Their study builds on a well-known insight from Edward Lorenz of MITwho, in 1961, wished to repeat one of his weather simulations using a simple computer model but got quite different results because of a tiny rounding error in the numbers he fed into the computer.
The richness of the real world is entrained with irrational numbers which cannot be represented on any digital computer (‘and will not be representable on a quantum computer either’, he adds). ‘For Lorenz, it was a very small change in the last few decimal places in the numbers used to start a simulation that caused his diverging results,’ he says. ‘What neither he nor others realised, and is highlighted in our new work, is that any such finite (rational) initial condition describes a behaviour which may be statistically highly unrepresentative’.
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