The Future of Models

Guest essay by Nancy Green

At the close of the 19th century physics was settled science. The major questions had been answered and what remained was considered window dressing. Our place in the universe was known:


We came from the past and were heading to the future. On the basis of Physical Laws, by knowing the Past one could accurately predict the Future.


This was the Clockwork Universe of the Victorian Era. We knew where we came from and where we were going. However, as often happens in science, this turned out to be an illusion.

A century before, the double-slit experiment had overturned the corpuscular theory of light. Light was instead shown to be a wave, which explained the observed interference patterns. However, Einstein’s 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect turned the wave theory of light on its head.

We now accept that Light is composed of particles (photons) that exhibit wave-like behavior. Each photon is a discrete packet of energy (quanta), determined by the frequency of the wave. What Einstein did not envision was the implications of this discovery, which led to the famous quote, “God does not play dice”.

But as it turns out, with our present level of understanding, God does play dice. Consider the dual slit light experiment. What does it tell us about the nature of our universe when we view light as particles?


In the dual slit experiment, light from point A is shone towards point B. What we find is that the individual photons will go through slit 1 or slit 2 to reach point B, but there is no way to determine at Point A which slit (path) the photons will choose. And equally perplexing, there is no way to determine at Point B which path the individual photons will arrive from. Relabeling the slits as paths we have:


This property is not confined to light; it can also be recreated with other particles. The implications are profound. Point A has more than one possible future, and Point B has more than one possible past. Rearranging our double slit experiment so that A and B coincide with the Present, we end up with:


Which we can simplify:


Our Victorian Era picture of one future and one past is no longer correct. Our deterministic view of the world now becomes probabilistic. Some futures and some pasts are more likely than others, but all are possible. Our common sense notion (theory) of one past and one future does not match reality, and when theory does not match reality, it is reality that is correct.

Now you may say, well that may be true for very small particles, but surely it doesn’t apply to the real world. Consider however, that in place of a particle, we used you the reader.


Let point A be your office and point B your home. Some days you will travel from the office to home via path 1. On other days however, maybe you need to go shopping first, or meet friends, or your car may break down, or any number of activities may require you to take path 2 to reach home. So you take path 2.

For all intents and purposes your behavior mimics the behavior of a particle. An outside observer will not be able to tell which path you are likely to take. To an outside observer your “free will” is no different than the behavior of the particle. To the observer the reason for both behaviors is “unknown” or “chance”. It cannot be determined, except as a probability.

Chaos is routinely discussed when considering models. What does our double slit experiment tell us about Chaos?


Consider that instead of starting at point A, we start at A1. A1 is a microscopic distance along the path from A to P1. Or, instead we start at point A2, which is a microscopic distance along the path from A to P2.

From geometry, A1 and A2 will be an even smaller distance from each other than they are from A. They are less than a microscopic distance from each other, yet they lead to different futures. At A1 you can only travel to P1. At A2 you can only travel to P2. Thus with a less than microscopic difference in “initial values” we get two different futures, neither of which is wrong.

But wait you say, ignoring that P1 and P2 are in A’s future, they both lead to the same future. They lead to B. But in point of fact, B is only one possible future. We purposely kept the diagram simple. Reality is more complex. From points P1 or P2 the particle may travel to a whole range of futures. (thus the interference pattern of the double slit experiment).


And this is what we see when trying to forecast the weather or the stock market. Very small differences in the values of A1 or A2 quickly lead to different futures. All the futures are possible; some are simply more likely than others. But none are wrong.

Climate Science and the IPCC argue that climate is different. Because climate is the average of weather, we should be able to average the results of weather models and arrive at a skillful prediction for future climate. However, does this match reality?


Climate science argues that future climate = (C+D+B)/3, where 3 = number of models.

However, climate is not the average over models. Climate is the average over time. Thus:

If we arrive at B via path 1, then climate = (A+P1+B)/3, where 3 = elapsed time

If we arrive at B via path 2, then climate = (A+P2+B)/3, where 3 = elapsed time

Since P1 <> P2, even though we have arrived at the identical future B, we have two different climates, none of which resemble the IPCC ensemble model mean. And this only considers future B.

Futures C and D are also possible, with different probability. We will arrive at one, but there is no way to determine in advance which one. Thus for a single starting point A, there is an infinite number of future climates that are all possible. Some are simply more likely than others.

Thus the failure of climate models to predict the future. The IPCC model mean predicts B, simply because it happens to be in the middle. However, this is simply accidental. As the “Pause” demonstrates, nature is free to choose C, B, or D, and in the real world nature has chosen D. As a result the models are diverging from reality.

In reality the models are attempting an impossible task. There are not simply 3 futures and are not simply 2 paths; there are for all intents and purposes an infinite number of futures, and an infinite number of paths. All are possible.

Some futures are more likely, but that is simply God is playing dice. We are not guaranteed to arrive at any specific future, thus there is nothing for the climate models to solve. They are being asked to deliver an impossible result and like Hal in 2001 they have gone crazy. They are killing people by cutting life support via energy poverty.

HAL: “The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error”.

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p@ Dolan
March 11, 2014 8:28 pm

Breathtaking! Thank you thankyouThankYouTHANKYOU for putting my thoughts into words.
This is the best statement of the n-Body problem, the simplest and most coherent, from the perspective of Quantum Mechanics, that I have ever read. AND invoking basic Chaos Theory! And I had to pay almost $300 for my copy of Unified Field Theory!!
Beautiful! Just gorgeous!!

March 11, 2014 8:28 pm

I disagree with probabalistic reality. Whenever I see someone claim that determinism is lacking, my response is that it is always the case, in the end, that human’s ability to understand is what’s lacking, and probabilistic models are advanced to explain out of ignorance rather than knowledge of reality. Probabilities explain nothing and are clung to by folks who facetiously believe that if they can’t see the deterministic causes, they must not exist. That’s called gigantic egoism. Or just mental laziness. The human mind , as we can all clearly see, is not particularly impressive as a thinking organ.

p@ Dolan
March 11, 2014 8:32 pm

Oh, and saying what many of us have been saying for a long time now: the use to which the IPCC and it’s cohorts of “scientists” promoting AGW is on a par with TV News commentators interviewing each other about “what it all means” when they don’t have any real information to report. So they draw guesses from each other, and that becomes the news… So a group of programmers program everything they can think of into a group of programs mean to simulate the real world’s climate.
The claim that by averaging the results, we know anything more about the real world than our guesses and assumptions going into the programs themselves is sheer fallacy. It is nothing but a computerized circular argument.
Again, beautiful! Thank you!

p@ Dolan
March 11, 2014 8:40 pm

@ Col Mosby:
Not to “ring and run” because I’m not long for this thread, but I cannot agree with you about your rather sour assessment of the human mind, simply because there are people who don’t agree with you. The very range of excuses that people come up with to rationalize the lack of warming over the last 17 years is an impressive exercise of thought—-put to silly purpose, but still, impressive, from a certain perspective. And the theories you disdain are incredible edifices of thought. And the fact that we use probabilities to describe a thing is the other side of the coin your claim that we simply don’t understand the deterministic causes. You’re correct. Have you ever seen an electron? Held a photon? Can you comprehend the sub-atomic particle we call a quark? Or the characteristics we call spin? Do you think of it as a very very small marble, perhaps?
The human mind is an incredible miracle. Even yours, closed as it appears to be.
I’m honestly sorry I can’t stay to debate you, perhaps another time. I’m sure others will take it up. I mean you no disrespect and say none of this with sarcasm; I simply disagree with your assessment: both regarding the probabalistic nature of physics, and your assessment of the human mind—
Be well…

Tony Moore
March 11, 2014 8:43 pm

In response to Einsteins “God does not play dice.” Bohrs response was “God can do what he likes.

March 11, 2014 8:45 pm

That we cannot, yet…or perhaps ever, predict the behavior of everything in the Universe, does not mean it cannot be predicted at all.

March 11, 2014 8:50 pm

Interesting essay. For some insights into deterministic chaos see: Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos by Ian Stewart.

March 11, 2014 8:53 pm

There’s something awry with the argument here. It’s reasoning by analogy. Complex macroscopic phenomena are not the same as quantum-level particles. I suspect neither mechanics nor probability can easily describe climate dynamics. But I will leave it to more erudite commenters to explain why.
/Mr Lynn

March 11, 2014 8:54 pm

This topic reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by William Gibson, in “Pattern Recognition”
( here he is referring to our cultural future, but the problem is much the same)
[W]e have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. … We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition.
Hubertus Bigend, Pattern Recognition, pages 58–59.

D. Cohen
March 11, 2014 8:57 pm

I think the concept of emergent phenomena is a better explanation of why the computer models are not working. If the model does not properly include all the phenomena relevant to the process being investigated — perhaps because we have inadvertently overlooked some of them or do not understand all of the important cause-and-effect relationships between them — then the model cannot possibly be reliable.

March 11, 2014 9:00 pm

Stephen Hawking at:
“So Einstein was wrong when he said, “God does not play dice.” Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”

Chip Javert
March 11, 2014 9:01 pm

Col Mosby says:
March 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm
I disagree with probabalistic reality…and probabilistic models are advanced to explain out of ignorance rather than knowledge of reality. Probabilities explain nothing and are clung to by folks who facetiously believe… Or just mental laziness. The human mind , as we can all clearly see, is not particularly impressive as a thinking organ.
Ok, so we now have the gift of your personal philosophy. Thank you.
This is a science blog…without an articulated theory, and some data to demonstrate it represents reality as predicted by your theory, you have bupkiss. Zippo. Nadda. Nothing.
Quantum mechanics still rules (it may not rule forever, but your “philosophy” didn’t even put a dent in it).

March 11, 2014 9:02 pm

“At the close of the 19th century physics was settled science.” That’s a myth. There is no evidence that Kelvin said that “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement”. Physicists knew they couldn’t reconcile Newton with the constant speed of light. When Einstein showed up, he was rapidly accepted. That’s because physicists were scientists. There’s no comparison between them and the climate change nuts.

March 11, 2014 9:03 pm

So the basis of chaos theory is explained by physics? – or does it have an axiomatic mathematical foundation?

Mark T
March 11, 2014 9:12 pm

The author should review the concept of ergodicity.

March 11, 2014 9:21 pm

I am sure God knows all about it… Not like us mere humans!

March 11, 2014 9:24 pm

Not even wrong.
Models are averaged not because it makes sense.
Models are averaged not because it is statistically justified
Models are averaged not because it physically represents something.
Models are averaged because the average is closer to observations than any single model.
It is a practical hack. Like renormalization. Except its nowhere near as good as that hack.

