Home > Uncategorized > What are the odds of that?

What are the odds of that?

Today I found myself wondering that if something has a non-zero chance of occuring (eg: I win the lotto 100 times in a row), does that event become a certainty if it is attempted an infinite number of times?

I think it does actually (but I have been wrong before)

Well that got me thinking about the argument of the creationists that goes “the odds of this world just appearing by accident are so slim that it points to the hand of a designer/creator”. (Let’s no worry about the obvious question of who created the creator for now)

Well I think we all agree that the odds of this world happening the way it has are indeed very very very small. But … we know the odds of it happening are NOT zero! How come? Because it’s here!

Now we also don’t know how long this universe has been here. 15 billion years? Maybe. But what if it is infinite? That would mean there has been an infinite number of expansions and contractions. If infinite, it means this universe as we know it is no longer here by small small chance, but is here because it is an absolute certainty.

But then … I’ve been wrong before.

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  1. December 19, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Jon …

    Good to see you posting again.

    Hope you are well,

    Libby

  2. December 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Jon

    I have been thinking the exact same thing over the last few weeks. I think statisticians call it the “Random Walk Hypothesis”. If a drunk man staggers with equal probability in either direction, and there’s a canal nearby, he’ll eventually fall into it.

    The logical conclusion of what you’re considering is that in an infinite universe there would be infinite copies of ourselves doing slightly different (or even identical) things. After all, if an event has a non-zero probability of occuring, then in an infinite timeframe it would occur an infinite number of times, not just once.

    This started to hurt my brain until I had a slice of Pi.

    Pi has an infinite number of decimal places. Each digit appears to occur pretty randomly, and over a large sequence, the probability of any one digit occurring is pretty much the same as the next. So it would lead us to assume that if you plumbed the depths of the digits of Pi long enough, it would start repeating. Or… if you assigned each pair of digits an ASCII code you’d eventually end up spitting out the complete works of Shakespeare.

    I don’t think this has ever happened :) And I don’t think it will. If the digits in Pi repeated, then it would not be an irrational number.

    And if something as “simple” as Pi can be infinite and yet non-repeating, then I think something as complex (and “irrational”) as the universe can probably manage the same feat.

    The whole argument of a creator by simply begs the question, “If you want to have an infinitely long-lived imaginary friend who made everything else, why can’t I simply have an infinitely long-lived universe instead?”.

    I love reading your blog. Please keep writing and thinking out loud :)

    Neil

    • December 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Neal,

      Great comment – very thought provoking!

      I especially like your example of pi, that wonderful irrational creature.

      I think that just because a universe can be infinite, this does not mean that everything will happen. For instance, I don’t think that – no matter how long you left the universe to it – the sun would instantaneously turn into a block of mozzarella cheese. I think we can safely say this has a zero probability!

      But the fact that this universe is here is porof in and of itself that the likelihood of its existence is non-zero. I suppose – to continue your excellent pi example – this would mean that the universe is rational!

      I suppose my point is that just because the universe is extraordinarily complex, does not preclude that, given enough chances to exist, one day it will.

      I love your phrase:

      The whole argument of a creator by simply begs the question, “If you want to have an infinitely long-lived imaginary friend who made everything else, why can’t I simply have an infinitely long-lived universe instead?”.

      Nice.

      Jon

  3. February 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    …smiling…physicists have recently proven that the “big bang” had to be precise. Little bit too slow and it wouldn’t have happened; little but too fast and it wouldn’t have happened.

    I would share that ideas such as probability, statistics, chance and luck reveal and express absolutely no understanding of how Creation is created. Big sky in the sky, who’s so emotionally insecure that he has to use fear to control and manipulate, is the product of imaginations trying to glorify limitations in both substance and quality of character, “understanding” and “compassion” for Humanity being just two of them.

    Reality “precipitates” quantum mechanistically.

    It’s wonderful to see a post! Maybe I’ll join you some day…

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