Is there such a thing as randomness?

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by scilosopher, Dec 14, 2001.

  1. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    The first time I started wondering this was writing a pseudo-random number generator in a programming class. The concept that you could do such a thing is a bit of a trip. Generating randomness from an ordered program. Of course the trick is that you take a seed and put it through a very nonlinear mathematical transformation. Any small difference in a seed leads to huge differences in the result.

    If you know everything, the seed and the transformation, the result is easy to predict. If not it's impossible.

    The world around us is highly nonlinear and there are clear limits on how much we can know about the world around us.

    Everything that occurs on time scales we can grasp follows predictable laws. We only find what we believe to be randomness in quantum phenomena that occur so fast that there may be question of whether we catch all the details.

    So I ask you, do you think randomness is real?
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  3. rde Eukaryotic specimen Registered Senior Member

    I think so. Two examples:
    1. Virtual particles. These seem to pop in and out of the universe in a wholly unpredictable way. So not only are they random, but anything they interact with will behave in a concomitantly random manner.
    2. Radioactive decay. There's no way to predict whether a particular atom will decay at any time.

    In the above two cases, AFAIK the lack of predictability is based on genuine randomness rather than a lack of computational ability on our part.
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  5. Xerxes asdfghjkl Valued Senior Member

    There is ways to predict such things. People just havent learned. Everything is predictable.

    We dont know, but time doesnt really exists. Its already been predisposed to what it's potential was.
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  7. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    As I said when you have no information things can seem random.

    It would be highly impractical if not impossible to look at 6E23 molecules in a mole of radioactive material.

    Virtual particles appearing from nowhere can be explained in two ways. There is a nowhere they come from or they come from somewhere or some process we are unaware of.

    In both cases you're dealing with things that happen on dimensions and timescales far removed from our natural senses. Furthermore our scientifically made senses still have limits. We clearly haven't designed devices that can probe length scales predicted by current quantum theories like string theory. So who can really say.

    At the edge of science is belief. Science moves forward only by people testing what they believe to be true and happening upon what they don't understand.

    So I ask you not what you have told. What do you believe?
  8. 666 Registered Senior Member

    You can achive order from randomness. so the answer is yes and no.

    If you look at the universe on a small scale stars are strewn about randomly, but if you look at it in a larger scale it is orderly.

    Randomness is a tool. If you were to roll a dice the numbers would appear to come up randomly, but you can use a computer to do the proper calculations to predict which number will come up.


    I all ways find it kinda fustrating when pepole say this. Mostly becuase they are thinking of the wrong thing.

    Time does exists. It's the mesurement of time that doesn't "exists". The secound, the minute, the hour, and other mesurments of time are not "real", but the passage of time is. The mesurement of time was created by hummans simply as a tool. Think about what life would be like if we could not mesure time. I'm not just talking about things like clocks, but not being able to preceive time. We would not be able to stop or car before hiting the person in front of us. We would not be able to pick up a glass or just plain function. Time is verry much a part of the universe. With out it life it's self could not happen. We would not even be able to move, becuase it takes time to move from point a to point b.

    Time is one of the things that prevent two objects from occupying the space and ?? Two objects can occupy the same space, but only at 2 different times.

    Allthough not having time would be kinda neat. You would be able to be here and any ware elses in the universe at the same time with out even moving.
  9. scilosopher Registered Senior Member


    In response to your point, if you get order out of randomness, was the randomness only an illusion? The lack of information regarding the evolution of solar position in the universe makes their locations seem random individually. When you look at all of them together then they start seeming ordered because of averaging effects of a single star's behavior over many instances revealing the microscopic ordering that may not be obvious in a single event.

    When a number is completely random between 0 and 1 - you can mathematically state the situation as there being an EQUAL probably of any number between 0 and 1 being drawn. The macroscopic description of the behavior is very orderly. It's just that for any specific prediction you lack the information to guess what it will be.
    Maybe we're just arguing semantics, but typically people think of randomness as implying a lack of order. There are specific mathematical descriptions of things typified as random which are certainly real and useful tools for studying phenomena where limited information is available to make use of. The reason I find issue with that is it seems that people sometimes see lack of order as excusing a lack of need to consider the consequences of their actions.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2001
  10. 666 Registered Senior Member


    I aggree completly with this!!

