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ragingloli's avatar

Apart from quantum mechanics, do you think that there exists something as true Randomness?

Asked by ragingloli (45884points) April 19th, 2009

For example i think that even throwing a dice is not random
since we do not consider all the factors and their values which lead to the result, like intial position, state, and alignment of the dice, its composition, structure and surface characteristics, movement of the hand during the throw, the form of the hand, how dirty it is, how sweaty it is, then we have air temperature, density, composition, air currents, the movement of earth itself, the state of the ground, is it even, is it rough, the angle of the ground, does it move, how warm it is.
All that are factors that we do not consider when throwing a dice, which is why it seems random.
That is why i think in the non-quantum-realm that
randomness is nothing more than a subjective perception of a situation stemming from a lack of knowledge.

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15 Answers

asmonet's avatar

How do you explain randomly generated numbers in place of dice then?

ragingloli's avatar

are they really random? or are the processes that lead to the number being generated simply not known to you in a sufficient detail?

AstroChuck's avatar

If you are talking even odd randomness you can’t exclude quantum mechanics.

seekingwolf's avatar

When I think of “randomness”, I think about entropy.

Disorder (randomness) is really more common than order (predicted, expected) in the universe.

Shuttle128's avatar

@asmonet Pseudo-random number generators have the pseudo prefix for a reason. They are programs that create random seeming numbers, using a repeatable method.

Chaos and randomness are very close, but not quite the same. The outcomes of chaotic systems seem unpredictable but appear so because of factors that influence the system that we cannot tractably compute. True randomness is generally attributed to quantum mechanics.

To answer the question, I’d have to say no. Chaotic systems may not be tractably predicted, but they are not inherently random.

tigran's avatar

what about mental thoughts?? a separation between electrical impulses in the brain and the stuff that comes out of our mouths.

asmonet's avatar

Shhh, I wasn’t serious, I wasn’t taking the question seriously at all. My bad. :)

Jayne's avatar

@seekingwolf; disorder is not the same as randomness where entropy is concerned. As I understand it, entropy is a mathematical consequence of the narrow and arbitrary bounds we have placed on ‘order’ and ‘usefulness’. We have defined certain configurations of atoms, or objects, or energy as useful, most fundamentally because they are necessary to do mechanical or chemical work. These configurations are only a narrow subset of the possible arrangements they can assume, and so it is mathematically absurd that in a process involving the transfer of these subjects some of them should not fall irretrievably into the non-useful, the disorderly category. This applies to any situation in which we confine ourselves to a small area of a spectrum, and allow the values to scatter chaotically (note, not randomly) across that spectrum. However, the field of energy is a very useful application for this law, and it has an interesting twist; the only way we can reduce the chaos with which energy distributes itself in a process is by exerting more energy, so unless we create an infinite chain or regulating agents, at some point there will be a loss of energy to entropy- that is, some energy will cease to be useful. That is why it is said that in any process, the entropy of the universe, if not of the system, will increase. But again, none of this has to do with randomness; the disorder described is simply a term arbitrarily defined for practical reference, and the mechanism of entropy depends solely on the extent to which we can control the process, not on the ‘randomness’ of the process itself. So, in answer to the question, no, outside of quantum physics (and who has a bloody clue there?) I see no evidence of randomness.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

To the contrary, I think there are many many things that happen by chance.
That’s what makes life interesting.

Jayne's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic; Those events would stay interesting regardless of whether they are truly random or if their causes are simply far too complicated to be comprehended by the human mind or its creations. For the purposes of perception, they would still depend on chance. But for the purposes of science or philosophy, do you still maintain that they are truly, findamentally random? If so, why?

—Although, I must say, the exclusion of quantum mechanics from the question does essentially guarantee that the answers will be divided between people taking the sentimental view of a wonderful, chaotic universe and those taking the deterministic view dictated by classical physics. I’m with Astrochuck; if you don’t want to talk about the world as it appears to the naked eye, and instead care about the physical mechanisms of events, this discussion cannot be had without taking modern physics into account.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Our universe is a cycle of cause and effect. If a car swerves out of control and kills a person, then there’s certainly a reason that it happened though the cause of the accident was by no means pre-ordained.

Jayne's avatar

But if you are talking on such a large scale as a car accident, I would argue that there is no simply cause and effect, and there is no true determinism; looking only on that scale, events are random. To take the stupidly clich├ęd example, a butterfly could have flapped its wings somewhere in Morocco (do they have butterflies in Morocco?), setting of a chain of complex particle interactions that drove away a storm that would have kept the driver at home. Or, it might not have. No computer, and certainly no human, could calculate and predict the effects of that butterfly, interacting with everything else in the world in an unbelievable complex manner. So, the example of a car accident is meaningless, if you leave it at that; one can always come up with a lower-level, more seemingly-random phenomenon that could alter the course of events. But, if you take things down to the lowest level possible, if you could follow every single particle in the universe, including the particles in the driver’s brain that dictate his behavior, you could indeed predict that accident, and see that it was inevitable. You don’t have to call on some sort of divine plan to arrive at the conclusion that events are pre-ordained; indeed, you would have to call on divine intervention to show that they are not, because you would need something to invalidate particle physics. Disregarding quantum, of course :)

Knotmyday's avatar

Yes. Human nature.

seekingwolf's avatar

@jayne oh okay. thanks for taking the time to explain that to me. I always assumed disorder was the same as randomness but I see I was wrong. I still have a lot to learn! Thanks!

Jayne's avatar

@seekingwolf; my pleasure! Writing it out like that helped me considerably in understanding the idea of entropy; I’m still not sure I understand it entirely, and would not be entirely surprised if someone more knowledgeable than I came along and debunked me. But I’m glad to hear it made sense to you.

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