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    God Does Play Dice With The Universe (And The Dice Are Fair)
    By Hank Campbell | July 11th 2012 10:00 AM | 28 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Want to get into a bar fight at a physics conference? Argue that quantum mechanics is the best way to predict outcomes. Or argue the opposite.

    A new paper argues that quantum mechanics is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power but even if all the information is available, the outcomes of certain quantum mechanics experiments generally can't be predicted perfectly beforehand. Optimal but unpredictable? The best but often not good enough? Quantum mechanics is a confusing dichotomy, basically the LeBron James of the physics world.

    Einstein and the giants of his day could not settle whether quantum mechanics is the best way to predict outcomes. Einstein's  'God does not play dice with the Universe' is often invoked in these arguments (less well known is Neils Bohr's one-time annoyed response, "Stop telling God what to do").

    Quantum mechanics does not want to be limited to clever sound bites.

    A group of theoretical physicists looked at measurements of maximally entangled pairs of photons sent into a Stern-Gerlach experiment, in which each photon can take one of two possible paths, generally spin up or spin down. (Want to do some Stern-Gerlach of your own?  The University of Colorado has a handy online tool here)

    "In our experiment, we show that any theory in which there is significantly less randomness is destined to fail: quantum theory essentially provides the ultimate bound on how predictable the universe is," said Dr. Wolfgang Tittel, associate professor and GDC/AITF IndustrialResearch Chair in Quantum Cryptography and Communicationat the University of Calgary in a release.

    Dr. Renato Renner, Professor at the ETH in Zürich added, "In other words, not only does God 'play dice,' but his dice are fair."

    Take that, Einstein. 

    God does play dice with the universe
    Dice with the universe?  Randomness makes things better.  Photo: Shutterstock

    Randomness in quantum theory not only here to stay, it is apparently the way to go. "Its appeal is its fundamental nature and broad range of implications: knowing the precise configuration of the universe at the big bang would not be sufficient to predict its entire evolution, for example, in contrast to classical theory," says Tittel.

    So if that person on television can't accurately predict the weather, give them a break.  Even if all of the information is available the outcome is still not certain, there is still some randomness built into the universe - and that's for the best.

    Citation: Terence E. Stuart, Joshua A. Slater, Roger Colbeck, Renato Renner and Wolfgang Tittel, 'Experimental Bound on the Maximum Predictive Power of Physical Theories', Phys. Rev. Lett. Volume 109 Issue 2 DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.020402

    Comments

    It's Campbell in the Blue corner, Vongehr in the Red corner.

    Seconds away... Round One. 
    knowing the precise configuration of the universe at the big bang would not be sufficient to predict its entire evolution, for example, in contrast to classical theory
    Oh, Vongehr's taken totally unprepared, Hank lands a stunning left hook and Vongehr's down already... but not for long, he's up now and spitting blood! The crowd are loving it... Listen to them booing and hissing !!!
    Even if all of the information is available the outcome is still not certain, there is still some randomness built into the universe - and that's for the best.
    That must have been a foul!  Surely the Referee won't let that go?
    Hank
    That's what makes it great - quantum mechanics can't even agree on what quantum mechanics can't do!
    MikeCrow
    I can only imagine that there are at least 2 Universes where both Hank and Sascha each win by a knockout.
    Never is a long time.
    Thor Russell
    It seems you can explain randomness in many worlds with each possibility existing, but how about in the other paradigm's, Is there some fundamental randomness generator built into the universe?
    Thor Russell
    Gerhard Adam
    Then how is it random?
    Mundus vult decipi
    It isn't.
     
    You either keep all the worlds and have no inherent randomness, OR you have randomness chosing one world out of many possibilities.
     
    In the first, the appearence of randomness is created because you are just one of the observers and therefore have only your own history of observations.  Note that the statistical randomness occurs relative to each observer, it is not a case of nature choosing one "potential" observer and making then "real". In fact, there is no meaning to the question "why am I in *this* world, not *that* one?" because each version of you is in their own world - in the same way as I am always "here"; the time is always "now" and I am always "me" etc.
     
