odds

15 May 2006 at 18:53 (General)

If someone was to flip two coins and they both landed heads up, and the person proclaimed that it was a miracle, that for such an anomaly to occur is supernatural, proof of a higher power… I would struggle to believe them. For starters, the odds aren’t that high, getting two consecutive heads is one in four which doesn’t cut the grade for mystic phenomena.

anyway, the universe… it contains lots of atoms (say about 10^79). What are the odds that these particles are going to arrange themselves to create life as we know it? I don’t know the number of permutations but it’s going to involve the number of atoms and the number of possible movements of these atoms. That’s a big number; that’s really, totally-unimaginably big. So the odds don’t look good. However if we consider a closed oscillatory universe or a multiverse (meta-universe/parrallel universes) then there can be infinite opportunities for a ‘miraculous’ universe to be born. So the odds sit at one-really-big-number to infinity which is as good as one to one.

In these cases, where the birth of universes occurs infinitely, I deduce that it isn’t just likely that a universe such as the one I see before me will precipitate, it’s inevitable. It’s a mathematical certainty. It’s safer than two up. Sure I’m relying on the existence of an oscillatory universe or a massive multi-verse but other than that this thinking seems pretty sound. At least i think so, but I’m no cosmologist… or whoever professionally dwells on this stuff.

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8 Comments

  1. Kent said,

    I agree. But then, by the same argument, surely everything is a certainty in the context of an infinitely extended multiverse. There should even be a universe where you could prove the infinite multiverse doesn’t exist, right? – maybe. The whole concept seems like the antithesis of solipsism.

  2. the previous comment is complete balderdash said,

    Richard Dawkins in The (fantabulous) Blind Watchmaker:

    “The combination lock on my bicycle has 4,096 different positions. Every one of these is equally ‘improbable’ in the sense that, if you spin the wheels at random, every one of 4,096 positions is equally unlikely to turn up. I can spin the wheels at random, look at whatever number is displayed and exclaim with hindsight: ‘How amazing. The odds against that number appearing are 4,096:1. A minor miracle!'”

    But then he also claims Mont Blanc, though rather large and complicated, is uninteresting. Typical biocentrist facsism. Minerals were here before your little swimmy things, matey.

  3. Kent said,

    FWIW, I think my first comment is much mistaken. Surely the scientific method is intended to work independently, and as such there’d be no universe in a ‘multiverse’ where it wouldn’t work. I was playing fast and recklessly with terms.

    What I was trying to say is that the multiverse seems as philosophically interesting as solipsism (fascinating at first but ultimately empty of meaning). Of course that says nothing about the theory of a multiverse in a scientific sense, which is how you were approaching it.

    And after all, like you, I’m no cosmologist. Or philosopher. Or anything, really.

  4. toto said,

    Yes, I approach the whole “multiverse” thing with some caution because it seems very “fascinating but ultimately empty of meaning” – it doesn’t seem to provide answers, just act more like a scapegoat where things can’t be proven and understanding cannot be found.

    However to me (who still isn’t yet a cosmologist), the closed oscillatory universe seems more approachable because there is scientific evidence and mathematical argument for and against the theory. But then the same is probably true for multiverse theories.. I admit that I don’t know enough about the science to give an opinion which even appears to be informed.

    :(

  5. Kent said,

    You know more than me. Where’s Teddy, isn’t he doing third-year cosmology this year?

  6. Teddy said,

    Even though I’m personally in favor of the “divine intervention” theory for the creation of the universe, people saying that the fact life occurs in the universe is “proof” of this intervention really bugs me. Sure the odds of life appearing by chance are incredibly small, but in a universe of infinite age (in a closed oscillatory universe)anything is likely to happen at least once. I don’t know much about evolution, but my understanding of it is that you would only require one living cell (and perhaps a few million years) to colonize an entire planet with life.

    Until we observe life outside this small corner of the universe, or prove that the universe isn’t oscillatory, this theory has almost no merit to any scientifically minded person.

    Further it could be said that, by quantum mechanics, things don’t really exist until somebody observes them. This would require that the universe evolves to a point where it has something inside of it to observe it (i.e. if there was no life in the universe it wouldn’t exist). This argument seems to me to be more philosophical than scientific and I’m not sure how accurate it is because I have only minimal understanding of QM.

    As for the multiverse: I’ve always understood that to be more of a philosophical idea than a scientific one. The idea of an infinite number of “verses” existing in parallel to this one with no way for one to affect the other hasn’t had any scientific merit/usefulness that I’ve ever seen (that doesn’t mean that such merit/usefulness doesn’t exist).

    I hope that some of that rambling makes sense.

  7. Kent said,

    Very much so, thanks!

  8. Teddy said,

    Just a minor correction. It hasn’t been proven that the universe is closed/oscillatory. But that is irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter how small the odds of life occurring are, the fact is life does occur. If it was random chance, you wouldn’t expect to find life anywhere else in the universe. So far we haven’t, so the theory that random chance created life is still applicable.

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