The basis of randomness

I was thinking today about the basis of randomness.

I'm still thinking about how to write this down so bear with me here.

After the invention of calculus, mathematicians saw the world as a sort of giant clockwork machine.  "Give me the initial conditions and the law of motion, and with calculus I can predict the future -- or better yet, reconstruct the past."  Einstein's spacetime implies the same thing, that all of time and space are fixed, that we can move forward or back, given the mathematical ability.  There is no randomness in this view of the universe.

And so we thought until the discovery of quantum theory.  The problem being that the world is not infinitely divisible.  Eventually everything must collapse into particles.  This collapse introduces a rounding or truncation error, that is the basis of randomness.  The universe is really digital not analog.  The present is the moment that the continuous changes into steps, quanta.  It's the present that changes infinitely divisible potential into particular actuality.  The collapse of the present is the reason we can't go forward or backward - forward - we can't know the future before it arrives, backward - we can't tell exactly what happened from what we know about the present.

No comments: