.”

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NCEA Level 2 Algebra Problem. Using the information given, the shaded area = 9, that is:
y(y-8) = 9 –> y.y – 8y – 9 =0
–> (y-9)(y+1) = 0, therefore y = 9 (can’t have a distance of – 1 for the other solution for y)
Using the top and bottom of the rectangle,
x = (y-8)(y+2) = (9-8)(9+2) = 11
but, the left side = (x-4) = 11-4 = 7, but rhs = y+? = 9+?, which is greater than the value of the opp. side??
[I think that the left had side was a mistake and should have read (x+4)?]

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