How Random Is the Universe?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by TruthSeeker, Oct 3, 2006.


How Random is the Universe?

  1. Completely Random

    5 vote(s)
  2. More Random then Deterministic

    6 vote(s)
  3. More Deterministic the Random

    3 vote(s)
  4. Completely Deterministic

    7 vote(s)
  1. c7ityi_ Registered Senior Member

    Why would they have to be identical?

    You can say a circle has infinite sides, no side or one side. They're all correct.
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  3. Rosnet Philomorpher Registered Senior Member

    No they're not all correct. "Side", in geometry has to be a straight line segment. (And this isn't a linguistic discusison and what it means is what really matters, so don't start saying that we can define side to include curves also or anything like that please!).

    A circle is a polygon with an infinite number of infitesimally small sides. And this relationship can even be used to calculate the value of π by the method of limits.
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  5. Oniw17 ascetic, sage, diogenes, bum? Valued Senior Member

    Pi isn't random because it's infinite. 1/3=0.33333333333333333333333333333 333333333333333333333333333333... It is infinite, but not random. It can be made into a fraction(1/3), I think you meant irrational, not infinite.

    Isn't pi an average?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2006
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  7. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Firstly thanks you so much Glaucon for taking the time to place a critical eye upon my somewhat rambling post. I do appreciate it.
    Secondly I must apologise in advance for the possibility that I may not be able to participate in this thread as much as I would like as I am traveling amongst the chaos that is "Brazil" at ´present and internet access is not reliable.

    The arguement I was attempting to put forward requires a great deal more thought and effort in its composition and rational. The thoughts I have about the evolution of natural design that appears to us as intelligence at work are essentially immature and verging on incoherant.

    I do however, as you would agree feel that the abstraction I am attempting to share may be of some worth even if it inspires more abstractions....hmmmm...well....maybe.

    I would love to sit down with someone and thrash out a sound arguement that would be acceptable to those who have the philosophical semantics understood, as I lack any formal understanding of the structure needed to present a complete and proper arguement.

    For example presenting tne notion of "Pi;a creature of infinite diversity" would test any ardent philosopher I would assume.
    Maybe I am just too lazy to put in the work and study the various rules of proper debate in this field.....hmmmm

    Infinte diversity for me equates to absolute randomness and hence the relevance to this thread.
    Given that it is currently accepted by some that space is in fact curved and not flat and that due to this curvature Pi or something very similar is involved we could say that infinite diversity is achieved by this curvature in that every space time co-ordinate is unique thus granting absoolute infinite diversity as a potential yet unprovable result.

    AS pi is an infinite or eternal resolution of a "problem" this coul dbe extended to teh notion that Existance is a "problem" that seeks resolution yet can never be solved.
    Life is a problem looking for a solution that is impossible to find.

    Extended even more to the notion that sufference can never be fully relieved unless no-existance is achieved [re: Buddhism] The cycle of Samara must by necessity continue eternally and so on.....just a s a spiralling circle must also , then onto the notion of PI again and infinite diversity and thus randomness...hmmm....a circular arguement yes? ha

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    Last edited: Oct 6, 2006
  8. jumpercable 6EQUJ5 'WOW' Registered Senior Member

    We must entertain the very remote idea that it is even more remotely possible that we may be the only intelligent life in our galaxy. So far, as illogical as it may seem, until proven otherwise (a 'confirmed' radio signal from an ET for example), that possibility seems to be the case. Even if our humble galaxy after billions of years had evolved just one or two intelligent life forms capable of transmitting radio signals from deep space, then these signals should still be bouncing around out there even today. So far, in our galaxy, with the exception of ourselves, appears to be 'very very' quiet.
  9. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    (I thought this was obvious...)

    Thanks Rosnet.
  10. itistoday Registered Member

    Hi all (new to the forum).

    This topic is an interesting one, and the answer is not so simple, it all depends on where you look.

    If you look really closely, you'll see that the universe is *perfectly* random (QM level), and you can even use this randomness to create a perfectly random sequence of numbers for computer programs (I forget the site that lets you free access to such a generator, anyone remember?)

