(2003 to 2005)

Days until Date and the Deterministic Universe...

Sun Jan 18 20:22:00 UTC+1100 2004


I've been thinking a lot about 'life and stuff' lately. This isn't unusual or uncharacteristic of me, but a few things popped up. I wondered how many days I had actually been alive. Given that I believe I am the result of my life experience, I thought this was interesting. It struck me that it wouldn't be particularly difficult to retrospectively catalog my life, based on what I could recall. I figure that if I really tried I could probably literally figure out the exact days that certain things that I recall happening actually happened, no matter how insignificant they were to the rest of the world.

Typically I'm not good with dates at all, but if I wrote everything down in a great electronic time-line of sorts, I reckon I could probably map out my entire life, who I'd met and when, where I was and what I was doing on some arbitrary date such as 2:30PM on March 7 1992, or what I was thinking at 8:37AM on June 19th 1996, etc. I also thought it would be really cool if there were a clever standardized XML-based time-line schema, so that if I did this I could plot my own time-line against someone else's, etc. but I digress (or does digression imply that I actually had a point to start with?).

Given that this crossed my mind, I wondered how many days I have been alive 'experiencing the world' as it were so I could get an indication as to the scale of such a task, especially in light of the seemingly few artifacts that remain present for me to do so. So I went to google (where one goes to begin their search for all answers) and searched for “days until date” or something similar. I quickly found what I was looking for, which was some Java-script to do the calculation for me. I had been thinking that it would be cool to chuck it into my blog, but really it should be done server side, since for me days pass at UTC+10. Nevertheless, I found what I was looking for, and calculated that as of today I've been alive for 8576 days. I could do this calculation with a whole one line of Java-script if I wanted.

At first I was miffed at seeing the word “till”. I had always thought that this was just a term for a cash register, and that if someone used the word “till” then really should have used “'til”, that is a contraction of the word “until”. So I went to check the definition of the word “till” and it turns out that this is a legitimate word, having the same meaning of “until”. So, I learned something today.

I also decided that I'd spend an hour or two reading about theories on a 'deterministic universe'. Given that I believe this is true, but have arrived at my conclusions largely through independent thought, I figured I owed it to the rest of the world to attempt to try and find out what they had come up with, as obviously I am not alone in having considered this concept. It was interesting what I unearthed, and really I would like to do some more reading on this subject, and also on chaos theory. These are a few brief points on what I had read that I didn't feel were adequately addressed:

One thing that I would say that wasn't immediately addressed by some of the material that I read was that 'predictable' is not the same as 'deterministic', i.e. determinism doesn't require predictability in advance of the outcome, indeed if the universe is a state machine then the present is simply the current state of the calculation of the future, the only way to exactly 'predict' the future then would be to have an identical universe with the same rules (whatever they are (i.e. not necessarily known (lending weight to my argument))) that didn't impact on this universe (and given that I take universe to include 'everything' this is practically an impossible notion to begin with) and make it happen faster. Any transfer of information (i.e. interfacing) between these would imply that this 'other universe' indeed did impact on this universe and thus even if we could somehow create such a model, configuring it and getting results from it would necessitate that it impacted on our universe, thus only making it a part of our universe and thus useless or impossible.

Another thing that I came to realise in my thinking on this subject, is that random is not the same as unpredictable. In that sense then I don't believe in the possibility of randomness, although I'm willing to concede that I may not have enough information on the subject. One thing that I would point out for me in my world is simply that there is only one past, and only one future. It's worth thinking about that. I believe the past drives the future, all the way from a sub-atomic level. I'd like to think that one day I'll be able to collate other peoples thought on this topic, along with my own and make them available here. If there is in fact the possibility of randomness, the I'd guess that would be creating parallel universes that spin-off like threads, never to impact this universe, implying that they could never be known about and therefore having very limited practicality or relevance to life in this universe.

For me, this notion of a deterministic universe raises some very interesting questions. It certainly doesn't answer the to this day unanswerable 'when did it all begin' question, but does leave one wondering how to construct a moral framework with this understanding, and leaves me frustrated at the ambiguity in much language.

Obviously this topic deserves books worth of treatment, not a few paragraphs, but I don't have the time for that just now, either to write them, or to read them. :P

One thing that I'll say I found interesting before I finish, is that Einstein said that “God does not play dice with the universe”. I thought this was interesting, firstly because it suggests that Einstein was religious and if that is the case I wonder why he was. Secondly because it seems to imply that his notion of God is something that is 'outside' the universe. If someone is going to cling to or suggest the notion of a God, I think they have to admit that he is part of the universe, given that the universe is taken to mean 'everything', this is even more true if they believe that God can 'interface' with (and therefore impact) the universe. Therefore, regardless of the existence or non-existence of any such entity I would speculate that a God was simply a part of our deterministic universe too, I saw someone else running this argument in a forum, and I thoroughly agreed with them. Einstein was great, but it would seem not infallible, given what I perceive to be implied inconsistencies in such a statement.

If you've got a few days, run 'deterministic universe' through google and enlighten yourself.

In a parallel universe my computer now explodes and releases some form of *x-factor* radiation that causes me to turn into a large green monster than runs around town destroying buildings and cars. In this universe, I'm going to reboot my computer to fix the text size problem I'm having and get some work done (who says you can't predict the future!).


Copyright © 2003-2005 John Elliot