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Probabilism
 Posted: 07 May 2006 05:01 AM [ Ignore ]
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I have moved this to a new topic from the "Free Will" section, since it really isn’t about free will per se, and deserves separate discussion.

Probabilism is a base-level phenomenon in reality it would appear.

———————————-
[quote:a3bc662e26=“WITHTEETH”]Can you briefly mention a couple examples or a link of occurences that randomly happen by chance, I’ve heard about this by ear only and have not been able to pin point anything online about it. I heard something about black holes but if it is black holes what specifically.

It sounds like indeterminsm is only indetermined because we haven’t found the right questions and done the math yet, whats the chance of it being that? :?[/quote:a3bc662e26]

Chance is only an important ingredient at the quantum level—i.e. at the atomic and subatomic level. One classic example of chance is the decay of radioactive materials. So carbon-14 apparently has a half-life of 5730 years. That means that if you have one atom of carbon-14, it has a 50% chance of radioactive decay over 5730 years.

Here is a short, if equation-filled explanation of radioactive half-life. The most important part for our purposes is the first sentence:

"The radioactive half-life for a given radioisotope is a measure of the tendency of the nucleus to "decay" or "disintegrate" and as such is based [b:a3bc662e26]purely upon that probability[/b:a3bc662e26]." (Emphasis added).

According to QM, there is nothing more to this decay than pure randomness or probability. It isn’t so simple as saying that we haven’t found the right mechanism: classic quantum mechanical experiments like the two-slit experiment (see here and here) show [i:a3bc662e26]very weird effects[/i:a3bc662e26] at the level of individual electrons or photons. In particular, they can have wave-like interference effects even when released one-by-one through a pair of slits. Somehow these particles have a reality that is not point-like but is instead smeared-out "probabilistically" over a much larger volume.

This, and other similar experiments, shows that at some base level photons, electrons (and other subatomic particles) are inherently probabilistic.

Another example, having to do with black holes like you mention, has to do with Hawking Radiation. This sort of radiation emitted by black holes through the black hole capturing one of a pair of virtual particles when the pair is produced spontaneously and randomly in the interstellar vacuum through QM effects. (Something which is claimed to happen universally). Usually the two virtual particles appear for only an insignificant amount of time and recombine, destroying themselves, so not adding to the universe’s mass-energy. But if one is captured by a black hole event horizon, the other cannot recombine and is loosed into space. In order to preserve the mass-energy of the system, the black hole must "evaporate" (lose mass)slightly when this happens. Thus black holes are believed to slowly evaporate through this so-called Hawking radiation.

All this stuff is well beyond my ability to understand thoroughly. But it does show that there is no simple non-random causal picture that we can give that would explain QM effects. I believe even string theory respects such base-level probabilism.

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 Posted: 07 May 2006 05:01 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14

Probabilism

I have moved this to a new topic from the “Free Will” section, since it really isn’t about free will per se, and deserves separate discussion.

Probabilism is a base-level phenomenon in reality it would appear.

———————————-
[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]Can you briefly mention a couple examples or a link of occurences that randomly happen by chance, I’ve heard about this by ear only and have not been able to pin point anything online about it. I heard something about black holes but if it is black holes what specifically.

It sounds like indeterminsm is only indetermined because we haven’t found the right questions and done the math yet, whats the chance of it being that? :?

Chance is only an important ingredient at the quantum level—i.e. at the atomic and subatomic level. One classic example of chance is the decay of radioactive materials. So carbon-14 apparently has a half-life of 5730 years. That means that if you have one atom of carbon-14, it has a 50% chance of radioactive decay over 5730 years.

Here is a short, if equation-filled explanation of radioactive half-life. The most important part for our purposes is the first sentence:

“The radioactive half-life for a given radioisotope is a measure of the tendency of the nucleus to “decay” or “disintegrate” and as such is based purely upon that probability.” (Emphasis added).

According to QM, there is nothing more to this decay than pure randomness or probability. It isn’t so simple as saying that we haven’t found the right mechanism: classic quantum mechanical experiments like the two-slit experiment (see here and here ) show very weird effects at the level of individual electrons or photons. In particular, they can have wave-like interference effects even when released one-by-one through a pair of slits. Somehow these particles have a reality that is not point-like but is instead smeared-out “probabilistically” over a much larger volume.

This, and other similar experiments, shows that at some base level photons, electrons (and other subatomic particles) are inherently probabilistic.

