Chance: Is anything in the universe truly random?

 作者:蓝晕巢     |      日期:2019-03-15 10:11:03
By Michael Brooks Chance and probability surround us (Image: Eugenia Loli) “OH, I am fortune’s fool,” says Romeo. Rest easy, lover boy; we all are. Or are we? Romeo, having killed Tybalt and realising he must leave Verona or risk death, was expressing a view common in Shakespeare’s time: that we are all marionettes, with some higher cause pulling the strings. Chance – let alone our own decision-making – plays little part in the unravelling of cosmic designs. Even processes that inherently involved chance were pre-determined. Long before dice were used for gaming, they were used for divination. Ancient thinkers thought the gods determined the outcome of a die roll; the apparent randomness resulted from our ignorance of divine intentions. Oddly, modern science at first did little to change that view. Isaac Newton devised laws of motion and gravitation that connected everything in the cosmos with a mechanism run by a heavenly hand. The motion of the stars and planets followed the same strict laws as a cart pulled by a donkey. In this clockwork universe, every effect had a traceable cause. If Newton’s universe left little room for randomness, it did at least provide tools to second-guess the Almighty’s intentions. If you had all the relevant facts pertaining to a die roll at your fingertips – trajectory, speed, roughness of the surface and so on – you could, in theory,