SCoates
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2004 11:02 pm
Is there such thing? For example, flipping a coin does not generate a random result, because it is possible to calculate the outcome based on the force applied to it's shape and weight... taking account for wind resistence and so on. Everything that affects the outcome can be expressed mathematically. So is randomness merely the lack of that knowledge, or is there no such thing as something truly being random?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 6 • Views: 9,184 • Replies: 154

 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2004 11:06 pm
truth
What an interesting philosophical question. I havn't a clue how to answer it. I tend to equate randomness with chaos. Is that reasonable? Maybe some mathematically literate person can comment. I use to know a guy so well informed in such matters (math theory) that I could swear he read the table of random numbers as light reading and for the plot.
0 Replies
 
satt fs
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2004 11:19 pm
Randomness means the lack of the knowledge about the results to come.
SCoates
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2004 11:30 pm
Anyone who thinks otherwise? Here is the dictionary's definition: Having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective. So I'm defining that definition as "true randomness." Is the definition faulty, or is there such thing?
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satt fs
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2004 11:53 pm
Quantum physics says in the background of experience there is an uncertainty (strictly, uncertainty is different from randomness), but it may be expressing that quantum physics is included in a larger ignorance.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 01:40 am
Statistics and the concept of randomness is an illusion in the same way that Schrodinger's cat is. The stats are useful for describing events for which we don't know the outcome in way that we are able to intuit, but in reality, the probability of everything is either 1 or 0. Heads or tails. Alive of dead. Not one have tails, or one half alive. I guess if you always flip a coin in precisely the same way, the odds of it landing in certain ways are skewed. but I don't think that anyone really has that kind of precision. Effectively, saying that heads/tails is random is saying that the way that a person flips the coin is going to be random. And I think that's fair.
0 Replies
 
Relative
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 07:20 am
I think random has almost nothing to do with inability to predict it, but with determinism.
A random event is not in principle determined before it happens.
For example, weather is not a random process, but we are unable to predict it exactly, even in theory.

Static on TV or radio is an example of randomness.
Most physicists agree that quantum events are truly random (see Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics). Once you write down a sequence of random numbers, they become semi-random numbers : you cannot find any pattern in the sequence although you can predict the next number if you happen to posess the exactly correct list.

There are mathematical processes that are not algorithmic (they cannot be calculated in principle). Whether such processes arise in nature is still a bit controversial but a growing body of evidence shows that they might. See 'Roger Penrose' for further read on this. 'Penrose Tilings' and 'Quasi-Symmetrical Crystals' are examples of non-algorithmical processes.
Even though you cannot (algorithmically) calculate outcome of such processes _in principle_ they are far from random!

A random event is also independent of any other events - in principle _nothing_ determines it's occurrence. That is truly random.-
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Relative
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 07:24 am
I must correct myself : weather might contain elements of randomness.
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Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 08:51 am
The word random is generally applied where our predictions are seldom proven accurate. Given the enormous size of the universe and the infinite number of interactions that occur within it at all times, the term random is valuable to the human mind, because it is impossible for it to grasp the enourmous complexity of the universe.
But I imagine that if there is a conciousness that has the abillity to observe everything at all times, and in relation, this being would have no understanding of the term random.
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Relative
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 09:10 am
Cyracuz, welcome to A2K!

I believe what you are saying is the famous Einstein quote:
"God does not play dice with the Universe!"
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 02:23 pm
Re: Randomness
SCoates wrote:
Is there such thing? For example, flipping a coin does not generate a random result, because it is possible to calculate the outcome based on the force applied to it's shape and weight... taking account for wind resistence and so on.

It appears that it is possible to build a device that produces uniformly predictable coin tosses (The Not So Random Coin Toss).

But the existence of a non-random coin flipping machine does not disprove the randomness of coin-flipping in general, just as a card sharp's ability to deal from the bottom of a deck does not disprove the randomness of card-dealing in general. Indeed, the sole difference between the results obtained by the coin-flipping machine and those obtained by traditional coin-flipping is precisely the randomness of the results.

Predicting the results of a traditional coin flip by relying upon such informatin as shape, weight, wind speed, force, velocity, and so forth is simply not possible: one would not only need to calculate all of those factors before the actual flip, but one would also need to calculate all of the relevant factors during the course of the flip, up to the point where it landed either heads or tails. Yet all of those factors would, in turn, have to be accurately predicted in order to say that the results were predicted; for if we said that those factors would only need to be measured (rather than predicted), we would necessarily have to admit that those factors would have to be measured at all stages of the flip-event up to the point when the coin landed. And if the measurement coincides exactly with the event, then there is simply no point in talking about prediction at all, since the measurement and the "prediction" are the same thing. In other words, we could no longer reasonably talk about "predicting" the results of the coin-flip if what we're really doing is "describing" the coin-flip.