    However, there's a catch to this. Again, it depends on what you're talking about. Say you're talking about the spin of an electron. Before measuring it, it is in what is called a "superposition" of possible states, each equally likely (up and down). Now, please understand that this is indeed the case, meaning that before you measure it, it does not have some unknown value. This has been supported by numerous experiments and is accepted as fact among QM experts.

    But there are other properties, like its position. Say you want to know where an electron is. Well, it is 20% likely to be here, 60% likely to be there, etc. Not only that, but before you find out where it is using some sort of tool, it is everywhere it can possibly be! This is because in between measurements the electron 'becomes' a wave, and a wave is not localized at any one point. The probability that you will find it somewhere is determined by the wave function.

    So, as you can see, when you shoot an electron somewhere, it has a certain probability that it will hit there, and the bigger the object is, the more certain you are about where it will be. So instead of using an electron to shoot things, use a bowling ball! There you have a degree of certainty that approaches 100% (but is not exactly 100%), and thus you have what can be called determinism.

    I voted for "completely" random, because that is the closest option I saw to "perfectly" random. To say that the universe is "completely" random is poor word choice, because that suggests that everything is 50/50, which is obviously not the case.
  11. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    Nice to have you here QQ, and to engage in some decent convo.

    I'm not too sure if making use of Pi here is any help with respect to the concepts we're wrestling with. It's important to remember that regardless what kind of number we're talking about, that any number is a part of a human-created schematic; it may very well be the case that our entire system of mathematics is completely incorrect. There is therefore, no good reason to argue along the line that 'this oddity says something about the universe', or something akin. If anything, an oddity says more about us, its creators, than anything else. All too often people fall into the habit of granting some sort of material or metaphysical ontological status to entities without thinking them through. To be clear: there are no such things as numbers beyond the realm of the human mind. This is the most significant result of Goedel. Useful fictions no doubt, but fictions nonetheless.
  12. VitalOne Banned Banned

    Completely random, at least on a subatomic level, everything is chaos
  13. Kendall ......................... ..... Registered Senior Member

    Now that I think about it some things must be random of other things, really expecting the universe to be completely deterministic or random is unlikly to say the least, it might be deterministic in alot of ways, random in alot of ways and anywhere in between.
  14. Onefinity Registered Senior Member

    I think that it is neither random nor deterministic. I think that there is a pattern that is set, and the details (events, things) that are connected to form the pattern are acually - at a micro scale - the same pattern in disguise.

    While the pattern can be known to people, there is no way for a human to use it to know the future in a detailed sense. This is because by nature humans must be blinded to direct view of the pattern so that we re-create it through what we experience as "a life".

    The cosmos is not random because everything, no matter how "small," is part of the pattern; the cosmos is not deterministic because in fulfillment of re-enacting that single pattern, we have all the freedom we could ever want or need.
  15. Onefinity Registered Senior Member

    It's true that numbers are human abstractions out of quantity; and quantity itself could be considered an abstraction out of quality. But I digress; what I wanted to say is that pi is not a number. It's a ratio that is incredible because it represents pure movement. Humans can't ever draw, or build a machine that can draw, a perfect circle, because of this.

    As to whether pi is random simply because there are no repeating decimals, I'd say quite the opposite: its representation of pure movement, and its implicit presence in all forms in the universe, would make it perhaps the most non-random phenomenon of all.
  16. Rosnet Philomorpher Registered Senior Member

    How can you say that it's "completely random"? If it was, there would be now way of predicting <I>anything</I>. And there wouldnt' even be life, since there is some continuity in that. But I'm not sure about this, beacuse now that I think about it, how <I>do</I> you define "comepletely random"?
  17. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    I have to keep it short but will attempt to explain why I agree with your main point and yet disagree in the level of usefulness.