Another example, having to do with black holes like you mention, has to do with Hawking Radiation . This sort of radiation emitted by black holes through the black hole capturing one of a pair of virtual particles when the pair is produced spontaneously and randomly in the interstellar vacuum through QM effects. (Something which is claimed to happen universally). Usually the two virtual particles appear for only an insignificant amount of time and recombine, destroying themselves, so not adding to the universe’s mass-energy. But if one is captured by a black hole event horizon, the other cannot recombine and is loosed into space. In order to preserve the mass-energy of the system, the black hole must “evaporate” (lose mass)slightly when this happens. Thus black holes are believed to slowly evaporate through this so-called Hawking radiation.

All this stuff is well beyond my ability to understand thoroughly. But it does show that there is no simple non-random causal picture that we can give that would explain QM effects. I believe even string theory respects such base-level probabilism.

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 Posted: 07 May 2006 03:01 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Its been awhile since I’ve read anything this deep into science, but I’m recalling the split screen from a book i read Fabric of The Cosmos by Brian Greene.

So the these particles(all particles in QM) are also waves, but its not known what these waves are.

“Whether we shouldsay that an electron’s probabiltity wave IS the electrons, or that its the ASSOCIATED with the electron, or that its a mathematical device for decribing the electrons motion, or that its the embodiment of what we can know about the electron is still debates.”

“Meteorologists use probability to predict the likelihood of rain. casinos use probability to predict the likely hood you’ll throw snake eyes. But probability plays a role in these examples because we haevn’t all the information necessary to make definitive predictions.”  He goes on to say that QM are not like this.

I.E. Imagine the 2 slits again, why is it a wave and yet still a particle? I dunno, but the wave is present because if you shoot more electrons through it you will see the waves, it will look like your shooting light through it. So the waves from a SINGLE electron are SPLIT! and interfere with eachother when they collide behind the slits on the wall again!

But wheres probability comne into this? ” At some points on the detector screen the two probability waves reinforce and the resulting intensity is large. At other points the waves partially cancel and the intensity is small. At still other points the peaks and troughs of the probability waves completely cancel and the resulting wave intensity is exactly zero. ” MAIN POINT “That Is, there are points on the screen where it is likely an electron will land, points where it is far less likely to land, and places where there is no chance at all to land. Over time the electrons’ landing positions are distributed according to this probability profile.”

After going back and reading that im still left with a bad taste due to the undefining of the mysterious waves that are somehow related the the electrons.  Hopefully time will define these waves! :)

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 Posted: 07 May 2006 03:18 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]After going back and reading that im still left with a bad taste due to the undefining of the mysterious waves that are somehow related the the electrons.  Hopefully time will define these waves! :)

Well, I think if you want to learn more about particle/wave duality you should go on over to the physics department and have a chat with some of the folks there.

The problem here is that we (at the “macro” level) have a na憊e idea of what “particles” and “waves” are ... when we get to the level of the very small, these na憊e ideas break down.

But that doesn’t mean that these particle/waves aren’t well defined or well understood. It’s just that to understand them properly you have to learn the mathematical language of quantum mechanics.

In short, a particle is a non-local phenomenon the position and momentum of which is dispersed over a large area, probabilistically. That large probabilistic dispersion is wave-like.

This is a very WEIRD fact, but one that we have to come to terms with when thinking of subatomic particles.

8)

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 Posted: 07 May 2006 03:21 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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non-local phenomenon?

Your just saying its like open space that has phenomenon or properties that are observed right?

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 Posted: 07 May 2006 03:28 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]non-local phenomenon?

Your just saying its like open space that has phenomenon or properties that are observed right?

No, I mean that it doesn’t just exist at the local place you’d expect given its size. Subatomic particles actually have an existence that is smeared over a much larger area, probabilistically. Viz., the two-slit experiment, where each photon or electron is emitted individually, but each one seems to interact with BOTH slits ... each particle is “aware”, in some causal sense, of the existence of two slits, not just the one we’d expect that it went through.

There are other experiments that confirm this weird result. Subatomic particles are “non-local” ... they exist in a tenuous sense over a large probabilistic area.

WEIRD. As I say, if you want to know more, I suggest you hike on over to the physics building, or buy some COMPETENT books about QM. There’s lots of crap written about it, so be careful.

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 Posted: 10 May 2006 01:51 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Quantum Computing through Superposition

I should add that another similar property of quantum level phenomena is called “ quantum superposition ”. This is again a weird probabilistic-type effect where an unperturbed subatomic particle can (in some sense) be in two opposite states at the same time. We can’t make sense of this if the particle is wholly there, since that would be a contradiction. Instead the particle is only somehow partly there, or there probabilistically in various states at the same time.

This sounds really weird and impossible, but it has been experimentally verified, and indeed has been used in some rudimentary “quantum computers”. Since a quantum computer can have “bits” (quantum bits or q-bits) that are both ones and zeroes at the same time, it can do more than one operation at the same time ... hence potentially computing MUCH FASTER than contemporary silicon-based microprocessors.