We can, then, only accurately retrodict the results of a coin flip by using mathematical calculations: we cannot predict those results (unless, of course, we are using a predictably reliable coin-flipping device). Thus, randomness depends upon whether one is viewing an event ex ante or ex post. Viewed as a completed event, it can be accurately retrodicted; viewed as a future event, it cannot be accurately predicted.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 02:25 pm
Cyracuz wrote:
The word random is generally applied where our predictions are seldom proven accurate.


Amen! "Random" is often/always a euphemism for "too complex to be accurately predictable".
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SCoates
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 03:41 pm
Cyracuz, I disagree that that being would have no understanding of the word random. It seems to me that any being with that much intelligence would have to accumulate it, and therefor at one point he would have been subject to "randomness." However, even if that isn't so, I think a being that intelligent coudl easily grasp a concept that WE can.
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KYN2000
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2004 04:34 pm
From my very own readings on the topic of "randomness" at mostly random internet chat sites: what screams out to me in the most profound way, is this thought:

The concept of "The Random" is by and large, nothing more than material for endless ,and mostly random conversations at Coffee Shops.....Universities.....Web Sites......and wherever ("knowledgeable") people gather: inorder to oil the wheels of social bonding.

That is all that most likely will ever come from this these..... mostly random discussions.

Nothing more can ever come from this!

But given the current state of the world (and other things).....that ain't so bad.
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Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2004 08:04 am
Hi SCoates. The thought occurred to me too, that this super intelligent being would have full understanding of everything we understand. But what about concepts conceived in ignorance? This supreme being would have all the answers from day one, and he would not be ignorant. The general experience is that "randomness" is applied where knowledge gives out and ignorance begins. The "random world" has become incredibly much smaller in the last centuries. Before science and satellites learned to predict weather patterns this was a random thing. Before I learned the rules to soccer I saw 22 guys chase a ball at random on a green field. You see, random no longer applies to these things, because we have knowledge, and we can predict
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Relative
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2004 12:22 pm
Quote:
Before science and satellites learned to predict weather patterns this was a random thing.


While it is true that now we understand weather patterns better than ever, esp. with help of satellites, the basics are the same:

Don't be fooled into believing anyone can predict weather!
Please read more on this topic : we have no power whatsoever to predict weather more than a week or so in advance, and the prediction is only 80% or so accurate.

Randomness was described in this thread also as "too complex to be accurately predictable" and in this sense the weather is random.

The reason for this is 'equation sensivity' or the 'butterfly effect'.
In theory, a butterfly in Tokio that moves its wings in a particular way can be the cause of a hurricane in the USA three weeks later! Very small differences in input parameters for the 'weather equations' can cause drastical difference in predicted weather after some time. Since it is impossible to measure the initial conditions with absolute precision (and certainty) therefore it is impossible to predict the result after a long enough time period (read three weeks).
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satt fs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2004 04:20 pm
In a sense "randomness" is a circumstance where events before they arise can be described only through the probability distribution. This may be certainly caused by the fact that the events are "too complex to be accurately predictable." In other words, humans are too ignorant about the mechanism in which events are caused to predict those with certainty.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Feb, 2004 08:08 am
Ah.. we can now predict weather patterns with an 80% accuracy. Doesn't that mean that we have eliminated many "random" factors in the equation? Before this progress occurred accuracy was much lower. It is the way of all things. If we imagine a scale with complete knowledge on one end and complete ignorance on the other, then imagine that we are moving from one end to the other, the degree of randomness in our world would decrease as we attain more knowledge. Whenever something appears random it is because we do not know all the variables. In a closed environment, where all the variables are known we are able to calculate everything, and nothing is random.
0 Replies
 
Relative
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Feb, 2004 08:17 am
"In a closed environment, where all the variables are known we are able to calculate everything, and nothing is random."

This is not true. We cannot, for the simplest example, accurately calculate movements of idealized system of three(!) planetary bodies, in gravitational motions. We simply cannot - this is so called 'three body problem'. The math does not allow us to do so (yet). We can approximate it, but never predict it completely accurately. Esp. because the system can behave 'chaotically' - we cannot even know if bodies are going to crash into one another sometime.
0 Replies
 
Relative
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Feb, 2004 08:25 am
But randomness is not about what we can calculate or not. Classical mechanics is _not_ random, although we cannot calculate everything (see prev post).

True randomness is about whether in the same circumstances (theoretically) the system behavior is exactly the same! In other words, if a coin falls on the other side as previously, we can blame it on little differences in flip speed, direction, .. etc. If they were _exactly_ equal, then the result would be exactly the same.
Not so for truly random processes; they give different results even in equal conditions. The major debate in quantum mechanics between Einstein, and his camp on one, and Bohr, Schroedinger, and others on the other side. Enstein believed that QM has to be deterministic in principle, so under exactly the same conditions one would get equal results. He was of an opinion that we don't fully understand the underlying processes of QM to see that QM is the same as weather. Others argued and believed QM effects are truly random.
 

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