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The Butterfly Effect

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A popular notion in science fiction is the "Butterfly Effect." If you travel back in time, even the killing of a single butterfly can have devastating effects on our present. Well, we don't need time travel to see this sort of effect. It's all around us. Even the littlest action somewhere, spreading through many interconnected people, can affect us.

You saw a neighbor drag a heavy plastic bag into his backyard, then break out a shovel. The bag, contents unseen, is about the size of a small child. Oh my god, you think, he's killed some poor child, and now he is trying to bury the evidence. So you call the police, they make a big scene, the poor guy doesn't know why there are all these men charging in with guns, and so naturally the first thing he does is defend himself. In the process, he is shot and killed. Just reward for a murderer, only it turns out the bag is filled with some old fertilizer he was going to use -- the original bag had broken and that's why it's in the unmarked larger one. He was dragging it because he'd already had a long and tiring day.

Well anyway, this event causes an uproar, the police get investigated, and new laws get passed that say the cops have to have a lot better evidence before bursting in someone's house. Fast forward a couple months, and someone across town sees someone else dragging a large bag, calls the police, only this time they proceed more cautiously. Too cautiously, as it turns out later that this time there was a body, only it was still alive when the call was made, and would still have been if the police hadn't been delayed by the new law that was passed because you jumped the gun and didn't see the trail of dirt leaking out the bottom end of the plastic bag.

Okay, so another less grim example.

A study is made of the effects of cigarette smoking on the health of the smoker and nearby inhalers. The study is done by a cigarette company, and you as the president of the company would like to make a few extra bucks. Well, the idea of this smoke being unhealthful to the smokers, much less anyone that happened to be passing by breathing the same air, just seems ridiculous to you, and even if true how bad can it get? But people are alarmists and even the least little bad report might cost you a lot of money. So, you tell the head researcher in your lab to fudge the results. He does so because you either gave him a pay raise or threatened his job (or both, call it a choice). The researcher decides that standing up to you isn't worth his kids not having anything to eat and so goes along with it. The report comes out; cigarettes are perfectly safe.

A few decades later, as you're sitting in your wheelchair, the latest statistics are coming back. Smoking cigarettes have killed millions, caused cancer and breathing problems in millions more, and all people you've never met. Oddly enough, one of the ones to die such an early death might have been the brilliant mind that could have come up with the cure for what's put you in the wheelchair, only he took up smoking at age 13 and was dead by 25.

That one person, some nameless executive from several decades ago, actually did make that decision to hide the truth about smoking (though with artistic license on the wheelchair part), and it has no doubt affected people you personally know. The action of one rippled throughout our interconnectedness and influenced many others. Of course, these are more physical examples, easy enough to grasp. What about something less obvious?

"Think Yourself Young" release date Dec 20, 2011. Available now on Kindle. I discuss diet and meditational techniques according to the Tibetan Monks that I was able to interview while living amongst them for a short period while at the Lama Temple in Beijing China. These folks appear to be able to stop physiological time dead in it's tracks with the net result being a high quality life beyond 120 years.

Peter Baksa has written "The Point of Power," available now on Amazon. He is also the author of "It's None of My Business What You Think of Me!,"

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