See for example this page from the Caltech computer science department :

“Richard Feynman was among the first to recognize the potential in quantum superposition for solving such problems much much faster.  For example, a system of 500 qubits, which is impossible to simulate classically, represents a quantum superposition of as many as 2500 states.  Each state would be classically equivalent to a single list of 500 1’s and 0’s.  Any quantum operation on that system—a particular pulse of radio waves, for instance, whose action might be to execute a controlled-NOT operation on the 100th and 101st qubits—would simultaneously operate on all 2500 states.  Hence with one fell swoop, one tick of the computer clock, a quantum operation could compute not just on one machine state, as serial computers do, but on 2500 machine states at once!  Eventually, however, observing the system would cause it to collapse into a single quantum state corresponding to a single answer, a single list of 500 1’s and 0’s, as dictated by the measurement axiom of quantum mechanics.  The reason this is an exciting result is because this answer, derived from the massive quantum parallelism achieved through superposition, is the equivalent of performing the same operation on a classical super computer with ~10^150 separate processors (which is of course impossible)!!” (My emphasis).

Cool stuff!

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 Posted: 15 August 2006 05:58 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Just finished a very interesting, easy-to-read and downright fascinating book on the topic of QM. The Dancing Wu Li Masters Good ol’ fashioned science with some interesting connections to Eastern “religions” or more accurately philsophies (ie Buddhism).

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 Posted: 16 August 2006 02:14 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Eeeeeh, Nelly, this is a book that’s pretty widely discredited in physics circles. I am no expert but I have heard that he gets a lot of the facts wrong, and many in a sort of woo-woo new agey agenda.

This post on the Skeptic’s Dictionary about Deepak Chopra goes over some similar issues, and mentions Zukav’s book as one of the perpetrators of this sort of mysticism.

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 Posted: 16 August 2006 10:14 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I did read the book many years ago and don’t recall it well. The problem with many quantum mechanical (QM) phenomena is that they are at first blush quite odd, and lend themselves to all sorts of wild speculation.

In the last issue of Skeptical Inquirer included a very nice article on QM: “Why Quantum Mechanics Is Not So Weird after All” by Paul Quincey who is a physicist at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK. In the article he also recommends a wonderful book by Richard Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Anything by Nobelist Richard Feynman is really tops—he’s one of the authentic 20th century physics geniuses, as well as being an incredibly gifted writer and teacher.

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 Posted: 27 September 2006 07:14 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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What about theories of bounce and bud ?One theist in South Africa states that ,because there are so many of them ,none is real .What are the probabilities behind them?  :P :idea:  :?:  The improbalbility argument for a god is just a circular reason based on a god wanting us rather than our being just products of mindless selection . This stuff is above my pay grade!

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 Posted: 26 November 2009 04:54 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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dougsmith - 07 May 2006 03:28 PM

[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]non-local phenomenon?

Your just saying its like open space that has phenomenon or properties that are observed right?

No, I mean that it doesn’t just exist at the local place you’d expect given its size. Subatomic particles actually have an existence that is smeared over a much larger area, probabilistically. Viz., the two-slit experiment, where each photon or electron is emitted individually, but each one seems to interact with BOTH slits ... each particle is “aware”, in some causal sense, of the existence of two slits, not just the one we’d expect that it went through.

There are other experiments that confirm this weird result. Subatomic particles are “non-local” ... they exist in a tenuous sense over a large probabilistic area.

WEIRD. As I say, if you want to know more, I suggest you hike on over to the physics building, or buy some COMPETENT books about QM. There’s lots of crap written about it, so be careful.

My Potential paradigm still feels like a viable explanation. It my paradigm a single photon only exists for a single instant in space/time, and is replaced by a new photon every instant in space time through quantum. As a photon in quantum suspension has the potential to become either a wave or particle, it just reveals itself acording to the final measurement for wave or particle.

[ Edited: 27 January 2010 07:49 PM by Write4U ]
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 Posted: 27 January 2010 03:34 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Probabilism is a base-level phenomenon in reality it would appear.

For the time being, whilst trying to understand the philosophical issues that interest me, I’m working on the basis that this is true.

I think I need to understand probability better.

When we toss a coin we say A) the probability of it landing on heads is 1 in 2. This may not be quite right but very close and we can verify it with repeated coin tosses.

But on seeing the coin land on a head we might also say that B)  the probability of that happening was very high, close to 1 in 1 but not quite.

So as A and B both seem to be true, we must be talking about something different when we use the word probability in both cases.

Stephen

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 Posted: 27 January 2010 01:35 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 January 2010 03:34 AM

Probabilism is a base-level phenomenon in reality it would appear.