Henry Clark
March 11, 2014 9:33 pm

The climate models particularly funded and publicized are matched to a hockey stick rewritten version of temperature history plus false custom-fudged aerosol forcing histories used as a fudge factor.* They don’t fit the actual past, so of course they can’t fit the future either.
Any true scientist not passing through the dishonesty filter, by heavily speaking out against such, would be an ostracized skeptic, so those models are made by activists always giving the activist-desired warming prediction, consequentially diverging from reality later.
However, to the degree solar activity could be predicted (guessed), the climate future could be predicted approximately in decadal scale, not by averaging X activist models but better by 1 decent one.
(Some illustrations of revisionism and what can be seen without it are in my usual ).

March 11, 2014 9:34 pm

Climate Models are inherently useless. See

The IPCC models are doubly useless being structurally wrong with the built in assumption that CO2 is the main climate driver.
It is well past time for climate scientists to abandon their pipedreams and base their forecasts on a different method.
For forecasts of the timing and extent of the coming cooling based on the 60 and 1000 year periodicities in the temperature data and the neutron count as the best proxy for “solar activity” see several posts at

March 11, 2014 9:37 pm

Just because we cannot determine an outcome does mean that chance is the determining factor. A particular photon will only do one thing and it will do that because of the net effect of the complex vectors that will interact with that photon, the context if you will. We cannot determine the outcome of a photon because if we focus on the photon we loose site of the context and if we look at the context, we loose visibility of the photon. At the speeds we are dealing with any attempt to go from the context to the specific wil be too late and the context will have changed again. It only seems random because we cannot perceive the causality factors in the time frames required to predict the outcome before it has occurred.
Given this limitaton we have gone to probability to make some sense of the outcomes we perceive. It is a rational way of dealing with the problem, but that does not mean that anyone is throwing any dice to determine outcomes.

Chris B
March 11, 2014 9:42 pm

Col Mosby says:
March 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm
………..The human mind , as we can all clearly see, is not particularly impressive as a thinking organ.

March 11, 2014 9:45 pm

wbrozek says:
March 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm
Stephen Hawking at:
“So Einstein was wrong when he said, “God does not play dice.” Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”
That was back when Hawking believed in black holes. Times change.

March 11, 2014 9:46 pm

Therefore there is no such thing as a nuclear power plant, a DVD, gene therapy, etc, etc.
Sorry but this essay is not enlightening in a fundamental way. I do not doubt that the models are inadequate. If they were adequate, then over the years they would have converged more than they have.
That the models are not evidence that modeling itself is the wrong way to proceed. Maybe the climate can never be modeled or maybe the models we have got so far have got the wrong values for key parameters, or maybe where some variables are now parameterized they must instead be simulated.
What needs to be proposed for us to abandon modeling is for some other approach to be proposed and adopted that will be more productive. Otherwise, the modelers will proceed to refine their models because there is no other way to proceed.
My criticism of the models is somewhat different. I criticize the modelers and the funding agencies because the funding agencies have funded modelers who propose to prove the theories that the funding agencies want proven. If modelers were objective scientists exploring the unknown in an unbiased manner, they would not be funded..

March 11, 2014 9:55 pm

Frederick see my post at 9:34 above for a better way to proceed- simple, reasonable, transparent, inexpensive ,testable in a fairly short time frame and likely skillful – therefore unlikely to appeal to the climate science establishment establishment – fewer jobs for the boys.

March 11, 2014 9:56 pm

Very interesting. We could argue that photons do not exist, as some are inclined to do.
Donning my coyote headdress, prancing, rattling my gourd, I want to say that chaos is not God playing dice. It is simply what we do not understand.
When some clever person designs another experiment or computational bandwidth increases to a point where the photon trajectories can be parsed between the two slits based on prior interactions, it will no longer be chaos.

March 11, 2014 10:03 pm

Perhaps, once we listen we will learn.

March 11, 2014 10:14 pm

1. Climate is not the average of weather, the climate function is an integral of the weather function.
2. Models in physics are good, but are supplanted by models that are better. Newton’s formulations are still valid and useable, but the newer ones based on quantum mechanics are better. Models of the climate have yet to reach the point of being anywhere near good or valid..

March 11, 2014 10:20 pm

gymnosperm, its been tried. If you use an electron, which also has wavelike properties, instead of a photon, you can use a magnetic field to detect which slit the electron travels through.
Here’s where it gets really weird though. If you cover the detector with a hood, so nobody can tell which slit the electron goes through, you get the zebra pattern caused by quantum interference – the electron behaves like a wave.
If you remove the hood, and watch the detector output, you get a machine gun pattern – the electron behaves like a particle.
Some people have suggested you could turn this into a temporal communicator. If instead of covering the detector with a hood, you sent the image from the detector to Jupiter, then bounced it back to the laboratory, in theory you could make the decision whether or not to view the detector several hours after the experiment – so by watching the output of the experiment, you could receive a message from the future.
Some serious attempts have been made to build such a time communicator – but so far, none successful to my knowledge.

March 11, 2014 10:28 pm

Love back and forth this is great, but in my opinion, no-one knows the futur..

March 11, 2014 10:34 pm

More on Quantum time machines – Wheeler’s causality experiment.'s_delayed_choice_experiment

March 11, 2014 10:47 pm

My favorite literary analogy for the current situation with climate models is The Machine that Won the War, a short story by Asimov.
Also, this guy’s take on the slits experiment is quite novel (well it was to me at least).

March 11, 2014 10:50 pm

Excellent post Nancy Green.Well presented. Applause!

March 11, 2014 11:04 pm

Climate will always be an arbitrary set because it is dependent on arbitrary selection of a start and end date. Any particular future day (or any other period of interest) has a 1 divided by the-number-of-days-included in-the-set-of-the-climate-period probability to fall outside the range of values incorporated within the climate period.
As long as we all understand the limits of certainty provided by such analysis & methodology, everything is hunky-dory. But humans often don’t work like that and too many scientists, especially ‘climate-scientist’ refuse to understand their limitations, heralding their probabilities as certainties.
Of course it helps if scientists actually have accurate data to base their estimation of climate during any arbitrarily selected period. Unfortunately this is STILL not the case, since the required replicated, random samples are STILL not being taken and inappropriate statistics employed. Garbage in, Garbage OUT.
There is always the possibility that Dr. Ellen Weber had it right when she concluded that Global Warming caused smaller brains….

Peter Whale
March 11, 2014 11:26 pm

Models are just models. The empirical real world is the correct model with all variables in the mix. To say that a model is in any way superior to observation is hubris. Excellent thought provoking post.

Keith G
March 11, 2014 11:40 pm

Col Mosby says (March 11, 2014 at 8:28pm): “I disagree with probabilistic reality. [And so on and so forth]….”
Well, yes, I guess that none of us like the concept of a universe that is fundamentally, irrevocably and absolutely random but that seems to be how the quantum world really operates. Einstein didn’t like it, most physicists don’t like it, I don’t like and even God may not like it – but, unfortunately, Reality seems to favour it.
Of course, in the 110 or so years since the birth of Quantum Mechanics there have been many attempts to construct Hidden Variable Theories in which say that even if Man doesn’t know what the rules of the game are, at least God knows. Sadly, each attempt is overthrown with papers (notably Bell’s theorem) which say that, no, even that weak form of determinism does not prevail: even God doesn’t know the rules of the game and, what’s more, can never know. This claim is somewhat unsettling.
Now, Bell’s Theorem isn’t the last word on the matter and, every now and then someone makes a brave attempt to re-introduce determinism into mechanics – in either a weak or strong form. On each occasion, a theoretical paper is published that counters those attempts. The current state of affairs is a little murky, and the jury is still out, but the room for manoeuvre for those proposing determinism in Quantum Mechanics is now – after a century of effort – very, very limited.
The consequence of this is that, operationally at least, we are forced to accept a description of a universe that is not only intrinsically random, but also one that permits a ‘spooky action at a distance’.

March 11, 2014 11:45 pm

Eric Worrall says:
March 11, 2014 at 10:20 pm
Interesting comment.
I’m enjoying reading the comments here but the discussion is way over my head. I don’t know exactly how an “image” of a photon or electron is captured to be described as a wave or particle.
If I were to guess that an image were to be taken or interpreted to be from the side of the direction of travel and it sometimes seemed like zebra stripes (wave) and at others like a machine gun (particle) my wandering mind questions if the trajectory could be something like a corkscrew.
Like I said this is way over my head but if I don’t try to follow along the only certainty is that I will never understand.

March 11, 2014 11:53 pm

Climate models wouldn’t be so bad if any one of them actually got it right.
But it’s difficult to get the model right if the scientist is not willing to rethink his forcings and feedbacks.
Instead what we get is ensembles and excuses.
The Met Office was already into spin control with poor weather predictions right before Climategate. Matthew Collins had written, but was published much later, on a paper called,
“Climate model errors, feedbacks and forcings: a comparison of perturbed physics and multi-model ensembles”. It was submitted on Sept, of ’09.
The very first line explains what I mean:
“Ensembles of climate model simulations are required for input into probabilistic assessments of the risk of future climate change in which uncertainties are quantified.”
Which in my opinion is a crok of dung.
Now lets fast forward to today. Two weeks ago, Gavin Schmidt wrote a piece that got published in Nature Geoscience called, now get this, “Reconciling warming trends.”
I love this word. Reconciling. So Gavin wants to find a way to make two very apparent truths, seem similar, and his only recourse was to suggest it was, “Conspiring factors of errors in volcanic and solar inputs, representations of aerosols, and El Niño evolution…”
His camp of alarmists friends must be cringing at these words. How often has it been stated that these factors he has mentioned play an insignificant role in climate models. Yet, here we are.
So I posted a comment on RC, which I stated,”Gavin, is there anyone in your department considering adjusting models to contain feedbacks,(pos or neg) that were previously ommitted? If the models fail to follow observed trends, its not the science that has failed, just the models. Could be time to re think the feedbacks.”
To which he responded,”Feedbacks are emergent properties from the models and so are diagnostic, not input. We are rethinking processes all the time in order to better represent the real world, but as yet, they have not much changed the main feedbacks. In any case, it would not be possible to ‘fix’ feedbacks to change responses just for one decade without changing responses in all other metrics”
In other words, he refuses to change the negative feedbacks because the last decade of flat-lined temperatures is an outlier. Yet, he is willing to go on record and say that the recent pause may very well be the feedbacks he refuses to adjust in his model. How typical.
I am a little bit confused though and was wondering if anyone would attempt to help we with something he wrote. Gavins wrote feedbacks are diagnostic, not inputs, Can someone tell me just exactly what kind of nonsense is he trying to shovel me?

