Hey millennials, remember the movie The Butterfly Effect that rocked your world in high school? It’s strange because you definitely remember it being a first-rate movie that made you question the nature of reality and disturbed you in a profound way you couldn’t quite put your finger on—but it got a 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so now you’re suspicious of your original assessment. You typically align with the critics from that site. (Then again, its audience score is 81 percent, so maybe the critics got this one wrong?)
When you rewatch the trailer, what you remember as a powerful, edgy film just seems…goofy. Ashton Kutcher galavanting through time and space. That one dude from The Mighty Ducks. The booming, dramatic voiceover of cinematic trailers from the days of yore. And the music. Is that—? Oh, it is. It’s Staind.
Now that you’re questioning why you enjoyed this movie, and probably everything else you thought you knew, let’s dive into some of the real “butterfly effect” moments from history.
A scientist threw away a contaminated petri dish…and discovered antibiotics.
As you may remember from elementary school science class, it was by accident that, in September 1928, Scottish scientist Sir Alexander Fleming discovered something that would change the course of human life: antibiotics.
After vacationing for the summer in his home country, Dr. Fleming returned to the lab at St. Mary’s Hospital in London to find that everything was a mess. He noted that a mold called
After examining the dishes under his microscope, his findings amazed him. The mold that had grown in his absence had prevented the normal growth of the staphylococci.
“When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer,” he wrote later. “But I guess that was exactly what I did.”
To be fair, this didn’t happen without some help, and Fleming’s role in the development of antibiotics has been a bit overblown. Dr. Howard Markel, the director of the Center for the History of Medicine and the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan, points out in “The real story behind penicillin” for PBS that it wasn’t until the “landmark work” of others a decade later that antibiotics could become usable.
The Vienna Arts Academy rejected an application…and the Third Reich was born.
In 1908, Adolf Hitler moved from Linz, Austria, to Vienna. He was 18 years old. Though he was
Young Hitler wanted to become an artist. Though he was able to scrape by with the help of
“As with any drifting young life, Hitler’s might have gone in a number of ways. The most exasperating missed opportunity was the possibility of working under the graphic artist and stage designer Alfred Roller, a member of the anti-academic Secession movement whose sets for the Vienna Court Opera’s productions of Wagner, which were conducted by Mahler, foreshadowed Nazi theatricality. With a letter of introduction to Roller, Hitler approached the great man’s door three times without mustering the nerve to knock. As it turned out, he seems never to have consorted with anyone whose ego overmatched his own.”
Although “Jews were among his companions and patrons,” Hitler found himself drawn to the anti-Semitism stirring around him, and he began to direct his resentment toward the most obvious scapegoat of the times: the wealthy Jewish bourgeoisie.
The Great Depression hit…and now we have LEGO toys.
This may seem to be a bit of a reversal in terms of the relative importance of cause and effect (i.e., it would be more interesting if the invention of LEGO blocks had caused the Great Depression).
Still, it’s kind of wonky to think that something most associate with innocence, childhood, and playfulness—even the toy’s name, LEGO, is a contraction of “leg
Before the depression hit, the company had been a business that built houses and furniture. But, all of that came to a halt. “In 1932, as a consequence of the Great Depression, nobody could afford
“After the war, in 1947, Ole Kirk Christiansen acquired the first plastic molding machine in Denmark, and the company started producing and selling plastic toys. In 1949, the first plastic bricks with four and eight studs were manufactured, and the following year Godtfred Kirk Christiansen [Ole’s son] was appointed Junior Vice President of the company. A few years later, in 1954, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, inspired by a conversation with a toy buyer from a department store, set out to design a general toy system, and one year later the LEGO System of Play was invented. The LEGO brick was about to change the company.”
A chef lost his temper…and created potato chips. (Or was it his sister?)
Can you imagine a time when potato chips didn’t exist? Neither can we, but it’s true. And what a sad time it must have been.
Supposedly, the chef who created them was unhappy; however, the snark that produced potato chips might have been nothing without one picky diner to ignite it all.
As the story goes, in 1853, a particular customer at a New York resort complained that the head chef, George Crum, had made the
But, according to the fact-checking site Snopes, this origin story is only a fun legend. They write:
“The most credible version is that Katie Speck Wicks [Crum’s sister] invented the chip in an accident not dissimilar to the culinary misfire in which the brownie was born (from a mix-up of cake and fudge). ‘Aunt Katie,’ who also worked at Moon’s Lake House, was frying crullers and peeling potatoes at the same time. A thin slice of potato found its way into the frying oil for the crullers, and Katie fished it out. Noticing the chip, Crum tasted it and said, ‘Hm hm, that’s good. How did you make it?’ After Katie described the accident, Crum replied, ‘That’s a good accident. We’ll have plenty of these.'”
Even if revenge potato chips is a lie, the next time you’re about to make a fussy order and you’re worried your demands will make the cook want to spit in your food, there’s a least a small chance something delicious could come of it.