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Is it possible to accurately predict the future? Watch

1. From mechanics we know that if we know certain things about a particle, its mass, velocity, acceleration and the forces acting upon it we can ultimately predict its path of motion and future, assuming that no outside forces act upon it. Now, hypothetically, if there was an independent observer, (by that I mean outside of and not interacting with the universe) it seems to me that (if you view the universe as finite, or infinite and ordered) if they knew certain properties (up to and including everything) about enough matter (up to and including everything) at a certain point in time they should accurately be able to predict the future. Is there any reason why it is not possible for somebody within the universe to do this? If so what implications does this have for epistemology/metaphysics? What do you think?
2. (Original post by aidanhaslam)
From mechanics we know that if we know certain things about a particle, its mass, velocity, acceleration and the forces acting upon it we can ultimately predict its path of motion and future, assuming that no outside forces act upon it. Now, hypothetically, if there was an independent observer, (by that I mean outside of and not interacting with the universe) it seems to me that (if you view the universe as finite, or infinite and ordered) if they knew certain properties (up to and including everything) about enough matter (up to and including everything) at a certain point in time they should accurately be able to predict the future. Is there any reason why it is not possible for somebody within the universe to do this? If so what implications does this have for epistemology/metaphysics? What do you think?
If the mainstream view of quantum mechanics is correct, the answer is... no way. The reason is that the laws of nature are intrinsically probabilistic - you can predict the probability of a certain occurrence stupendously accurately, but never what the actual occurrence will be. Sure, many people don't find this satisfying, and some major league physicists still hope to find "hidden variables" which make a view such as the one you've stated possible. However, current restraints on such variables are too strict to make that possibility appealing to most of the scientific community.

The lesson for epistemology, in my opinion, is that we have to be aware of the fact that the microscopic world may work in a radically different way to the macroscopic world we can observe. Advancing in "fundamental" science therefore implies getting acquainted with phenomena which go against our common sense - which has been moulded by the macroscopic world...
3. Humans are unpredictable, so the answer is no.

They are also manipulative creatures, they may make you believe they are doing one thing and the end result is something completely different. There are also factors outside human control that can effect the future, anything from a rainy day to an asteroid wiping us out.
4. No. Even if you knew every single thing it was possible to know about the universe, you'd still have to account for quantum effects.

You can find the probabilities for each possible future, and on a macroscopic scale there'd be a handful which are much more likely than the others. But we can't ever know for certain which one will actually happen.
5. Tomorrow, the sun will rise. Have I not just predicted the future?
6. (Original post by Et Tu, Brute?)
Humans are unpredictable, so the answer is no.

They are also manipulative creatures, they may make you believe they are doing one thing and the end result is something completely different. There are also factors outside human control that can effect the future, anything from a rainy day to an asteroid wiping us out.
On what grounds are humans unpredictable, (playing the devil's advocate here ) for example did you know that a couple of micro seconds before you 'decide' to perform an action the necessary pathways have already been prepared in the unconscious part of the brain. It seems to me you've just said that with an implicit assumption of some kind of 'free will'. As for asteroids and rain I see no reason why you can't predict what their actions will be if you have the necessary knowledge. I do, however leave myself open for correction on the front of Quantum Mechanics as I only know a very small amount about it, but not being a physicist I can be assured that it is only a very small amount.
7. (Original post by C_G)
Tomorrow, the sun will rise. Have I not just predicted the future?
What you have been doing is inferring, I was talking about a situation where deduction would be possible.
9. (Original post by viriol)
If the mainstream view of quantum mechanics is correct, the answer is... no way. The reason is that the laws of nature are intrinsically probabilistic - you can predict the probability of a certain occurrence stupendously accurately, but never what the actual occurrence will be. Sure, many people don't find this satisfying, and some major league physicists still hope to find "hidden variables" which make a view such as the one you've stated possible. However, current restraints on such variables are too strict to make that possibility appealing to most of the scientific community.

The lesson for epistemology, in my opinion, is that we have to be aware of the fact that the microscopic world may work in a radically different way to the macroscopic world we can observe. Advancing in "fundamental" science therefore implies getting acquainted with phenomena which go against our common sense - which has been moulded by the macroscopic world...
But surely this means that we can accept wholeheartedly empiricism and induction as the means to knowledge and to an extent not rely on deduction. (I am aware that this is a happy go lucky assumption ) and also if you want to watch on bbc iplayer the fantastic mr feynman my question has been answered, (its also a good show)
10. (Original post by aidanhaslam)
On what grounds are humans unpredictable, (playing the devil's advocate here ) for example did you know that a couple of micro seconds before you 'decide' to perform an action the necessary pathways have already been prepared in the unconscious part of the brain. It seems to me you've just said that with an implicit assumption of some kind of 'free will'. As for asteroids and rain I see no reason why you can't predict what their actions will be if you have the necessary knowledge. I do, however leave myself open for correction on the front of Quantum Mechanics as I only know a very small amount about it, but not being a physicist I can be assured that it is only a very small amount.

Well for example, you decide you want to cross the road to ask a girl you know out. You visulise crossing the road, putting one foot in front of another, stepping off the kerb etc etc like you said. Lets say the girl ends up saying yes. Say you get married and have children etc.

however,

lets say it was raining heavily that day, you had no umbrella and were getting wet. So you rushed across the road. A grey car with no lights on was on the road at the time, and as you only glanced you never saw it. As it is wet the car's stopping distance doubles. It knocks you down, you hit your head off the windscreen and again off the tarmac road, your dead. The story ends here, the girl had no idea of your intentions and the future was drastically changed.

(*lik dis if u cry evertim*)

So things like rain, while you can predict it (not always accurately) you can never predict its effects, particularly when humans are involved.
11. (Original post by Et Tu, Brute?)
So things like rain, while you can predict it (not always accurately) you can never predict its effects, particularly when humans are involved.
You're thinking on a less physicsy level than the OP. The OP is saying "if you knew the position etc of every particle, could you simulate the universe accurately?" - the assumption being that if you know where every particle is, you know whether it's raining or not.
Never say never; humans are very predictable in many circumstances, even without knowing their brain states. I can predict that if I poke you with a needle, you will be annoyed (although I don't know the exact form that the annoyance will take). If I knew your brain state, I could predict what form your annoyance would take, by simulating the input to your brain.
12. Yes.

Proof:

1 One can predict any scenario to happen.
2 Something will happen.
3 Something could have been stated as a scenario.

Therefore the future could have been predicted. However, how to repeatedly predict the future falls outside of this proof, and depends on which theory of physics you go with.
13. (Original post by aidanhaslam)
But surely this means that we can accept wholeheartedly empiricism and induction as the means to knowledge and to an extent not rely on deduction. (I am aware that this is a happy go lucky assumption )
I was taken aback a little bit by this reply. How can you conclude this from what I wrote?
14. (Original post by Donald Duck)
Yes.

Proof:

1 One can predict any scenario to happen.
2 Something will happen.
3 Something could have been stated as a scenario.

Therefore the future could have been predicted. However, how to repeatedly predict the future falls outside of this proof, and depends on which theory of physics you go with.
But to do so accurately would be more of a guess than a prediction, according to Quantum Mechanics...
15. (Original post by Donald Duck)
1 One can predict any scenario to happen.
2 Something will happen.
3 Something could have been stated as a scenario.
But that's not "accurately predicting the future". That's "accurately writing down all of possibility-space".
16. No. Quantum physics shows that the universe is probabilistic.
That's the whole reason why Shrodinger's (definitely not spelt right) cat was both alive and dead at the same time.
17. (Original post by viriol)
But to do so accurately would be more of a guess than a prediction, according to Quantum Mechanics...
Why? I can think of a theory, predict a given result, and then the result shows up. My prediction came true.

Predicion and guess depends on the intention of author. You'd just say my prediction tends to be wrong.
18. (Original post by bssjonny)
No. Quantum physics shows that the universe is probabilistic.
That's the whole reason why Shrodinger's (definitely not spelt right) cat was both alive and dead at the same time.
Well, AFAIK, we aren't sure to what extent the universe is probabilistic. Certainly on large (micro or bigger) scales, the universe appears to be essentially deterministic; we don't actually know whether quantum physics is truly random processes (it appears on preliminary evidence to be that way, but given that at least one of quantum mechanics and general relativity is incomplete or wrong…)
It appears to be an open question as to whether the brain is essentially quantum-mechanical; I've seen pretty convincing arguments on both sides (from Douglas Hofstadter and Roger Penrose, specifically; I come down on Hofstadter's side, that there is no a priori reason to believe that the brain is quantum). If it's not, then the brain is probably deterministic, unless you're a dualist (which is a pretty tenuous view to hold, given all the evidence we have that the brain is doing computations that result in consciousness).
Correct me if I'm wrong - I'm a lowly maths student who doesn't know much beyond the woefully inadequate A-level syllabus on quantum stuff.
19. Not with complete certainty, no.
20. (Original post by aidanhaslam)
What you have been doing is inferring, I was talking about a situation where deduction would be possible.
Do you mean like Laplace's demon? If you abide by the laws of quantum mechanics then isn't everything pretty random? I'm no master of physics though so I really couldn't say.

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