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Butterfly Effect: How much can you do before change occurs?

  1. May 4, 2017 #1
    I didn't know where to put this, but sci-fi seemed fitting:

    Just a hypothetical regarding the Butterfly Effect that's been puzzling me, if anyone has any insight...

    How much could you do in the past before your very presence started affecting history?

    For fun, let’s say you wake up 12 years in the past, about... 45 minutes before a lottery drawing, having memorized the winning numbers.

    In that 45 minutes, would simply rushing to the store to buy a ticket (in, say, California) be enough to change the random trajectory of the little numbered balls in the rotating drum during the drawing? (Which takes place in Georgia).


    I’m not talking about the whole “paradoxes” or “Time is self-correcting” thing, where one would go into their own timeline's past. We’re talking an alternate timeline, identical to the one you came from, up until the moment you arrive. Where your actions in this new world change its future (compared to the world you came from), causing a new timeline. You are (or rather, I suppose, your consciousness is) just a foreigner in this timeline.

    Any ideers? Is my fantasy plan for instant riches relatively solid, or am I doomed to appear in the past and instantly change the trajectory of some little ping pong balls on the other side of the country?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 4, 2017 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Since time travel is make believe as we know it, you can make up any answer you want.

    With my luck, I would win the lottery and then get hit by a truck and killed on the way to collect, the ticket getting destroyed.
  4. May 4, 2017 #3
    Pfft... Terrible outlook on the whole situation. This isn't "Final Destination" here.

    Regarding the butterfly effect, I was simply wondering if anyone had any other "what if" scenarios regarding how large an action might be needed before noticeable changes took place as opposed to the original timeline.

    I know my question is somewhat open-ended. I know the answer would depend on what I did during those 45 minutes that might possibly affect something that affects something else that might be connected to something in Atlanta.

    Perhaps while on my way to the store to get a ticket, I drove by a guy who was on his cell phone with a friend/relative in Atlanta who works at the lottery drawing office, and my passing the guy on the road caused the distracted cell phone user to swerve off the road, causing the relative on the other end of the line to be delayed for a moment before the balls were dropped into the rotating drum, causing a shift in the air around the balls, causing a different set of numbers to fall to the bottom of the rotating drum, causing my entire plan to be ruined.

    What if. What if. What if. No accounting for chaos theory, I suppose. Incremental, essentially unpredictable changes causing certain outcomes.

    But hopefully, in such a scenario, keeping my head down, driving carefully, buying a ticket, and then just sitting somewhere out of the way until the 45 minutes were up, perhaps the balls and the timeline in general would be unaffected until I did something more major.

    Just a thought.
  5. May 4, 2017 #4
    Speculation outside of a specific Sci-Fi reference is against our guidelines.
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