March 12, 2014 12:18 am

Quite a lot of commentary bulldust being kicked into the air which clouds the issues quite significantly which lots of bulldust hanging around is inclined to do.
We haven’t, we can’t and we are never likely to be able to accurately predict the future whether from chicken entrails or mega million dollar computers manned by hordes of munificently salaried, many lettered climate model fiddlers.
Climate model fiddlers who claim they can or will be able to predict the future of the climate with their models, except achieving that feat by a chance encounter with future reality, are either hopelessly besotted with their own self percieved omnipotence and are incapable of doing any serious self examination of their real motives or are liars,[ a small number of whom have demonstrated a strong tendency to being pathological liars. ref; Climate Audit’s most recent posts ] with a good probability of entertaining some grievous intentions against the public purse and the citizens who fund their activities

March 12, 2014 12:33 am

Now I’ve got this picture in my mind of a photon (light) traveling in a corkscrew manner. A shorter wavelength being like a finer thread than a longer wave length (course thread). If the amplitude (height of the wave or dia of corkscrew) were the same and it impacted water (say ocean or lake) it would seem that the longer wave length would travel deeper as the photon would encounter fewer water molecules per depth traveled.
Another thought considers the possible properties of that proton when bouncing off or reflected away something. Would the frequency or wave length change?
One more thought. If this photon traveled in a corkscrew manner would it be more/less susceptible to influences of forces such as gravity by reason of a varying distance (due to corkscrew trajectory) from that attracting force even though quite small? That would probably need to assume that a photon has some form of property similar to mass.
I’ll probably loose sleep worrying about these things I don’t understand.

March 12, 2014 12:50 am

I commend the article as an explanatory analogy of QM to climate models, but I cannot recommend it as any kind of argument that should alter our belief about said models. I say this even though I agree with the article’s conclusions about the models. The reason basically is that the QM explanation is far too simplistic and in some parts flat out wrong about QM. Unfortunately the proof is too long to fit in the margin of this weblog. 😉
But briefly, you simply cannot talk about merely not knowing where a particle is or was. Within the bounds of the uncertainty principle, it is much closer to the truth that the particle simply doesn’t have a precise location. And even that overlooks a book’s worth of subtleties. QM is far more remarkable. If I decide now to do a test of an object’s position some time ago, I will find a position and the object will have behaved – in the past! – as a particle. But if I, now, decide to check up how it behaved as a wave previously, lo! I will discover wave behaviour and the object will not have had particle-like qualities in the past. This violation of apparent causation is too much for many people, and some physicists avoid brain strain by saying that QM is merely a calculating method for finding out how things behave. Lots more to say, but it would digress too much from the article topic.

Keith G
March 12, 2014 12:51 am

eyesonu says:
March 12, 2014 at 12:33 am
Hmmm, photons are funny quantum mechanical things. Now, I have no idea what a photon looks like – in fact, no one does – but it is probably a mistake to think that a photon has a trajectory and that it may somehow corkscrew. These are classical concepts that do not carry over well to the quantum world.
In fact, things are so storage that in an orthodox quantum description of a photon, it would be quite reasonable for me to say that a photon is here; it is also over there; and that it is, in fact everywhere all at the same time (and, in fact, at all times). It is also true to say that a photon is not a particle; nor is it a wave; and yet it is both. This acute ambiguity about the ‘when’ and ‘where’ and nature of a photon lies at the heart of the quantum mechanical paradoxes of the double slit experiment.
The nature of the dynamical ambiguity of a photon is really only addressed within the arcane mathematical languages of Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory. And, for the most part, physicists only really understand the concept of a photon within the context of manipulating mathematical symbols in those languages.
In short, the reality of quantum is so bizarre that we simply have no good way of visualising a photon.

David Henderson
March 12, 2014 1:03 am

Its even more amazing when the photon experiment is conducted using electrons. These particles are constituents of solid matter yet they behave like waves in the double slit experiment.

Leo Morgan
March 12, 2014 1:27 am

Chaos theory and QM are different phenomena. I think you’re comparing apples and Oranges. You provide one interpretation of QM. It’s not the only one. I personally find Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen’s analysis to be cogent, and more consistent with the first law of thermodynamics. I was intellectually excited the first time I saw the ‘many pasts’ version of QM proposed, but I am not satisfied it is a valid description of reality. I freely admit I don’t have the education and skills to debate QM, but I am not persuaded that your argument does either.

March 12, 2014 1:38 am

The history of Anglo-Saxon societies (especially the UK and the US) is the continual creation of alarms, scares, irrational exuberance and over-the-top depression. It’s how market volatility is created, which is the Father in the Financial Services Holy Trinity of Volatility, Information Asymmetry and Societal Ostracism of those who expose Illusion.
The creation of new arenas of volatility is called ‘innovation’. It’s very innovative to steal all the hard-earned savings of humble folks on main street through trashing the thrifts in the 1980s. It’s very innovative to create cartels of sports franchises which give the illusion of competition but are a focus for online global gambling. it’s very innovative to egg up the ICT industry around the millennium and then let it crash down again. Ditto with clean tech, biotech and graphene tech.
It’s very innovative to say that the Russians are megalomaniacal global domination freaks whilst retaining the absolute dominant position in military hardware spending.
It’s very innovative to make paying more for less the desired model for society, with communally owned lower-cost solutions being ostracised as the root of all evil.
It’s very innovative to call a duopolistic Broadway show called American politics where a small number of families are funded by a small number of big money families to play at democracy and then tell the whole world that they have nothing to learn from truly democratic systems about democracy.
Climate science is just one manifestation of this mafia Holy Trinity. Create a scare, control the media, ostracise the honest witnesses, create speculative investment bubbles, call the top of the market, change the shades of grey in the narrative, start another bubble in the energy sphere etc etc.
That’s all this thing is.
Core American Dream politics.
Main Street might not call it the American Dream. It’s not a dream I would go to America to pursue.
But that’s what the true American Dream is all about. It used to be a niche, now it’s the market leader.
Get with the program, folks.
You didn’t vote for Ralph Nader or Ron Paul.
So this is what you get.

March 12, 2014 1:39 am

Space-time trumps quantum mechanics. If quantum mechanics multiplies the number of possible pasts and futures, space-time falsifies the idea of time’s arrow. It falsifies what we commonly understand the past and future to mean. Time’s arrow makes no more sense than height’s arrow, width’s arrow or depth’s arrow – all are bound.
The question becomes why do we experience the world, through our consciousness, as though time’s arrow is real; and not the way it is as a 4d space-time continuum?

March 12, 2014 2:17 am

My take on models is first they are approximations of reality not reality itself. Some models in science are better describing observations than others and as a result allow to predict future behavior with varying degrees of confidence. Now to construct a good model there first must be good quality data to use. From what I have read, the climate quality is erratic at best and of very limited scope. This should be a flag that the climate models are likely to be inaccurate and new data is likely to diverge from the model at some point. I trust quality data before any model in all areas of science, not just climatology. The problem to me is money is available for the theoretical models but not for developing quality data. The cart is before the horse.

March 12, 2014 2:19 am

Its well known any retail trader who tries to model the financial markets using past predict future and place bets on them will go bust. For the retail trader the market is a ‘black box’. The best they can come up with is probabilities which may or may not give you an edge that creates money. Those who make money in the markets are not using probabilities. They are using inside information or manipulation. They are ahead of the curve not behind it. They are making facts not creating averages out of them.
So if one does not know what the facts or processes are [black box] one can only use probabilities to dice outcomes. So when i hear the use of probabilities then for me its because the real facts are not known. Its admitting its a black box. If climate processes are not known then its ok to use probabilities [what else] but that highlights a gap in knowledge of the processes?
The co2ers are dice players betting on co2 is the dominant factor and insisting everyone else bet on it as well. For the climate prediction dice players they are admitting, for them, climate is a black box. No certainties with black boxes.

March 12, 2014 2:25 am

A point source is a mathematical concept. You can’t achieve it on earth with our current technology. Any source of photons is vast, even if microscopic to our eyes. I defy anyone to produce a single photon from a single position repeatably. Molecules are not spherical and frankly I don’t know which part of the molecule emits and in what direction. A slit is enormous compared to a photon’s ‘size’. The reason outcomes are random is because we haven’t measured things adequately.

Keith G
March 12, 2014 2:47 am

Alex says:
March 12, 2014 at 2:25 am
I must be bored today: I can’t resist.
Yes, a point source is a mathematical concept. But, then, it’s not really correct to say that a photon is a point particle.
I’m not sure that there is any real meaning to assigning a ‘shape’ to an atom or molecule.
In the double slit experiment, a photon is typically prepared in a state with well-defined momentum and therefore, by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, a very poorly defined position. Because of this, the slit is not enormous in comparison with the ‘size’ of the photon. In fact, if anything, it is the other way around: the slit is probably ‘small’ in comparison with position probability envelope for a photon that has been prepared in a well-defined momentum state.
And, no, outcomes of the double slit experiment are not random because things haven’t been measured adequately. They are random because, at the quantum level at least, Nature seems to be fundamentally random.

March 12, 2014 3:14 am

Momentum is not position. Without looking it up somewhere a photon is nowhere near the size of a slit. I am designing a spectrometer at the moment and 0.1 micron is not close to a photon’s size. Molecules are all shapes and sizes and their spatial orientation is random. The position of a single photon , even with a cyclotron, would fall into a probability curve ie not exact. You can’t get a photon coming from exactly the same point. Sub nano reproducibility is BS.
Fall back on the attitude that it is random because nature said so. So convenient. You don’t have to look closer then. You don’t have to build the Hadron collider.

March 12, 2014 3:16 am

the climate modellers are also being asked to do a political task
“In climate change, however, the political class has deferred the choices to the scientists to make – and this means taking the choice away from us. Politicians want a strong, simple story of “certainty”. As one British civil servant wrote to a leading climate scientist in 2009:
I can’t overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the Government can give on climate change to help them tell their story. They want the story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish.
In other words, scientists were being asked to perform a propaganda function, while the politicians retained the luxury of passing the buck. Some scientists eagerly stepped up to the propaganda role – yet the task made other scientists queasy. One climate boffin, Peter Thorne, privately fretted the same year:
“The science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”
Yet another climate scientist another admitted the “evidence” the politicians were demanding simply wasn’t up to snuff, writing: “It is inconceivable that policymakers will be willing to make billion-and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability.”
basically co2 is another iraq dossier where possibilities are sexed up as ‘facts, consensus and settled science’.