For the time being, whilst trying to understand the philosophical issues that interest me, I’m working on the basis that this is true.

I think I need to understand probability better.

When we toss a coin we say A) the probability of it landing on heads is 1 in 2. This may not be quite right but very close and we can verify it with repeated coin tosses.

But on seeing the coin land on a head we might also say that B)  the probability of that happening was very high, close to 1 in 1 but not quite.

So as A and B both seem to be true, we must be talking about something different when we use the word probability in both cases.

Stephen

I am not sure if we can say that because the coinflip produced a heads, that therefore the probability of that happening was close to 1 in 1. When the coin flip was made and the coin was twirling in the air the probability factor would be 1 in 2, however with each successive bounce of coin, the probability factor shifted in favor of one side or the other, until the final bounce yielded a probability factor of 1 in 1 for heads. Thus probability is not a fixed value, but is influenced by an accumulation of additional “random” factors such as which edge of the coin touched the floor first and the amount of spring in the floor surface. However, the coin at rest has the “potential” to yield a 1 in 1 probability factor equally for each side (schrodinger’s cat). In the case of “weighted dice” the potential for equal distribution of probability is corrupted and the probability factor for one side to consistently appear is greater.

[ Edited: 27 January 2010 02:11 PM by Write4U ]
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 Posted: 27 January 2010 04:37 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Write4U - 27 January 2010 01:35 PM

I am not sure if we can say that because the coinflip produced a heads, that therefore the probability of that happening was close to 1 in 1.

My understanding is that it is close to 1, rightly or wrongly and that is because my understanding is that the universe is close to deterministic at the macro level.

When the coin flip was made and the coin was twirling in the air the probability factor would be 1 in 2, however with each successive bounce of coin, the probability factor shifted in favor of one side or the other, until the final bounce yielded a probability factor of 1 in 1 for heads.

I don’t think that this is the way it works. For instance scientists might toss the coin once and it come up as a head with a probability of 1 in 2 but then set up the “same” coin toss over and over controlling the variables as carefully as they can and get the result that the probability is 90 in 100.

So again probability means something different in both cases, as it can’t be 1 in 2 and 90 in 100.

Even in the case in which they get the 90 in 100 result, the probability would be even higher if they managed to more accurately fix the variables.

Thus probability is not a fixed value, but is influenced by an accumulation of additional “random” factors such as which edge of the coin touched the floor first and the amount of spring in the floor surface. However, the coin at rest has the “potential” to yield a 1 in 1 probability factor equally for each side (schrodinger’s cat). In the case of “weighted dice” the potential for equal distribution of probability is corrupted and the probability factor for one side to consistently appear is greater.

I think the coin toss is just about always weighted in the direction of the outcome but we usually don’t know which direction it is weighted in.

Stephen

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 Posted: 27 January 2010 07:21 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 January 2010 04:37 PM
Write4U - 27 January 2010 01:35 PM

I am not sure if we can say that because the coinflip produced a heads, that therefore the probability of that happening was close to 1 in 1.

My understanding is that it is close to 1, rightly or wrongly and that is because my understanding is that the universe is close to deterministic at the macro level.

When the coin flip was made and the coin was twirling in the air the probability factor would be 1 in 2, however with each successive bounce of coin, the probability factor shifted in favor of one side or the other, until the final bounce yielded a probability factor of 1 in 1 for heads.

I don’t think that this is the way it works. For instance scientists might toss the coin once and it come up as a head with a probability of 1 in 2 but then set up the “same” coin toss over and over controlling the variables as carefully as they can and get the result that the probability is 90 in 100.

So again probability means something different in both cases, as it can’t be 1 in 2 and 90 in 100.

Even in the case in which they get the 90 in 100 result, the probability would be even higher if they managed to more accurately fix the variables.

Thus probability is not a fixed value, but is influenced by an accumulation of additional “random” factors such as which edge of the coin touched the floor first and the amount of spring in the floor surface. However, the coin at rest has the “potential” to yield a 1 in 1 probability factor equally for each side (schrodinger’s cat). In the case of “weighted dice” the potential for equal distribution of probability is corrupted and the probability factor for one side to consistently appear is greater.

I think the coin toss is just about always weighted in the direction of the outcome but we usually don’t know which direction it is weighted in.

Stephen

I believe that for purposes of randomness, the coin flip should not be controlled. Only then can we declare random neutrality at the start of the coin flip.
If we start controlling the coin flip for producing the same result, that becomes a controlled experiment and the probability factor becomes weighted in favor of one side. But it still means that additional outside forces have been put into play.

[ Edited: 27 January 2010 07:41 PM by Write4U ]
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