    "Pi is not just a mere number abstraction it is also an attempt to help describe the reality of a sphere or circle"
    "Pi is merely a tool to help us perfrom a function, that being to describe a circle as a polygon. It is succcessful in that function becasue it adequately reflects the reality of a circle"
    So with these thoughts in mind it is the ciircle and not Pi that generates the infinite resolution of the problem that a circle/sphere presents. As said Pi is merely an mathematical tool to help describe a circle but let us not forget it is the circle and not Pi that presents the problem.

    So we look at our sphere and note that it has an infinite quality to it even though it has a finite volume, on one hand we have perfection and fully determined aspects and yet on the other hand we have an unresolved or imperfect solution to that problem. So as the sphere is our predominant shape in this universe it could be argued that the nature of the sphere predisposes that universe to absolute infinite diversity yet commonality simultaneoously. A bit of a paradox I think.... yes?

    An infinite randomness that is fully determined.

    Take the first two million digits of Pi and no matter how many times you repeat the eqation leading to the ratio those two million digits remain the same and in the same order. Yet no pattern is available to be noted except the entire string of two million digits being able to be repeated every time we perform the Pi fiunction.

    I am not sure I have made my point clearly enough. I admit it is a hard concept to grasp and probably a flimsy any way.

    "The natural evolution of what appears to be intelligent design" leading to the natural presumption or a creator diety.
    "The infinite diversity therefore randomness that is the natural extension of a logically derived material necessity that being a sphere"

    hmmmm.......Tough hey?
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2006
  18. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    exactly half my point, as mentioned above "an absolutely determined randomness" is what the natural outcome of the physics of the sphere generates.

    It is making a clear arguement for that association that is troubling.

    ie "fundamental #1101111 universal. The Necesssity of a sphere is the demonstration of the effect that causes infinite diversity to be a reality"
    "fundamental #1101112 universal. The necessity of the sphere is the demonstration of the effect that causes randomness to be absolutely determined.

    Well any way thats what it says in a book I found under a tree one had this strange glow to it....hmmmmm.......I wonder....

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  19. superluminal I am MalcomR Valued Senior Member

    I think I will say I completely agree with you itistoday. I was just going to post something very similar.

    I found this nice and simple definition for "random":

    Lack of predictability, without any systematic pattern.

    I think that sums it up. While individual entities in superposition truly are in no definite state (not just unknown as you said), groups of entities at the macro scale can be very non-random in their overall behavior.

    Good post.
  20. itistoday Registered Member

    Thanks superluminal, I also noticed that I forgot to mention why larger objects behave more deterministically: it's because their wave function gets smaller, in other words, the wave becomes more localized and spread over a smaller region, with its central peak being the highest, and therefore the object has the largest probability of being there.

    An interesting tidbit about QM (for those unfamiliar with it) is that if you square the mathematical function that describes the physical wave of an object, commonly referred to as &Psi; (psi), then you get what's called the probability function, or &Psi;&sup2; (psi is usually defined using sines and cosines and/or with complex numbers)

    So as a very simple example, if you want to know the probability that a particle whose wave function is defined as &Psi; is at location x,y, then you just go:

    probability = &Psi;&sup2;(x,y)

    The wave function becomes very small at even the tiniest objects visible. Even atoms have small wave functions, much less bowling balls. This is why physicists must use particles like electrons to observe the wave-like nature that all objects share (to varying degrees of course).

    Now, you may notice that I still have not really explained why their wave functions get smaller as their mass increases. The answer to that question, I believe, is currently unknown, and there is much work being done to try and find out why QM behaves the way it does.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2006
  21. VitalOne Banned Banned

    it is completely random on a subatomic level, everything is chaos

    however, our brain creates order out of chaos, when in reality there is no order, there is just indiscriminate chaos

    the things we predict aren't even true on a subatomic level, but they're pragmatic and practical for us
  22. itistoday Registered Member

    There definitely is order, and it's even noticeable at the atomic level. No brain required. If there wasn't then the universe would not be as it is today. Heh, itistoday.

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  23. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    There is no chaos - just laws we do not yet fully understand - laws that often generate patterns for us to see at a localised level.

    There is no true randomness - just (complex?) probability.

    At least that's what my barber told me while we were chatting away.

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