July 13, 2006

Theoretically speaking

A central problem in differential calculus is that of initial conditions. Other problems include finding integration techniques for complex equations and estimation procedures for non-integrateable ones, but I’m not talking about those right now.

A common application of ordinary differential equations is predicting the weather. The initial conditions are things like temperature, barometric pressure and location of cold/warm fronts. Meteorologists (with previous legwork done by the indispensable mathematicians) plug these parameters into equations to predict what the weather will be like tomorrow, the next day, 5 days from now. But you’ve probably noticed that they never predict beyond 5 days and this is because we cannot get exact enough measurements of the initial conditions and there is necessary error involved. The error of the prediction increases the farther into the future you go and it becomes to great to be useful.

So, what I’m thinking is that life in the physical sense is essentially predictable. This is theoretical, so bear with me. If we knew all the initial conditions, where all the atoms and sub-atomic particles are originally located, their potential energy, velocities, mass and any other possible property that could be measured, we could predict where they would go and what would happen. If the motion and activity of every such particle could be known then this predictability would possibly give us an accurate look into the future. We would know what leaf would blow in which direction on Sunday at 2:32:45 pm. We would know because there would only be one possible action at each moment in time based on the initial conditions.

If we think of thought as electrical pulses and waves in the brain then it too would fall under this assumption of predictability. If we don’t think of it that way, then this means nothing, so I’m going to suppose we do for a moment. That means decisions of individuals and opinions and feelings would also be predictable and therefore everything has always been set in place, from the beginning of time and everything will happen as it always did.

Not trying to say that choice doesn’t exist, just that it might be predictable. Except for the fact we would never be able to get precisely exact initial conditions for anything, so we can’t actually see into the physical future. Do you follow me? Likely not, I’m not often good at getting my theoretical ponderings across to others.

7 comments:

BC Adventures said...

Beth, all i can say right now, is that you're a GEEK

Bethany<> said...

Gee thanks, LAURA. Haha, I used your real name.

pyweon said...

so THEORETICALLY life is predetermined? or just predictable? and is there a difference between them? and if not....predetermination????

Bethany<> said...

A few things:
a) Do you buy into my theory?
b) Can you have predictions apart from predestination?
c) Why does predestination upset you? (Ephesians 1:4-6)
d) Does predestination mean lack of free choice?

Anonymous said...

I believe that predestination does NOT mean lack of free choice. I think that the life we lead is routed out - and we choose the path that we take to get there...when we fall too far away from the original 'plan' - we are unconsciously guided back.

does that make sense?

Dinah said...

I don't understand the question, and I won't respond to it.

(Just kidding. I will when I have more time to read it after work).

I love juice!

Dinah said...

Soooo....
how far ahead is life predictable? Like, five days, or forever? If we were plugging in the inital conditions.

The other day I was thinking about how far ahead things are set in motion. I guess that is related to this? Anyway, we hit a bird on the way home. How many things contributed to that: the stop at the bridge, the stop at tim horton's, a stop for gas, a stop for ice cream, the cars we passed, the speed we went, the time we left the house....

On one hand it seems like it so could have been avoided...one second one way or the other and it would have been different (not to mention all the stuff that was going on in the bird's life).

But on the other hand, it almost seems like there was no way this bird COULDN'T be hit...all of these things lined up for it.

Huh. I'm confused now.