March 12, 2014 3:25 am

The climate models are like the double-slit experiment. When you look for the heating in the atmosphere, it’s hiding in the deep ocean. When you look in the oceans, it’s hiding in the atmosphere.

March 12, 2014 3:30 am

“HAL if all this science is settled what is our future?”
“I can not foresee the future but I do know that at present rate of tax, all of your energy prices are necessarily going to skyrocket.”

March 12, 2014 3:35 am

here is a typical black box bet
Long-term warming likely to be significant despite recent slowdown

Keith G
March 12, 2014 3:44 am

Alex says:
March 12, 2014 at 3:14 am
Alex, you sound upset. Sorry to hear that. Good to hear, though, that you are building the Hadron collider.
Not sure what wavelength of light you had in mind but I note that the wavelength of visible light (mid spectrum) ~ 550 nm = 5.5 x 10^-7 m; and 0.1 micron = 1.0 x 10^-7 m. It would seem to me that you would have to be up in the extreme UV end of the spectrum before the photon wavelength becomes much smaller than a notional slit width of 0.1 micron.

March 12, 2014 3:54 am

I’m not upset in the slightest. I’m not as sensitive about these things as some. A spectrometer is not the Hadron collider. You are just stirring sh*t. You seem to be implying that a 0.1 micron slit won’t allow some photons to pass. I guess I have to do more research.

son of mulder
March 12, 2014 3:57 am

The essay certainly shows how systems can be deterministic but non computable, which covers the chaotic nature of climate. But the debate about whether there are multiple futures or just one is far deeper than this essay concedes. The interpretation of quantum theory leads to 2 significantly different outcomes. The older Copehagen interpretation indicates there is only one outcome but is not predictable but probabilstic and at the other extreme is the Many Worlds interpretation which predicts all outcomes occur but at each point the Universe splits. Many Physicists and Philosophers are beginning to give credence to the latter interpretation.
The essay is certainly right in the statement that ” climate is not the average over models. Climate is the average over time.”

Keith G
March 12, 2014 4:00 am

Alex says:
March 12, 2014 at 3:54 am
No, not saying that a 0.1 micron slit will not allow some photons to pass. (Some of) the photons of wavelength 550nm will pass quite happily through the slit.

Doug Huffman
March 12, 2014 4:09 am

Fascinating. Read cosmologist Lee Smolin on time as he hypothesizes a state-free universe as process. N. N. Taleb warns against bald induction that NEVER sees The Black Swan hiding in Mandelbrot’s fractally complex universe (of which time is only a hypothetical dimension).

Doug Huffman
March 12, 2014 4:15 am

Ahh, yes, another, this that I can provide an online link URL.
A. Albrecht and D. Phillips, Origin of probabilities and their application to the multiverse.
Along with João Magueijo, Albrecht independently proposed a model of varying speed of light cosmology to explain the horizon problem of cosmology and propose an alternative to cosmic inflation.

Bill Illis
March 12, 2014 4:51 am

I’ve often said that climate science needs to move down to the quantum level and rethink everything because this is the level which energy and photons and molecules operate at.
CO2 intercepts a LW photon emitted from the surface, … Then what happens. Can one actually model what happens to untold numbers of these interactions every millisecond going on for centuries. NOT.

Doug Huffman
March 12, 2014 4:58 am

Albrecht’s argument is that probabilities are a subset of QM in the same way that Newtonian physics are a subset of relativity.

David, UK
March 12, 2014 5:52 am

I found this article somewhat convoluted. Using quantum physics to make a point about the macro world isn’t really valid, even if analogies can be drawn. Better to just say that chaos by definition cannot be predicted, climate is based on a non-linear chaotic system, and the models and “projections” are all, therefore, bullshit.

March 12, 2014 6:17 am

Complex idea very clearly explained for the non-physicist.

March 12, 2014 6:42 am

Chaos is a concept. We call it chaos because we can’t measure it or understand it clearly.
The chaos of yesterday is not the chaos of today and the future. The mysteries of yesteryear are not so today and nor will they be in the future. Humanity needs analogies to understand things. Unfortunately we are running out of analogies to explain new things now. Old analogs don’t work and leave us confused so we resort to concepts like nature and god to explain things. Hundreds of years ago philosophy and science were interwoven. Then came a time when they were separated. Now its back to the two being together for our next leap forward.

Martin Lewitt
March 12, 2014 6:43 am

I think closer analogy is that the weather is a nonlinear dynamic system, i.e., chaotic system and the climate is its attractor. Predicting the trajectory of the future weather becomes an intractable problem within a few days, but projecting the shape and position of the attractor in response to a pertubation (change in forcing) may well be possible. After all the climate is the predictable part of the weather system. As a matter of fact, I venture to claim that a 1960s geography text map of the climate types and zones will is a pretty good prediction of the climate in the year 2100, the climate zones may be shifted one or two hundred miles this way or that, but the overall pattern will be the same. The challenge for our models is to improve upon that projection, and given that they still have documented correlated errors several times the magnitude of the phenomenon of interest, models that might be able to project the climate are probably at least two or three model development generations away.

March 12, 2014 6:44 am

Great presentation of common sense. A first grader could easily understand this. Thank You.

March 12, 2014 7:05 am

Right. Obviously a chaotic system with more than one forcing is impossible to forecast more than a few days ahead.

Nancy Green
March 12, 2014 7:10 am

Thank you Anthony for the opportunity to post this article. And thank you, the Reader for your interesting comments. Many of the questions posed have been well answered by other comments and need no reply from me.
For those struggling, the subject matter is inherently confusing. It flies in the face of common sense, so we struggle. The aim of this article was to ease this struggle by showing the simplicity of the concepts.
On the question of Newton, the propagation speed of gravity remains an open question in science. Newton recognized the problem of action at a distance. If the Sun was to instantly disappear, would the Earth remain in orbit about the non-existent Sun for another 8.5 minutes?
On the question of deterministic chaos, by the time the particle reaches A1 or A2, its path to P1 or P2 is no longer probabilistic. Probability was resolved earlier at point A. What is mathematically fascinating about chaos is that even though the paths are deterministic, infinitesimally small differences between A1 and A2 lead to divergent futures.
On the question of Copenhagen vs many Worlds, this is also an open question. Is there a deeper reality, in which probability will give way to determinism? In an infinite Universe all things are possible. Intuition tells me that determinism is incompatible with free will.

March 12, 2014 7:15 am

First turns out Einstein was not entirely correct about the photo electric effect. If you don’t beleive this make an interference pattern on a solar cell and it does produce a voltage. Second just because one does not know what every particle in a system is doing doesn’t mean we know nothing or cannot predict anything about the system as a whole. That is why we can input energy into a system and predict the temp without knowing what every molecule is doing.for more complex systems this takes more understanding. With respect to climate models the problem is not that we won’t be able to do this the problem is at the moment we can’t but we are acting as though we can and then using this psuedo knowledge as a bludgeon to advance a political agenda.

Doug Huffman
March 12, 2014 7:15 am

Alex says: March 12, 2014 at 6:42 am “Chaos is a concept. We call it chaos because we can’t measure it or understand it clearly.”
Chaos is a label and a label is not the thing. Chaotic complexity, as “fractally complex”, does not have a meaningful measure and its understanding would be the understanding of all.

March 12, 2014 7:32 am

My point exactly. Complexity is not insolvable if one has the tools.

David in Texas
March 12, 2014 7:48 am

“God does not play dice” and the Clockwork Universe are still unsettled questions. The reason for this is a lack of understanding of the meaning of probability theory. Most people, including scientist, believe that a stated probability is a measure of the state of nature. This is not quite right.
To explain consider this thought experiment: You flip a coin in a classroom placing it on a table with your hand over it. You ask the class what is the probability the coin is heads up. Everyone answers 50%. You agree.
Now, you alone peek at the coin and ask the class again what the probability is. They again answer 50%, but your answer is not in agreement with the class. Why?
Because: probabilities are not just a measure of the state of nature, but a measure of OUR UNDERSTANDING of the state of nature.
Hence, Quantum Mechanics does not overturn the Clockwork Universe concept. Just because we humans cannot predict the outcome of experiment does not mean that it is not predetermined.
Note: I am not arguing that we live in predetermined universe. I am just arguing that Quantum Mechanics does not settle the question.

March 12, 2014 8:01 am

The point of my ‘waxing lyrical and philosophical’ was to open the mind to other concepts and to break the barriers of established beliefs. I don’t automatically accept the words of people in cassocks, turbans or lab coats. The initial experiment/discussion of particular phenomena at the beginning of this post is what I have issue with. I have no problem with the conclusion.
To my mind there is chaos and order ( I love Michael Moorcock)
Chaos is the unknown and order is the known.

Doug Huffman
March 12, 2014 8:42 am

Alex says: March 12, 2014 at 7:32 am “My point exactly. Complexity is not insolvable if one has the tools.”
And my point is precisely to the contrary. There are no tools in principal to solve the adequately and realistically complex. Imagine a Planck’s scale-like granularity to everything and an infinite dimensionality.
I commented on the folly of connecting the dots of any epistemological mapping and was shortly convinced that there is no natural scale to such a mapping and an infinite number of points between any two dots.

Jim s
March 12, 2014 9:03 am

Very nice, thank you.

Theo Goodwin
March 12, 2014 9:06 am

The only people that I know who have solved the riddles of quantum mechanics are master surfers. They cling to their boards atop mountains of water and survey hundreds or thousands of points as they search for signs of the wave. Almost magically, some points become a line and they are catching the wave. I asked a master surfer about the role of quantum mechanics in his professional life. He replied, “Quantum physicists don’t surf.”

March 12, 2014 9:10 am

In her essay, Nancy Green provides us with a graphical illustration of an entity that does not exist for modern climatology. This entity is an event.
This becomes clear when the circles labeled B, C, and D are identified as the outcomes of an event and when the circles labeled P1 and P2 are identified as the preceeding conditions. The conditions are observable in the present. The outcomes are observable in the future. The outcomes and conditions are examples of states of nature.
The mapping from the conditions to the outcomes, indicated in Green’s graphic by arrows, is an example of a predictive inference. A “predictive inference” is a conditional prediction. Conversely, a “prediction” is an unconditional predictive inference. Contrary to popular opinion, the “projections” of the IPCC climate models are not examples of predictions.
No climate model of AR4 or AR5 makes a predictive inference or predictions. A predictive inference and predictions are, however, essential ingredients for the methodology of climatological research to be made scientific and Earth’s climate to be made controllable.

Jeremy Das
March 12, 2014 9:21 am

Patricia ( says,
“Complex idea very clearly explained for the non-physicist.”
As a former physics student (30 years ago) I wish I could say the same, but the article makes no sense to me. A deterministic, classical mechanical system might in theory be predictable but it can still be chaotic and, for all practical purposes, unpredictable. On the other hand an indeterministic, quantum mechanical system might be intrinsically unpredictable but this doesn’t require it to be completely unpredictable otherwise (for example) we would not have been able to make the technological progress we have, in the last few hundred years, using deterministic classical physics. So it’s pointless to argue that the climate models are useless because the world is indeterministic, even though the world is indeterministic and the climate models are useless.

jerome bastien
March 12, 2014 10:26 am

interesting post but the author is wrong when he says photons are either at point A1 or point A2. in quantum theory, unless observed, the particle is both in point A1 and point A2. that’s how you get the interference pattern when only a single photon goes through the slits at the same time.
also, chaos theory does not derive from the uncertainty of quantum physics. both create uncertainty, but chaos theory is derived entirely from mathematical equations. if mathematical equations exhibit certain behaviors, they are chaotic. if they also represent a physical system, the system is chaotic.

son of mulder
March 12, 2014 10:48 am

” Martin Lewitt says: March 12, 2014 at 6:43 am
………but projecting the shape and position of the attractor in response to a pertubation (change in forcing) may well be possible.”
So is the jetstream an attractor? It certainly defines the weather over Europe depending on its position. But is it predictable or is it part of a hierarchy of chaotic attractors?
I suspect the latter ie although it is a major influence on weather in Europe how it behaves may well show no pattern ie it’s own time evolution is chaotic. Hence European climate and climate change would be unpredictable no matter how big the computer or sophisticated the model..

george e. conant
March 12, 2014 11:23 am

Lovely essay Nancy Green, very direct and easy to read and comprehend. My argument with CAGW models and prognostications is that there is no inclusion of human factors such as geo-engineering activities and no factoring of radio / directed energy frequency emissions such as HAARP, radio telemetry, radar array’s and cell tower output . When I asked Dr. Hansen at one of his presentations if his models included artificial cloud forcing technologies and scaler wave directed energy broadcasts his response was interesting. He said “No”…. climate models do not include any radio or directed energy broadcasts or geo-engineering cloud forcing tech (i.e. chemtrails) into account. He did say that it probably does have some impact and maybe should be included in the modeling calculus. Lastly, God playing dice , or God can do what ever God wants…. I for one hold the opinion that that the atmosphere is a living system as is the ocean, the bio-sphere we live in as well as space …. Life being the rule not the exception in the universe. Part of the problem with modeling of living systems such as the atmosphere and oceans is that we can not take into account living synthesis and intelligence of complex living systems. Thus unless unpredictable behaviors of a living atmosphere can be completely and utterly controlled, then all the modeling in the universe will always be subjected to great uncertainty and unpredictability. In this writers opine.

March 12, 2014 11:42 am

Well, I’ve got to admit, that I actually learned something from the comments section today
– that Steven Hawkins has something new to say about Black Holes
– not that they don’t exist, just that the Event Horizon, is, apparently, just the Apparent Event Horizon
– interesting stuff, if only I could figure out what he means…
Anyway, as for the main article
– it’s nonsense!
– confusing quantum physics with chaos theory with simple Newtonian physics
– I have to say, ‘What is the point?’
Why not apply some basic filtering to the articles published on WUWT??
– don’t just publish any old nonsense!
Why not apply some sort of peer review process, where someone with at least an inkling about physics or science looks over articles before they are given the WUWT seal of approval??
This kind of article is just such a waste of everybody’s time, and does nothing to further the AGW debate…

Gary Pearse
March 12, 2014 11:43 am

“All the futures are possible; some are simply more likely than others. But none are wrong.”
Cute, but a theoretician’s mistake. If my model was that casting chicken bones and entrails would allow me to predict the future, it may end up correctly predicting the future but it is not related to the probabilities you are talking about. Moreover, if it ends up not predicting the future, then I can take comfort that it was a possible future. I’m sure you intend that scientific constraints reduce the possible futures.

March 12, 2014 11:51 am

Nancy Green – as p@ Dolan says, a beautiful exposition of a crucial problem in physics, one that even a layman like myself can understand – and one that, as I see it, has applications in economics as well as physics. Bravo!!

March 12, 2014 12:09 pm

One hopes that Col Mosby, and those in agreement with him, would agree with a few basics about science:
1. Scientific models are understood to incompletely describe the real world, but are useful to the extent they allow for accurate prediction of events in the real world.
2. Quantum Mechanics as a model has been extremely accurate over a broad range of experiments in predicting outcomes in the real world.
3. At the quantum level, probability functions have worked better, by far, than strict mechanical determinism at predicting the outcome of experiments.
4. Claiming that, underneath it all, there is actually a fully determined real world with no dice-throwing is not supported by experiment. Such a claim is a statement of faith, a “religious-type” claim, not a scientific claim: maybe true…maybe not…no way to know. To argue that those who disagree with such a claim are not intelligent is ridiculous and self-discrediting.

Doug Proctor
March 12, 2014 12:17 pm

I call this the Unique Solution Syndrome. A) all problems have one,unique, correct or “best” answer. By axiom A, B) once you have found an answer, that answer is “the” answer, and it is inappropriate to continue looking, and C) by definition (axiom A), all other proposed answers must be wrong or inadequate.
This is the Syndrome of the deterministic Engineer mind that needs to have the whole world nailed to the floor. Uncertainty is the enemy of the man who sees his self image in control. If he can’t predict the future, he can’t adjust it to suit his wants, and so is not in control. He is nothing but flotsam in the world.
Of course he isn’t, but this is how he feels. The USS sufferer seeks to wrest certainty by the standard true and manly way: force. The academic destroys the reputation of his detractors, the general throws more troops at the redoubt, the intelligence officers spy on EVERYONE, and politicians regulate what they can’t legislate. All to demonstrate they are men worthy of the term: people who can determine outcome, any outcome.
The Unique Solution Syndrome is what Michael Mann displays. The USS is whsy sank the Titanic.

March 12, 2014 12:27 pm

You’ve drawn the wrong conclusion about the merits of Ms. Green’s article. Rather than being nonsensical, her article is meritorious.
A logical concept ties Newtonian mechanics together with quantum mechanics and chaos theory; this concept is missing information. Like today’s climate models, Newtonian mechanics assumes that information for a deductive conclusion about the outcomes of events is not missing. Quantum mechanics and chaos theory do not assume this information to be missing. Contrary to the assumption of IPCC-affiliated climatologists, the climate system is chaotic and information is missing.

Gary Pearse
March 12, 2014 12:36 pm

Never mind the slit experiment, I find it interesting that with the photons apparently criss-crossing each other from my two computer screens at angles to each other, the words and images are clear and uninterfered with from both screens and if I look over my shoulder into a mirror, I can see the television in the next room. Each of the photons are following a perfectly forecast track in the real world. I admit that I wouldn’t get the same impression if I was trying to view any part of my field of vision through a slit. Mind you if I do put slits (pinhole size) in front of my eyes, I can see in perfect focus the immediate foreground and the distant background, even though my eyesight is not that good. I made a pair of cardboard pinhole glasses once when I had forgotten my specs and wound up scaring the hell out of an unexpected visitor whom I turned to greet, my face looking somewhat like that of a chameleon. Now tell me, with the same photons from the foreground and background hitting my eyes, how come I can discern them so much better with pinholes or slits. Also explain the criss-crossing photons that almost intelligently bring me an image of a small letter on each of two different screens? They don’t choose alternative probabilistic paths at all.
The slit is itself an interference when it is small enough. The wave characteristic can’t be dispensed with. Apparently the photon can’t pass through a slit narrower than Lambda/6. If I aim a photon at a small slit, it is the same result I get if I aim a handful of porridge at the two slits. Climate science is like my criss-crossing photons and my being able to see better with pinhole glasses. It is not like the narrow slits. I’ve thought for a long time that we rejoiced about this prematurely at the time and then never gave it more thought.

March 12, 2014 12:53 pm

In the double slit experiment, each photon goes through a single slit. It is the outcomes of the events that are unpredictable. That they are unpredictable is a consequence of missing information. The outcomes of climatological events are similarly unpredictable as evidenced, for example, by the “pause.”

March 12, 2014 1:05 pm

Terry Oldberg says:
March 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm
You’ve drawn the wrong conclusion about the merits of Ms. Green’s article. Rather than being nonsensical, her article is meritorious.
Like I said before, I wish WUWT applied some sort of pre-filter to articles published here
– for example, running them past Roy Spencer
– so he can chuck out the obvious nonsense, and avoid confusing people such as yourself
To me, this article has as much merit as the insane ramblings of Doug J. Cotton that Anthony so despises.

Michael J. Dunn
March 12, 2014 1:09 pm

We advance from hypothesis (qualitative argument) to theory (quantitative prediction) by the construction of mathematical models. Experiment or observation is the test against which we determine the adequacy of the theory, or of the hypothesis. So, there’s nothing wrong with modeling. But there is everything wrong with dishonesty.
A point to consider is that when a theory premised on random processes produces results that are identical with experiment and observation, it is tantamount to proof that the process is random—because any other process would necessarily have different thermodynamic characteristics. (A random process conforms to maximum entropy.) The kinetic theory of gases is a good example of such a profoundly confirmed theory.
Finally, in my view, if God wanted to institute processes in the world that can run untended forever, random processes would be the ones to create. Strangely, if you are dealing with a random process (for huge ensembles of entities), you know exactly what it is going to do and can turn your back on it while occupied with other matters. I consider the random process to be “God’s autopilot.” It is a marvel of simplicity.

Gail Combs
March 12, 2014 1:47 pm

eyesonu says: @ March 12, 2014 at 12:33 am
Hmmm, photons are funny quantum mechanical things…. In short, the reality of quantum is so bizarre that we simply have no good way of visualising a photon.
That was the reason why us poor chemistry students called it Science Fiction Physics….

Martin Lewitt
March 12, 2014 2:23 pm

Son of Mulder, Those jets streams don’t make the climate of Europe less predictable, what you have experienced is normal climate, you should consider whether similar variability has happened before in the last 60 to 120 years to have a good sampling of European climate. Despite this variability, Europe is reliably warmer than other regions of the earth at similar latitudes, due to the heat transported by the Gulf Stream. It takes most of a lifetime to experience a location’s climate, however, it seems that humans are good at forgetting the “unusual” weather they are experiencing, had been very much the same just a decade or two before.

son of mulder
March 12, 2014 3:54 pm

Martin Lewitt
I agree “Those jets streams don’t make the climate of Europe less predictable”, but what they do is indicate basic unpredictability as they deterministically but noncomputably move around long term. Is the Gulf Stream an attractor? What about continental drift? Or affects of the moon, planets…??? How do they all stack up against CO2 growth, cloud variability…? All sorts of timescales, lags, interactions, resonances.
Where to begin to achieve good computer based modelling that predicts reality? Beats me.

Lloyd R
March 12, 2014 4:21 pm

I found this piece very interesting.
I was reminded of evolution. As a lay person, I have the idea that both genetic mutation and genetic drift are so to speak constantly occurring. A species changes in response to stimuli or environment, but it doesn’t change (significantly) unless one or more mutations (which may be random?) survive by becoming more successful than the original.
“Of all the reptiles alive today, crocodiles and alligators may be the least changed from their prehistoric ancestors of the late Cretaceous period, over 65 million years ago.” Many species, on the other hand, including modern humans, are brand new by comparison.
Does a specific environmental factor actually cause a specific mutation or evolution, or does it (at most) change the balance of probabilities, so that the outcome as to which species survives and which does not could not be predicted even if a computer could be programmed with all the relevant data?

March 12, 2014 5:09 pm

son of mulder:
Re: Your question of where to begin to achieve good computer based modelling that predicts reality.
A model is a procedure for making inferences. In building a model, the builder selects from many candidates for being made those inferences that will be made by the model. Currently, climatologists make this selection through the use of the intuitive rules of thumb that I’ll call “heuristics.” However, in each instance in which a particular heuristic selects a particular inference a different heuristic selects a different inference. In this way, the method of heuristics violates the law of non-contradiction. Non-contradiction is among the classical laws of thought.
To violate a classical law of thought is an unpromising method for selection of the inferences that will be made by a climatological model. Fortunately, there is an alternative. It can be proven that an inference has a unique measure. The measure of an inference is the missing information in it for a deductive conclusion per event, the so-called “entropy.” In view of the existence and uniqueness of the measure of an inference, the question of how to select the inferences is solved without violation of non-contradiction by a kind of optimization in which the entropy is minimized or maximized under constraints expressing the available information. This approach has been tried over a period of more than half a century and found to work as expected. Products of this approach include modus ponens, modus tollens, thermodynamics, the modern theory of communication and a number of different mid- to long-range weather forecasting models. All of these products have been extensively tested against real world outcomes without being falsified by the evidence..

March 12, 2014 5:37 pm

Highly disingenuous.
What quantum physics says is yes, there are possible different outcomes for the same set of experiments.
What is ALSO says is that averaged out to create a macro world the chances of any of them being radically different are essentially zero.
Computers which utilise quantum effects in the semiconductors, do not routinely porduce different answers to the same program
And systems that are so finely balanced that a butterflies wing can send them one way or another, are inherently states that do not last long. Even chaos has its attractors.
In fact the stability of the earths climate is one of the most significant things that makes catastrophic AGW unlikely to be a real effect: If it were so it would have happened many times before.
The problem with AGW is not a problem with the modelling process per se, its a problem with the amazingly cride and simplistic models that the IPCC relies upon.

Nancy Green
March 12, 2014 5:40 pm

Models are averaged because the average is closer to observations than any single model.
Clearly that is not the case. The IPCC spaghetti graph shows some models that track much closer to observations than the ensemble mean. Though this could be simply due to accident.
The ensemble mean makes sense when the model error is randomly distributed around the mean. Some high, some low. Over a large number of samples the highs and lows will average out. This is why no individual investor can outperform the market over the long run.
However, in the case of climate models this is not the case. The models share many assumptions and as a result you cannot consider their error to be random. It should not be expected to average out to zero.
In any case, say the models were independent. Best case, what is it they are telling you? Are they telling you what the future climate will be? No. At the very best they are telling what the most likely climate will be.
And before you jump to the conclusion that this tells you anything worthwhile, consider the ingredients label on a can of “meat”.
ingredients: meat, meat byproducts, sugar, corn syrup, canola oil, sesame oil, water, vinegar.
Now consider what the percentages of each may be:
So, with meat the most likely ingredient, when there are 8 ingredients you may only have 13% meat. Now consider that there are a near infinite number of future climates. What percentage is the most likely climate to be of the total? 1/infinity? How likely is that to match reality?

p@ Dolan
Reply to  Nancy Green
March 12, 2014 7:57 pm

@ Nancy Green,
I still think it’s one of the most lucid descriptions of why the models cannot work as I have ever heard, and resonates with many other bits and pieces I’ve yet to articulate to myself, to be able to coherently put them across to an audience. I’m reminded of Godel’s Theorems of Incompleteness—which, oddly, are never mentioned to explain why it’s impossible for a computer, which operates from a program which is essentially a set of mathematical laws—a debased corollary to which might be stated, “A system’s Laws cannot be proven from within that system.” Is it possible to step outside the system? That was a paradox visited by Hofstader, and over 30 years later, I’m still mulling his words. But Godel’s Theorems resonate because to me, it’s a way of restating the Second Law of Thermodynamics; in this case as it applies to the climate models. Simply put, I find myself leaning more in the direction that the models will never be able to predict with the accuracy currently ascribed to them by the IPCC and its adherents, because that would violate the Laws of Thermodynamics, and most of the other arguments are merely differing perspectives of this problem.
Someone up-thread, regrets I don’t have the name to had to give credit, did point out that the models ARE useful, when used correctly—let me state clearly I believe they are being heroically misused by the IPCC, and the Alarmist community, who ascribe to these computer sketches an almost infallability, but certainly skills and fidelity they are far from achieving—and the correct use is that you program in everything you know, or suspect, and then use the outcome as an idiot-meter indicator to bounce against reality. Models can help us understand certain processes. But they cannot predict the future, the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies as much if not outright states it.
A few someone elses seemed to opine that there is such a thing as determinism, and those of us who rely on probabilities in describing the physical work are denying something simply because we cannot define it. This is an odd, circular sort of argument; but ok, looking at that as well, I have to ask them: have you ever seen a sub-atomic particle? Can you put calipers on a Lepton?
There are things which defy accurate description because they’re intangible in and of themselves, but only as large enough groups. Once we get beyond a very small number (two) of anything, predicting their future interactions becomes impossible—this was recognized when Newton’s Laws of Motion were considered proof of determinism! We have proven that Newton’s Laws are a subset, a special circumstance, of Einstein’s Relativistic Theories. I have often thought of the use of statistics as nothing more than a tool. To say we can describe how something behaves, even if that behavior is NOT probabilistic, is not to say we know that thing—it means we know it’s effects. For example, electricity, or any electromagnetic radiation: we use it all the time, we measure it’s effects, but we still cannot say for a fact that an electron is a particle or a wave. Depending upon my perspective, and the math I wish to use, and the experiment, I may describe it was either. And since Niels Bohr, both have been considered equally valid.
Yet, as with Feynman’s Sum over Histories, and his Quantum Electrodynamics, statistics is proven—and never disproven yet—completely accurate in describing what we actually perceive. It’s very very difficult—foolish, in my view—to argue that statistics, probability, is not a very effective description for what we term quantum reality.
Which is not to say that we know what quantum reality is! It may be, some day, that someone finally DOES come up with THE Grand unified Field Theory of Gravity. I rather think not, because of the Second Law, but to be unhappy that statistics is the best way to describe what we don’t truly understand is muleheaded, in my humble opinion. Folks who argue against the probabilistic nature of describing our observations—especially when it also describes the predicted outcome to the experiments so very accurately—are arguing about the labels, the description, not the substance. None of us who agree that statistics works are saying that God DOES play with Dice! (Well, I’m not. Not for me to say what He does, or to put words into the mouths of others…) Bah. People are so hung up on that one phrase, uttered in frustration! Let it go— We deal with reality as best we may, trying to comprehend what we can’t see, feel, taste or hear at it’s most basic level, and find impossible to measure discretely in the reality we perceive directly because of the n-Body problem.
Which brings me a long way indeed around the block to say again, I believe your essay was simply beautiful, and nothing I’ve read up-thread can contradict any of it.
Again, thank you. It’s like you reached into my head an organized a bunch of thoughts that have been bouncing around randomly for some time now (and if you could do that for a bunch more….!)

Retired Engineer John
March 12, 2014 5:41 pm

“…nature is free to choose C, B, or D, and in the real world nature has chosen D. As a result the models are diverging from reality.”
We could consider nature to be a gigantic analog computer, constantly recalculating a new state based on the current state and it’s set of rules and thus it will arrive at some state 100 years from today. If we knew all of natures’ rules and had a perfect model simulation, it would take only one significant change, such as an under sea volcano partially blocking a key ocean current, and the real world would diverge from the perfect model and the perfect simulation. This is why models are never going tell you the correct answer.

March 12, 2014 5:46 pm

Nice essay, thanks.
IMHO, models are re-presenting something that already exists . If you drive your model… good chance you are going to crash.
Thanks for the interesting articles and comments.

March 12, 2014 7:34 pm

This article convolutes Quantum Mechanics and Chaos Theory and completely ignores the fact that despite the limitations of these two concepts, many scientific models of systems simpler than climate, successfully predict a great many phenomena to a high degree of accuracy.
It is true that some complex systems (like weather) behave so as to have a high dependence on initial conditions, such that the accuracy of future predictions is limited by the accuracy of the initial model inputs (an essential tenet of chaos theory). It is also true that the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics may place fundamental limitations on the ability to measure an initial state, ultimately limiting a model’s predictive capability for such complex systems. However, that does not make the modeling endeavor futile. Rather, it simply means that modelers must use skill in deciding what parameters can be predicted, durations over which those predictions may be accurate, and how those results are interpreted.
There are many examples of successful models, from regional weather models to models of planetary and satellite orbits. I, personally, have used computational fluid dynamics models to optimize processes for the semiconductor industry and I’ve worked closely with those using diffusion, device, and even reliability models to predict short- and long- term performance of semiconductor devices. Many properties of turbulent flow, a chaotic process, are readily modeled, as witnessed by the vast improvements we have seen in modern aircraft, automobile, and boat designs.
Even climate modeling is a worthwhile endeavor, so long as one acknowledges the limitations of our current capabilities. I am baffled by the IPCC and other advocates, who insist on the viability of long-range climate predictions, when the models are known to be lacking in such an important phenomenon as cloud formation and I’m sure many other critical factors (I am not a climate scientist). Nevertheless, I’m also sure that there are some skilled modelers in the climate science community using even these imperfect models to understand the interactions between geography, ocean currents, jet streams, and the sun and their effects on climate. Ultimately, it is this understanding that will also lead to an understanding of what phenomena are lacking and how the models and our understanding of climate can be improved in the future.

Reply to  SemiChemE
March 12, 2014 10:25 pm

Caution: Under official IPCC terminology, those squiggly lines on a plot of the global temperature vs time are not “predictions.” They are “projections.” Predictions are essential to the control of a system. Projections are useless.

Keith G
March 12, 2014 7:38 pm

There have been a number of comments questioning the utility of using a classical quantum mechanical experiment (the double slit experiment) as a metaphor for a complex dynamical system, e.g. the Earth’s climate.
Implicitly, Nancy views the time evolution of the Earth’s climate as a stochastic diffusion process. By viewing climate in this way, quantum mechanics immediately becomes an analogue for climate – not because quantum mechanics and diffusion are similar physical processes but, rather, because the underlying mathematical description of the two processes is essentially the same.
On the one hand, diffusion processes are described by, well, a diffusion equation – a second order differential equation involving ‘spatial’ and ‘time’ derivatives. On the other hand, the time evolution of a quantum mechanical is described by the Schrödinger equation – essentially a diffusion equation, albeit one with complex coefficients. Just as there is path integral formulation of quantum mechanics (think double slit experiment in this context), there is a corresponding path integral formulation of classical Brownian motion. The underlying physics of the two processes is vastly different, but the mathematics used to describe them is essentially the same.
For me, the real issue raised by Nancy’s essay is the extent to which the time evolution of the climate system can be modelled as a (possibly bounded) stochastic diffusion process. If it can, then Nancy’s observations stand.

David in Texas
March 12, 2014 7:48 pm

“Claiming that, underneath it all, there is actually a fully determined real world with no dice-throwing is not supported by experiment. Such a claim is a statement of faith, a “religious-type” claim, not a scientific claim: maybe true…maybe not…no way to know.”
Point well taken, but I would say it is philosophical-type claim, not religious-type.
Of course, the opposite is also true that “underneath it all, the universe is a dice game” is also a philosophical-type claim. It is neither provable, nor refutable. Arguing that “… there is no way to determine at Point A which slit (path) the photons will choose” proves the point, is flawed logic. It is argument from ignorance. Just because WE don’t know how to predict it, doesn’t mean that it is a random choice.
While we are talking about philosophical questions, either claim, “deterministic universe” or “random universe”, prohibits “free will” both in the religious sense and in common meaning of the word – I have a choice where I’ll eat lunch. I cannot prove it, but I believe that what I just wrote was not predetermined for me, nor was it just a random outcome of some carp shoot. (Maybe others would favor the latter over the former. 🙂

Dr. Strangelove
March 12, 2014 7:50 pm

Flip a coin 100 times. It’s virtually impossible to predict the outcome in the correct sequence. But you can calculate the outcome should be approximately 50 heads and 50 tails. If you actually try to do this experiment, you will get mixed results. Sometimes you get more heads. Sometimes more tails. Sometimes equal.
This is like climate predictions. If you get more heads, it’s warming in the next 100 years. If more tails, cooling in 100 years. Though we can calculate the probabilities, you cannot accurately predict the outcome – warming or cooling, much less the correct sequence. Of course it’s possible to predict it correctly by sheer luck.

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
March 12, 2014 10:56 pm

Dr. Strangelove:
Associated with a sequence of coin flips is a pair of frequencies e.g. 50 heads and 50 tails. A coin flip is an example of an event. The frequency of “heads” is the count of events for which “heads” was the outcome. The frequency of “tails” is the count of events for which “tails” was the outcome. For the IPCC climate models, there are no events, frequencies or relative frequencies.
A “prediction” is a proposition regarding the numerical values of the relative frequencies of the outcomes of events. As for the IPCC climate models there are no relative frequencies, there can be no predictions from them. In the official parlance of the IPCC, these models produce “projections” rather than “predictions.”
One validates or falsifies a predictive model by comparing the predicted to the observed relative frequencies of the outcomes of events. For an IPCC climate model there are neither predicted nor observed relative frequencies. Thus, such a model can be neither validated nor falsified. It can, however, be “evaluated.” In an IPCC-style “evaluation,” model “projections” to the global temperature are compared to a selected global temperature time series. An “evaluation” is, however, logically and scientifically worthless.

p@ Dolan
March 12, 2014 8:09 pm

I’m reminded of Godel’s Theorems of Incompleteness—which, oddly, are never mentioned to explain why it’s impossible for a computer, which operates from a program which is essentially a set of mathematical laws, cannot predict the future.
Sorry. As I said, a muddle of observations, thoughts, etc. that I haven’t formed into a theory coherent enough to put across yet. I DID say so!

March 12, 2014 8:54 pm

Retired Engineer John:
Re: “…models are never going to tell you the correct answer.”
A trick of the model building trade makes it possibility for a model to give the correct answer to a question not withstanding details like the possibility of an under sea volcano. The trick is to abstract (remove) the descriptions of things from selected details. Thus, for example, the description of the macrostate of a thermodynamic system gives a correct answer to the question of the state of this system.

Retired Engineer John
March 12, 2014 9:34 pm

Terry, what I was saying was you could have a perfect model based on the climate as it existed at the start of the model forecast, but the physical plant of the Earth can change and your perfect model will no longer be correct. In other words, the Earth changes after the model forecast, change the real world and the model cannot track those changes as they are not predictable and are not included. The longer the time period the greater the probability. The Earth is too chaotic to predict for extended periods of time.

Nancy Green
March 12, 2014 9:46 pm

I have a choice where I’ll eat lunch
If you live in a deterministic universe then the prior state of the universe determines where you will eat lunch. You have no say in the matter, as it has already been decided long before you were born.

Nancy Green
March 12, 2014 10:32 pm

It’s like you reached into my head an organized a bunch of thoughts that have been bouncing around randomly for some time now
Much the same for me. I woke up Sunday morning with an inspiration. A dream of how to connect the dots. Spent the day madly scribbling, fired it off to Anthony before the dream could fade. Very pleasantly surprised to see the paper in print and the many kind comments.
Your comments on the b-Body problem are especially interesting. I had wanted to include this in the paper, as I do see it as part of the whole. It ties the microscopic to the macroscopic, relating the number of attractors in a chaotic system to the number of bodies in orbit, with a similar computational future.
Contrary to what has been written, Einstein’s ideas were not readily accepted. Rather, Relativity has become accepted because its predictions have proven correct, time and time again. And lets face it, Relativity defies common sense. Time dilation, length contraction, how is any of this possible? Where is the mechanism?
Perhaps the single greatest practical example of this is GPS. When the system was launched the time correction for Relativity was not turned on. There was still considerable doubt that is was required. However, when the system proved inaccurate the Relativity correction was enabled and the rest, as they say, is history.
Perhaps this will serve as inspiration to you the reader. Seize an idea and put it to paper. You are at least as likely to be correct as the Climate Models.

March 12, 2014 11:09 pm

” Intuition tells me that determinism is incompatible with free will.”
The bane of determinism is emergent properties. Perhaps QM is a slew of these properties, yet the argument goes full circle when by merely perceiving something you have created it. Can we then create reality by free will?
Seems like what the modelers are trying to do.

March 12, 2014 11:17 pm

Edward Lorenz,the meteorologist and mathematician,discovered at MIT in 1961 that the equations of meteorology have chaotic solutions .As Freeman Dyson notes, in “A Many Coloured Glass: Reflections on the place of Life in the Universe,” John Von Neumann in the 1940s had invented coded software for computers and believed that through simulating the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere it would be possible to both predict and control climate. ” If the situation is stable, we can predict what will happen next.If the situation is unstable , we can apply a small perturbation to control what will happen next…..So we shall be masters of the weather.Whatever we cannot control, we shall predict , and whatever we cannot predict ,we shall control”, wrote Von Neumann.
Dyson comments, ” Von Neumann of course was wrong. He was a great mathematician but a very poor predictor of the future……Von Neumann was wrong because he did not know about chaos.He imagined that if a situation was unstable , he could always apply a small perturbation to move it into a situation that was stable and therefore predictable. In fact this is not true. Most of the time,when the atmosphere is unstable,the motion is chaotic,which means that any small perturbation will only move it into another unstable situation which is equally unpredictable. When the motion is chaotic ,it can neither be predicted or controlled.So Von Neumann’s dream was an illusion.”…..

Dr. Strangelove
March 12, 2014 11:38 pm

My example applies to the chaotic climate system, not the IPCC models. The models are just a curve fitting exercise and wishful thinking that if we can fit a curve, we can predict the future. If that were true, there would be many billionaires from predicting the financial markets.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 12:17 am

Godel’s theorems and the 2nd law of thermodynamics are not the same. The theorems are about the completeness and consistency of logical systems. The 2nd law is a statistical description of heat flow based on kinetic molecular theory. The uncertainty in thermodynamics is inherent in the physical system. Nothing much you can do about it. The uncertainty in logical systems is due to the limitation of a particular logical system. You can devise a better system. For example Godel’s theorems do not apply to Peano arithmetic whose completeness and consistency are provable.
Newtonian mechanics and relativity theory are both deterministic. Quantum mechanics is not. That’s why some physicists say relativity is a “classical” theory. Well, kinetic molecular theory is a classical theory but not deterministic, at least not in the micro level.
“I have a choice where I’ll eat lunch”
Sure you have free will. We cannot predict the movements of all the neurotransmitters in your brain. But if I drop a bowling ball, it has no choice but to obey gravity. Its motion is deterministic. The debate whether the universe is deterministic or random is like debating whether the glass is half full or half empty.

p@ Dolan
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 7:09 pm

@ Dr. Strangelove,
I know well what Godel’s theorems are, as well as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and did not ever say they were the same. Please note that you are not correct about what the Second Law of Thermodynamics is,either. What I was saying (or trying to) is that Godel is useful for predicting why a closed system like a computer program cannot predict the future. As I also said, I see a connection between them and the limitations that the Second Law puts on the system we refer to as reality.
I see that you too are hung up on “deterministic”. Yes, Relativity is considered “classical” mechanics. Is that a way of “dismissing” it? Does that make it “incorrect”? Flawed, somehow? I think you are too dismissive while tossing discriptions around and not explaining yourself—at least, not that I can follow. Stating that “uncertainty” is part of the system of Thermodynamics is non-sequitor. Not sure how you mean that regarding the Second Law…?
Feel free to disagree with me, and if you can put it into words, and have time, please explain why (and if you can’t put it into words yet, that’s fine too—it’s a complex subject. I’ve been thinking about Godel and what I see as a connection between the implications of his theorems and the Second Law and what it says about entropy on and off for decades now, and still can’t put it into words). But please don’t bother to lecture me about the meaning of either the Law or Theorem. I don’t need it, and it adds nothing to the discussion.
Also, I believe Edward Nelson of Princeton proved Peano Arithematic to be inconsistent a few years ago.

