After Physics by David Z. Albert

By David Z. Albert

Right here the thinker and physicist David Z Albert argues, between different issues, that the variation among earlier and destiny will be understood as a mechanical phenomenon of nature and that quantum mechanics makes it most unlikely to offer the whole thing of what could be stated in regards to the global as a story of “befores” and “afters.”

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Put a probability distribution which is uniform with respect to the standard measure on phase space over all of the possible microconditions of the world which are compatible with F. Evolve that distribution forward or backward in time, by means of the microscopic equations of motion, so as to obtain information about the physical condition of the world at other times. Call this inference by prediction if the other time in question is in the future of T, and call it inference by retrodiction if the other time in question is in the past of T.

But there’s a trouble with that—or at any rate there’s a trouble with the thought that it’s innocent— too. The trouble is that there are in general an infinity of equally mathematically legitimate ways of putting measures on infinite sets of points. Think (for example) of the points on the real number line between 0 and 1. There is a way of putting measures on that set of points according to which the measure of the set of points between any two numbers a and b (with a < 1 and b < 1 and b > a) is b − a, and there is another way of putting measures on that set of points according to which the measure of the set of points between any two numbers a and b between (with a < 1 and b < 1 and b > a) is a2 − b2, and according to the first of those two formulae there are “as many” points between 1 and 1 ⁄2 as there are between 1 ⁄2 and 0, and according to the second of those two formulae there are three times “as many” points between 1 and 1 ⁄2 as there are between 1 ⁄2 and 0, and there turns out to be no way whatsoever (or at any rate none that anybody has yet dreamed up) of arguing that either one of these two formulae represents a truer or more reasonable or more compelling measure of the “number” or the “amount” or the “quantity” of points between a and b than the other one does.

Physics and Chance 19 it is part and parcel of what it is for that sort of a theory to succeed (once again) that it answers every last one of those questions correctly. Now, compelling arguments to the effect that this or that particular fundamental physical theory of the world is actually going to be able to do all that are plainly going to be harder to come by here than they were in the much more straightforward case of the entropy of the universe. All we have to go on are small intimations—the ones mentioned above, the ones you can make out in the behaviors of pinballs and pencils and specks of dust—that perhaps the exact microscopic laws of motion together with the statistical postulate together with the past hypothesis has in it the entirety of what we mean when we speak of anything’s happening at random or for no particular reason or just by coincidence.

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After Physics by David Z. Albert
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