We once thought about foreseeing our futures and possibly changing them. Suppose you saw yourself getting a car accident next Wednesday. You would attempt to change the future and not even come outside. Then, is our future predetermined? If so, can our future change? In modern physics, there are two interesting concepts: the butterfly effect and the time slice hypothesis.
Butterfly effect is a ripple effect that happens when an unintended change causes subsequent changes on neighboring objects. One famous example of butterfly effect is the chain rule in Calculus. If you take the derivative of Sin (x), it becomes Cos(x). However, if you change the inner part of the function so that it becomes Sin (x^3), the derivative is 3(x^2) Cos(x^3). The change from x to x^3 causes the ‘ripple effect’ by requiring the inner part of the function to be also differentiated.
Time slice hypothesis is a theory that says past, present, and future coexist. Suppose you and I are on opposite sides of the same time slice. In our time slice, the time flows both continuously in equal speed. However, suppose you move away from me. Your time slice gets slightly shifted from mine, and you would be able to see my past as you look at the place where I used to stand. Alternatively, if you move towards me, you would see my future.
So, is our future pre-existing or predetermined? According to the time slice hypothesis, past, present, and future already exist. It leaves no room for the alteration of reality, effectuated by cause, whether intended or unintended. However, the butterfly effect rather suggests that our everything is determined by cause and effect.
Which theory is correct? If we were to reconcile these two controversial theories, we reach a third theory that explains our reality better than either of them. Assume for a moment that there is a proctor that detects the even minimal changes in our predetermined future. This proctor would monitor and manage whether our future is going through the correctly intended direction of the future. If something intends and affects our future, the proctor would need a means of remedy the altercation. Surprisingly, the proctor would use the butterfly effect to manipulate early future to put our future back on track. In this case, the proctor is the figure that intends such change, and the butterfly effect caused by the proctor is the part of the ‘pre-existing’ future. While the time slice theory suggests the big branch of uniform and pre-existing future, the butterfly effect merely alters minor future to reach the pre-existing future. Similar relationship can be found in our bodies.
We all have DNA in our bodies. When DNA replicates, the double-stranded DNA divides into two single strands. Each strand has millions of unpaired nuclear bases, and DNA polymerase monitors and matches the correct pairs of bases. However, there are some cases in which bases get wrong partners. Normally, Adenine (A) goes with Thymine (T) and Cytosine (C) goes with Guanine (G). When DNA polymerase detects the mismatched pair, such as A paired with G, it gets rid of that pair and bring another correct pair to prevent the mutation. Thus, just like the DNA polymerase in our bodies, the proctor in time slice serves an important function of fixing the unforeseen situation. Although near future would change by the butterfly effect in response to the slight change of the predetermined future, the ultimate or major future of our future would be same.
On the other hand, some people suspect that the ultimate future would be same even if the butterfly effect occurs. However, there are some instances in our lives where people would not even realize that the butterfly effect occurred. Take a look at an equilibrium chemical reaction. If we drop a low concentration of base into a beaker of a high concentration of acid, we observe no difference. The beaker is still clear, transparent, without any color change. However, even though we cannot observe anything from the reaction, there is a constant chemical reaction occurring between the H+ of acid and OH- of base to cancel each other. Although we did not observe any change in the appearance of the beaker, a form of butterfly effect had actually occurred with an addition of a drop of base into acid that are trying to cancel out each other.
On the other hand, there can be some exceptions to this theory. What would happen if the premise is wrong? What if the proctor misses the changes in future or the DNA polymerase does not detect the mis-paired bases? If the DNA polymerase misses the mis-paired bases, it would cause mutation. In addition, if the proctor fails to perceive the changes of future, it would result into a completely distorted future. If this is the case, there will only be a continuous butterfly effect that cannot be controlled. While I think that certain forms of proctor exist both in the time slice and our bodies, without the proper function of the mediators, the butterfly effect would endlessly occur. It is just like a cancer that keeps dividing the malignant cells without any control.
So, time slice hypothesis and butterfly effect are not mutually exclusive. If we attempt and succeed in changing a little portion of future, the butterfly effect occurs. In addition, there is a proctor that mediates and controls the frequency of butterfly effect. The proctor helps our distorted future path to get back onto the right track and prevents significant changes in our ultimate future. However, if the proctor fails to function properly, our future would fall into a chaotic chasm where neither time slice nor butterfly effect would be balanced.
Youngjae (Aaron) Kim
Youngjae (Aaron) Kim email@example.com
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