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Articles Reference-&-Education Science

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Chaos theory, a recent groundbreaking theory in applied mathematics, asserts that even a butterfly flapping its wings in Texas can cause a chain of events leading to a typhoon in Japan a month later. It's called "sensitive dependence on initial conditions." What that means in plain English is that the matrix of cause and effect is so delicately balanced and interdependent that if you change one thing, you change everything.

What fascinates me is how that idea might translate into the effect that our conscious decisions have on the world around us. I am reminded of the film "Schindler's List," about a German industrialist in World War II who ran a munitions factory with Jewish slave labor. He kept requesting more and more laborers, far more than he needed, aware that their recruitment would save them from the gas chambers (and saw to it that his factory produced nothing of value to the German war effort). What is stunning about that film is the final scene -- actual footage from the 1980s, of hundreds of people filing past his grave to lay flowers on his tombstone. I was curious as to why so many of them were clearly too young to have been alive during World War II. Until it hit me -- these were the sons and daughters of the Jews on Schindler's list. People who never would have been born except for Schindler's heroism. Some of the grandsons and granddaughters have yet to be born even to this day. And hundreds of years from now, how many people who will have never heard the name "Schindler" will unwittingly owe their lives, indeed their very births, to the man who saved the life of their great-great-great-great-grandmother during an ancient war?

"What we do in life, echoes in eternity" - Russell Crowe in the film "Gladiator"
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