Friday, 31 January 2014

Is there meaning behind random events?

Here is a random sequence of numbers:

3,1,4,5,9,2,6,5,3,5,8,9,7,9,3, ........

There is no order to this – the next number in the sequence cannot be deduced mathematically. It is purely random.

But is it meaningless? No. It is obtained by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter and is denoted by the Greek letter pi. Often this is approximated to 3.142. In effect the series goes on indefinitely but there are limitations on how accurately the diameter, circumference and perfection of the circle can be determined and on the power of the computer used in the division.

So what any statistical test would show to be a random sequence in fact denotes a geometric  property of space. There are other sequences of numbers which statisticians would call random but which are in fact calculated by formulae. Again, the numbers correspond to something meaningful – a mathematical equation formed as a consequence of rational thought.

There are all manner of events in reality which appear to be random. Tossed coins form a random sequence of heads and tails. Roulette wheels stop at random. People’s lives appear to be tossed about by random events. Volcanoes, earthquakes and solar flares seem to happen unpredictably. These, admittedly, events rather than numerical quantities. But the same principle should apply. One can assign  numbers to events of any kind or to the intervals between them.

 One example is the decay of a radioactive atom : beta particles fly off from an atomic nucleus at random intervals. Is there meaning behind this?  We cannot tell. This and quantum phenomena in general are unpredictable. Einstein did not accept that God had constructed the universe in a meaningless way, saying ‘God does not play dice’. He was criticised, sometimes ridiculed, for saying this in contradiction to the prevailing view. But Einstein could have been right: there could indeed be some level of reality behind quantum phenomena where a meaningful process generates random events.

Since we can't prove whether or not a given random sequence of numbers or events is a product of something meaningful, there could be more order in the world than there appears to be.

See also
Author, 2077 AD