General Question

Paradox25's avatar

Does Deterministic Chaos ensure that there are certain phenomenon which will never be predictable?

Asked by Paradox25 (9981 points ) January 15th, 2013

Deterministic Chaos basically states that for a system to be considered chaotic, the system must be exquisitely sensitive to initial conditions. What this means is that even the slightest change in the initial conditions of a chaotic system can result in tremendous differences in the system’s development.

This is also known as the Butterfly Effect. This was named as such because a famous meteorologist found that even the slightest effects, such as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can have adverse effects on the weather in another part of the world. For this reason among others weather is considered to be a chaotic system. There are many other examples of chaotic systems as well.

Chaotic systems are extremely difficult to predict using linear means because linearity basically means that effects are proportional to causes. It has been found that for many chaotic systems trying to use linear means to predict their outcomes is very difficult. This is so because there are too many minor variables, both observable and unobservable, that will be a major factor in any chaotic system’s outcome.

I’ll admit that almost nothing is entirely linear, and even the basic concept of getting a baseball to go twice as far by hitting it twice as hard would likely be interfered with by some sort of unobserved conditions, but some phenomenon are clearly more linear than others regardless. My question here is what I wrote in the header: are there any phenomenon which exists that likely will never be reasonably predictable by using linear scientific methods that you can think of? Examples may include weather, psychology, physics or anything else for that matter.

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4 Answers

mattbrowne's avatar

A precise description of the solar system (location of planets, moons etc) in the more distant future.

ragingloli's avatar

Anything that is deterministic is predictable in principle. Whether humans have access to all the variables to predict it is another story.

LostInParadise's avatar

By the Heisenberg uncertainty principle along with the butterfly effect, nothing is completely predictable. The uncertainty principle says that there are limits to how precisely initial conditions can be measured. The butterfly effect says that for any system, the lack of precision means that eventually the system’s behavior will be unpredictable.

We have gotten pretty good at predicting weather up to the point that current weather fronts yield to new fronts, which is about a week or so. Beyond that, the butterfly effect kicks in.

We can’t predict earthquakes at all, other than long range forecasts, because the information needed is buried beneath too much rock surface. If we ever could get at the information, predicting earthquakes would probably be like weather forecasting.

Economic forecasting is so awful that you could probably do as well as economists by predicting the exact opposite of what they say.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

Simple answer is yes, ironically enough deterministic chaos is a paradox in how we predict certain events will be unpredictable.

We see these sort of events daily, now a better question would be what order arises from such sporadic unpredictability

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