    As to *how* a random choice could be made: if we could define the random machinery then it would behave the way our description says it must and would therefore be deterministic. Reductio ad absurdum. So random must always be a black box. Not one with unknown mechanisms inside, but a fundamental element of the universe. 
    Thor Russell
    In an Eternalism view of time would such fundamental randomness be the same as that which determined the initial conditions of the this universe?
    Thor Russell
    The quick answer is I don't know. I would like to think the physics is the same right back to the initial state so any randomness will also be the same, but I get the impression that cosmologists are not so tidy-minded when they are intent on finding out where a low entropy start could come from!
    MikeCrow
    Not one with unknown mechanisms inside, but a fundamental element of the universe.

    If I understand even 10% of this topic, let me make one slight change to this.

    "Not one with unknown mechanisms inside, but a fundamental random element of the universe."
    Never is a long time.
    No, Mike, I meant it the way I said it. I would not say "randomness is a random element" as that tells us nothing and detracts from the point I was making: which is that it is fundamental.

    MikeCrow
    It isn't that these processes are invisible to us, they're inherently unknowable. I didn't think that was clear in your phrase, now it's quite possible your phrase is exactly right, but I wasn't implying "randomness is a random element", my intent was "randomness is a fundamental part of the Universe".
    Never is a long time.
    vongehr
    Vongehr argued for fundamental randomness all along (so what the hell are you even intending to hint at???). Also, Vongehr does not step into the ring with anybody who makes screaming "communist" count as a knock-out punch. In other words: If you have no idea what "Vongehr" is, maybe best be quiet about it.
    Touchy!

    Still, I think a lot of people would like to know what your views on fundamental randomness actually are - your approach to MWI is an eye-opener and I for one would be interested to know whether you feel that fundamental randomness (not just emergent statistics in records which are peculiar to each world)  is forced upon us or whether it's just an option to keep open. And of course, where it would come in? Sub quantum theory or cosmology or what? 
     
    Genuinely curious but perhaps here is not the place?
     

    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps someone would care to explain what they mean by "randomness" since it doesn't appear that "randomness" is what's actually being referred to [versus simply "unpredictability"].

    In other words, it's one thing to use the mathematical principle of "randomness" as a vehicle for producing essential unpredictable values, but it's quite another to attribute the trait of "randomness" to the various components of the universe.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Tony Fleming
    Actually IMHO God doesn't 'play' dice; but he certainly uses them, and yes they are fair.
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com
    Neils Bohr's one-time annoyed response, "Stop telling God what to do"

    Lol...

    For some reason, I am reminded of Godel's incompleteness theorems.

    Tony Fleming
    It's interesting one of your referenced mathematicians is involved in Cryptography. The process of hiding deterministic solutions within seemingly stochastic jumbles is well known to the mathematical discipline of cryptology, a field of study used by banking institutes and intelligence networks who desire to communicate within a secure network of users.

    Again, like the white noise of radio signals it is easy to see why quantum theory is thought to be a model of reality at the atomic level. Yet if we understand how the determinism works then the apparent randomness disappears.The cosmic microwave background radiation was not discerned from the cosmic radio noise before 1965. 
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com
    An unspoken assumption coursing through this debate (and all cosmological debates) is that human cognition is unlimited in its capacity to generate algorithms that explain all things. I understand there's no value to a cosmologist in assuming the opposite, but it is hard to identify any selective pressure in our milieu that would push brain evolution to infinite acumen, and we may just have to admit we cannot know.

    Good job we don't need infinite acumen to think about infinite problems then innit?
    Randomness and chaos theory are just necessary intermediate waypoints required for us to grasp for a breath of air while we tread water trying to understand the underlying deterministic processes that are revealed to us through scientific experimentation. The facts are that we, as a species, don't know jack.

    Any theory based on statistical smearing is just a stopgap measure that allows us to think that we understand our universe. The reason Einstein said that "God does not play dice" is because he was fully aware how easily statistics can be manipulated, consciously or unconsciously, to show us what we want to see as opposed to what reality is actually trying to reveal to us.

    It is appallingly easy for anyone of us to be fooled into thinking statistics themselves are deterministic. The only variable in these statistical equations and theories that are deterministic are that human behaviors WILL manipulate them for their own benefit. Einstein understood that better than any one of his contemporaries.