    I chose the wrong words to explain what I ment about randomness. What I ment was that most things that we see as being random accually are not, and it is due to, as you said lack of information. I'm not sure if there is anything we can say that is completly random. Except for maybe a number. We can predict to a high level of accuracy most things that we feel are are random. Does this mean they are not random? I'm not sure.
  11. Xerxes asdfghjkl Valued Senior Member

    I should rephrase myself.

    I think time is perceived. We are here, in one place. From the point of view of what I can refer to as God, he is everywhere and it does not exist in his eyes because he is one, basically everything. I really dont want to get into the physics involved after a long hard week. But in essence, we live in a 1 dimensional universe, and in that, there is no time.

    If I aint so pooped tomorrow I'll try to explain myself better, but right now my brain is fried.
  12. 666 Registered Senior Member

    Cool I look forward to your explination when you are feeling more up to it. I may or may not be understanding you correctly.
  13. Xerxes asdfghjkl Valued Senior Member

    Well as I was saying, we are here.

    We basically live in a reality that is 4 dimensional when in that fourth dimensional view its only one dimensional. People think of it as 3 dimensional because we usually see things just that way. But, there are perforations in this. You see, we cant really recognize what is 'going on' from what we see as a static world that is there and we are a speck within.

    Look at the world as a perfect cube box. Its actually more circular, but a box is simpler to visualize. Now we are inside this box, and in this box is reality, it revolves around us and our perceptions of it. We just happen to see it and percieve it the same because of our proximity to eachother. This is time.

    Now recall that everything is in this box. We dont really realize it but we are a crucial part of it. Everywhere in that box can be percieved as God, everywhere that is anywhere, and nothing is sortof a place but it is irrelevant because it is occupied by the box anyway. Explaining myself better..... Nothing else exists outside of this box because nothing is something too and thats why God is everywhere. So think of this box as all, everything everywhere, all empty space.

    If you inverse the box, (more accurately a circle to be precise) you will recognize Gods point of view. Everywhere that is nowhere and everywhere at once. This box is now unrelative to anything because it is one (one dimensional coincidentally) and thats God aswell. A one dimensional reality that is quite difficult for most to comprehend. God is everywhere, right.

    This is scraping the surface between the three planes of reality only one of which is true. The physical reality we exist in. Gods omnipotent perspective, and the transitional one that intersects both. Now this is kinda difficult to explain because I seem to be the only one who thinks of things this way, but I'll try to elaborate.

    We are currently in the physical one. The higher one is completely contemplative and omnipotent, while the transitional one is like a physical mesh where the two can coincide at base and two opposite stanced grounds with these three separate roads running through each. Now I know right now I sound like a real psycho but please bear with me.

    This is all the basis of the universe and stuff we make sound complicated like physics which is really very easy if you can understand the base ground. These three roads.

    Now I've gone off topic so I could explain myself. Time doesnt exist in the one dimensional reality that is omnipotent and only visible to the almighty and alknowing God and creator which is exactly why we call him that. Although most people in my religion see it completely different than me because they only listen to what they are told, to call him that out of respect when it goes way deeper. Respect is not what is seems. 'Outside' of this box time cannot exist because it is irrelevant there is no reason.

    Okay, right now its 10:30 and I still aint done explaining (i'll later use that time in my next explanation tomorrow if I find it necessary). I know I've probably given the impression of being a psycho lunatic, but I aint. Now if I've lost anybody reading this here, please let me know and I'll try to clarify. It may sound confusing, as I look back at it. I'll try to explain myself completely tomorrow cause I dont want to jumble everything at once.
  14. Oxygen One Hissy Kitty Registered Senior Member

    Okay. Let's see. Nothing else exists outside of the box. Then how could any diety have created the box, unless the box was created from the inside out, but then what did the diety exist in before the box even existed? The box must exist somewhere, therefore there is not "nothing" outside of the box. The complete nature of the box must also be unknown to any diety because nothing else exists outside of the box. Not dieties, not the magical ability for dieties to get outside of the box, nothing. Even identifying existence as a shape places on it boundaries, making your god finite. If a diety can exist outside of the box, that invalidates the "nothing else outside of the box" theory.

    I think before you go any further, you should explain the nature of "nothing". However, as soon as you do, then "nothing" becomes "something". Something cannot be nothing. Nothing cannot be something. And yet we refer to nothingness as a somethingness, while some aescetics pursue the somethingness of nothingness.

    And now we enter that misty wonderful world called "zen".

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  15. scaevola Registered Member

    My question has relevance to Cryptography and randomness.

    If an ordered series, eg., 1,2,3,4 ...... is numerically added to a second random series of numbers of any magnitude,eg., 4987,0024,501032,339,054093,......
    is the resulting series of summed numbers:

    Random?, or

    Ie, is order destroyed by addition to randomity, or vice versa?
  16. Chagur .Seeker. Registered Senior Member

    scaevola ...

    As I understand you, one set is random: therefore, AFAIK, the resulting
    set will be random.


    Take care.
  17. scilosopher Registered Senior Member


    That's an interesting question, which is actually quite relevant to my thoughts. If there is a strong random component to many natural processes, what are the implications for how that random element effects the rest of the world.

    In answer to your question I would say it depends on the scale of the random set of numbers and that of the ordered set.

    If you had an ordered set 1-10 and a random number between 0 and 1, you would certainly still see some of the order.

    If you had an ordered set 1-10 and added random numbers between 0 and 1000, you would probably not be able to tell.

    If you took many sets of random numbers between 0 and 1 and added them, that's the same as having a set of random numbers that are normally distributed. Which is to say that you have a set of 100 numbers that tend towards 0.5 with the probability of any number dropping rapidly as you move away. The more sets you added together, the more quickly the probability would drop away from 0.5. Which is a little more ordered than a set of simple random numbers.

    I'm not sure if that answers your question exactly, but I don't think there is a simple yet accurate answer. If someone expected a set of numbers that were linearly increasing with a random number added to it, if the sequence was long enough there would always be a point where the step could be predicted with reasonable accuracy. If they had an idea about the average of the random number or the span of it, they could also predict the sequence itself.

    It depends a lot on what is and isn't known. That's why I wonder if anything is random. It generally seems that if enough information is known about any system it can be predicted. In very macroscopic and microscopic processes where we have limited information we begin to use the idea of randomness to be able to make statistical predictions about behavior that is only ordered when our igorance averages out.
  18. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

    Randomness from non-determinism: no specific effect from any specific cause.
  19. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    I just got back from a weekend in DC and just read a bunch of the posts and Elbaz makes an interesting point about time.

    I think I'll stay out of the debate on how the universe was created, but I agree about the time thing to some extent.

    If you take a book - every page exists at the same time, but when you read it, it creates the illusion that the things occur as you experience them. I won't undertake the difficult task of explaining how this might be true for the universe, but if our experience of time is due to perception and not physical reality that does have interesting implications on randomness.

    Everything then would be set and therefore theoretically one might think everything was predictable. If randomness isn't an illusion and everything is set it produces an interesting quandry. The world is set to be a certain way and yet it isn't related in time by a continuous trail of causation. Pretty wierd.
  20. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    Mr G

    I'm confused, what exactly do you mean. Randomness is caused by non-determinism? Or we should separate randomness from non determinism?

    Are you saying things don't have specific causes or effects??

  21. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member





    All I'm saying is that randomness can be manifest only where there exists no definiton of cause or effect.

    (An example: Quantumn Mechanics -- looking defines.)
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2001
  22. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    Oh. Okay. Though I think sometimes people use the concept of randomness even in systems with cause and effect, but where the information can't all be gathered. Like statistical mechanics, you can't possibly get the position and speed of all the molecules so statistical descriptions are employed.

    Though they utilize random variables in the context of processes where cause and effect aren't being tracked.

    Taking that statement to be true (and assuming definitions actually reflect reality), randomness would basically require uncaused causes. An uncaused effect may as well be completely unrelated and is only related to what follows through it's effects.

    I can't imagine anything just happening though. But when you think mechanistically who can imagine an actual random mechanism? My mind is ordered and can only imagine order ... not randomness.
  23. Xerxes asdfghjkl Valued Senior Member

    I'll be back tomorrow to get my two cents in and explain the rest of my post tomorrow, but I got no time right now to be posting cause I got a load of homework.

    I just want you guys to know I didnt bail on my theory, no matter how crazy it sounds.

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