Archive for the ‘probablilty’ Category

Word of the week…Randomness

April 7, 2007

I know I am treading in unfamiliar territory (at least to me) on this one…but it has been something that has been puzzleing me for some time.

In the observable universe, an event which has more than one outcome (eg. a coin toss) is random if the probability of the outcomes are equal. Basically I would agree with this, however the thing that puzzless me, is the assumption that there can be an event where more than one outcome is equally probable.

Going back to the coin toss for example, on any given toss the chances that the coin will land heads- or tails-up is determined by a number of variables…how many times the coin flips, the number of bounces it takes when it hits the ground, etc… If one could reproduce these variables (and people have been able to do it) the coin would land the same side up every time, ie. the outcome of the toss is not completely random it is predetermined by the “path” the coin takes before coming to rest on the ground. The coin toss only “appears” to be random since there are a large number of uncontrollable variables.

This leads to me to wonder about the whoel concept of randomness. Is there anything truley random in the observable universe, or do things just appear to be random?