    God does not play dice because he does not have to, he already knows the outcome. He is the ONLY one who can see all of the causal pathways that make each roll completely deterministic.

    The analogy to dice is actually faulty, and it is interesting to consider why.

    Rolling dice is not actually random, but merely beyond our predictive powers. If you had a powerful enough computer, and input all the necessary variables (orientation of the dice, the force and angle of the throw, the surface on which they are thrown, etc) you could predict accurately how the dice would turn up. Same thing for other "random" events like coin flipping.

    Not so in quantum mechanics. The event is truly random.

    Such true randomness is beyond our understanding. How can there be an outcome that is independent of its causes? If the outcome is not an effect that is caused by the physical universe, then what on earth DOES cause it? Now we're truly in the realm of God. Quantum mechanics would seem not to disprove God, as Einstein feared, but to prove Him.

    Hank
    Sure, in an infinite universe that's possible.  As you might gather, what you consider faulty is context to a million people who wouldn't otherwise have a foundation in quantum mechanics.
    Then how does one explain women?

    I am Christian but having studied physics to some extent I agree with Bohr, don't tell God what He can and/or cannot do. Sometimes I kiddingly think God watches and thinks "Guys, I can play this game all day."

    This is stupid.
     
    So-called randomness emerges from the rules of QM, notably the Schrodinger equation and the Born rule plus decoherence. The latter leads to a zillion interpretations of QM some of which manifestly include a random jump, others avoid random processes by creating an entire "ensemble" (???) of observer-data worlds, the internal histories of which obey "statistics" and are therefore random as far as you, the observer, are concerned.

    Unless, of course, you happen to know exactly which world you are in, ha-ha.
    "In our experiment, we show that any theory in which there is significantly less randomness is destined to fail: quantum theory essentially provides the ultimate bound on how predictable the universe is," says Dr. Wolfgang Tittel...
    ... Dr. Renato Renner .. added, "In other words, not only does God 'play dice,' but his dice are fair."

    Take that, Einstein, said Hank.
    Dr Tittel, it's nice that you have done some precise experiments but did you tabulate all the results you got in all the other worlds (the ones which may or may not exist)?
    Didn't think so!
    You have found randomness agreeing with theory in your own world.  But, Dr Renner, it says nothing about God playing dice across the worlds, indeed it says nothing about where those worlds have gone. 

    God rolling dice - pfft! Schrodinger knew that multiple worlds was the issue 30 years before Everrett filled the cosmos with every universe imaginable and unimaginable. So let's skip the "God does play dice" nonsense (translation: Hank knows better than Einstein.) and just say:

    "If God Plays Dice With The Universe Then The Dice Are Fair (But If He Doesn't Then QM Still Predicts The Odds Correctly*.)"

    Doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?
     
    *Fairy-winged qualia permitting, as always.

    ---- edited a bit; live with it.
     
    The statement Einstein made regarding God playing dice was not actually a value judgment about the existence of God. Rather he was commenting on the ease of which statistics can be used to manipulate the data in order to fit the theories. Or worse, manipulate the theories by embedding statistics into them in order to force the theories into fitting the data. Either way it leads to a "zillion interpretations of QM" for which only a few, if any, will eventually to have been proven to have been correct. How many resources have been wasted thus far chasing nonexistent ghosts down blind alleys leading us to nowhere?

    The "randomness" is built into the QM theories in order to conveniently explain results that aren't or can't be predicted, yet. That was the warning given to us by Einstein with his dice analogy.

    "I am well aware that no causality exists in relation to the observable; I consider this realization to be conclusive. But in my opinion one should not conclude from this that the theory, too, has to be based on fundamental laws of statistics. It is, after all, possible that the (molecular) structure of the means of observation involves the statistical character of the observable, but that it is expedient in the end to keep the basis of the theory free from statistical concepts."
    -Albert Einstein

    Halliday
    Anonymous:

    As to your Einstein quote:  While it may be preferable (you quote Einstein as saying "expedient") "to keep the basis of the theory free from statistical concepts", it may not be possible.

    So, the more truly fundamental question is whether it is possible "to keep the basis of the theory free from statistical concepts".

    It seems to me that that's what the referenced research is trying to address.

    David