Leo Morgan
March 13, 2014 3:33 am

@ Nancy Green
March 12, 2014 at 9:46 pm
You said: “I have a choice where I’ll eat lunch
If you live in a deterministic universe then the prior state of the universe determines where you will eat lunch. You have no say in the matter, as it has already been decided long before you were born.”
Both are true. I believe in Free Will in the sense that our thoughts influence our actions, and our thoughts influence those thoughts which influence our actions. Our tastes, experiences, beliefs and values, habits and judgements, genetics, emotions, sobriety, perceptions and errors influence the thoughts that influence the thoughts that influence the actions.
But with all my Free Will, I cannot do as a parrot does, and flap my wings as a result of my free choice. The prior state of the universe over millions of years has given me no say in the matter; it was already determined long before I was born, over the course of hominid evolution.

March 13, 2014 4:43 am

“But as it turns out, with our present level of understanding, God does play dice”
On the contrary – it proves that HUMANs ARE NOT GOD and cannot know everything. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that humans cannot measure both speed and position of a sub-atomic particle at the same time.
It says nothing abut God.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 5:30 am

We cannot predict the movements of all the neurotransmitters in your brain
Our inability to predict an event is limited by our knowledge. Determinism has no such limitation. If the movements of all the neurotransmitters in your brain can be fully determined by physical laws from the some previous state, then you are not free to chose. The choice was made by the previous state.

March 13, 2014 9:34 am

This has been an interesting and curious thread.
Consider this. I am lost on the ocean or in a rural area. It is dark, overcast, and I have no navigation equipment. Assume for the moment that the setting is a rural roadway and I have reached a T intersection. I ask my passenger which way to go. She says: don’t ask me, I have no idea. Neither do I so I flip a coin and it turns out to be the right way home. Is this deterministic or random (i.e. 50/50 chance)?
On another note. While I have absolutely no idea if it is true, I could present quite valid arguments that a photon travels in a spiral/corkscrew trajectory. I have no reason to believe it but I could rationally argue the point with only a couple of assumptions and one being that the trajectory is similar to a corkscrew.
Only on a thread like this would I offer the above statement. I look forward to another thread in the future which I can offer such unproven but supportable claims that I would make in the world that is not the one we know now. Photons travel in a spiral trajectory and are maintained and driven by their own own gravitational (?) and/or other force. It will be interesting, but it could be a bunch of BS. If you think about this you may lose sleep.

March 13, 2014 10:01 am

Col Mosby says:
March 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm
The human mind , as we can all clearly see, is not particularly impressive as a thinking organ.
That can be improved upon. The problem there is that most people are somewhat lost within themselves, and/or have never tried to peer inside to understand that which lies within. Maybe they do for a short time when young and full of interest to learn and experiment, but almost all quickly give up on the inner search and focus everything on that which lies outside. I know this because I kept on searching within, and I remember how most others simply wandered away to pursue the glittering objects that abound in this world and will distract and amuse. I have had friends who were involved in that search ask me many years later “Did that really happen, Did we really make those connections?”. My brother even responded to me in this fashion. Yet, when I related the story as I remembered it and detailed the circumstances, I could see a light spark on within him and he would get a glimmer of the old memory within himself.
Regarding models, this reminds me a bit of what I had to do to be successful at football betting. Although I also used a similar exercise for other tasks. I started betting football on the spur of the moment. Starting out, I knew very little about key issues that a normal handicapper would consider in his decision making process. I formed my own method to assess the most likely outcome, and I soon had success. I found that it was very important to develop a strong formula for discarding the least likely or poorly understood propositions. Thinking of how I accomplished that and the benefits derived from doing so, the IPCC method of using models to glean understanding seems absolutely absurd. They should have been weeding out the weaker models from early on, but they also had the very serious problem of confirmation bias right from the beginning. In a betting system, confirmation bias is a dead end. At the peak of my skill in handicapping my own brother actually asked me if I could foresee the future. He couldn’t believe that I could make so many right decisions, because he knew how little I knew about the teams. The crowd at Reno, Nevada was also impressed. I had to take to sitting with my back to a wall when I did my homework, to keep people from trying to look over my shoulder. From my handicapping experience in particular, I have a partial understanding of the modeling problems.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 5:22 pm

so I flip a coin and it turns out to be the right way home. Is this deterministic or random
its luck!

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 6:54 pm

Yes the present state is determined by previous state. That’s how your brain makes a choice. If there is no neurotransmitter near the neurons, there is no activity in those neurons. If this happens to a large part of your brain, you can’t make a decision. Probably you can’t even breathe or your heart will stop since all these are regulated by the brain.
We can argue philosophically about free will. But neurologists are pretty sure brain activities obey the known laws of physics and chemistry. Some even argue free will is an illusion since experiments show some actions happen faster than the rational processing speed of the brain. Like tennis players hit the ball faster than their brain can think about how to hit the ball.
“so I flip a coin and it turns out to be the right way home. Is this deterministic or random”
The motion of the coin is deterministic. It obeys Newtonian mechanics. That it is the right way home is random. It obeys probability theory. P1 = 0.5 the right way. P2 = 0.5 the wrong way

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 7:23 pm

Godel is useful for predicting why a closed system like a computer program cannot predict the future
Murphy’s Laws of Computer Programming
Any non-trivial program contains at least one bug.

p@ Dolan
Reply to  Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 8:25 pm

@ Nancy Green:
Murphy is more useful than Determinism.
Dr. Strangelove says:
March 13, 2014 at 8:03 pm
“Godel is useful for predicting why a closed system like a computer program cannot predict the future”
Computer programs predict the flights of spacecrafts. If Godel was a problem, the Apollo astronauts would be dead.
Sir, I beg to differ from you: the programs did not predict anything. They calculated a solution to a complex problem, and at the end, the men in control of the command module and lunar module actually flew the craft to achieve their final orbit and landings, respectively, fine-tuning the results of the caculations. No computer program at the time could’ve done what the astronauts completed, by themselves, and again, computers DIDN’T. Engineers armed with slide rules did most of it.
Nancy, again, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Not gonna bring world peace or convince Alarmists, but you’ve made me happy, if that means anything, and with your permission, will use your description to teach others.
Dr. Strangelove, I don’t wish to trade inconclusives or snippets of what anyone with google can collect and display, to achieve no further learning or understading. I get the impression that if i say “Fire engines are red,” you will tell me what percentage are actually green.
I consider these last exchanges futile examples of blurb-parsing with no intelligible content worth the effort. You have your opinions. I have mine. I’m happy, on this subject, to leave it at that.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 7:40 pm

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle … It says nothing abut God.
Bell’s Theorem answers the question of God playing dice. It establishes that local hidden variables are inconsistent with observation, at our present level of understanding.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 7:48 pm

neurologists are pretty sure brain activities obey the known laws of physics and chemistry
These laws do not establish determinism. Quite the opposite. My point remains. Free will is inconsistent with determinism, because your decisions would depend on the state of the universe before you were born.
Since in our earlier article we established that your “free will” could not be distinguished from the actions of a particle, it could well be that free will is an illusion of mind.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 7:50 pm

Don’t be offended. This is not a lecture. I don’t do that that’s why I don’t bother to explain in great lengths. I would rather you do your own self-study. BTW I’m referring to Boltzmann’s formulation of the 2nd law. If you’re thinking of Clausius or Kelvin’s formulation, I see why you disagree.
I’m afraid you misunderstood Godel’s theorems. The fact that you’re saying Edward Nelson proved Peano arithmetic to be inconsistent is actually the proof that Godel’s theorems do not apply to Peano arithmetic. The theorems apply to logical systems whose completeness and/or consistency are unprovable. BTW majority of mathematicians accept Gentzen’s proof that Peano’s axioms are consistent. But that’s beside the point.
I do not dismiss relativity theory. It is correct. I merely pointed out that it’s deterministic.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 8:03 pm

“Godel is useful for predicting why a closed system like a computer program cannot predict the future”
Computer programs predict the flights of spacecrafts. If Godel was a problem, the Apollo astronauts would be dead.
“Free will is inconsistent with determinism, because your decisions would depend on the state of the universe before you were born.”
This is physically impossible because your brain did not exist before you were born. Present state depends on previous state but not previous states 13 billion years ago.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 8:04 pm

In case the significant of hidden variables is unclear. I hold out my hands with a coin in one. Based on which hand contains the coin, I will take path 1 (left) or path 2 (right) to the future. Your task is to find out which hand contains the coin, so that you can predict which path I will take and thus predict the future.
I known the hidden variable (which hand contains the coin) so I can predict my actions deterministically, but since you don’t know the hidden variable your must predict my actions probabilistically.
Bell’s Theorem establishes that there is no hidden variable to tell us which path will be chosen to the future. Thus, our common sense belief that there is only one possible future which is determined by the present and physical laws is false. Therefore the future cannot be determined, except of the basis of probabilities.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 8:07 pm

Don’t be offended. I don’t lecture. I would rather you do your own self-study. BTW I’m referring to Boltzmann’s formulation of the 2nd law. If you’re thinking of Clausius or Kelvin’s formulation, I see why you disagree.
I’m afraid you misunderstood Godel’s theorems. The fact that you’re saying Edward Nelson proved Peano arithmetic to be inconsistent is actually the proof that Godel’s theorems do not apply to Peano arithmetic. The theorems apply to logical systems whose completeness and/or consistency are unprovable. BTW majority of mathematicians accept Gentzen’s proof that Peano’s axioms are consistent. But that’s beside the point.
I do not dismiss relativity theory. It is correct. I merely pointed out that it’s deterministic.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 8:10 pm

This is physically impossible because your brain did not exist before you were born.
But in a deterministic universe, the creation of my brain was a result of the physical state of the universe prior to my conception and the physical laws that determined my growth. This would extend back to the beginning of this universe, back to the universe that gave birth to this one, and so on and so on.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 8:13 pm

Present state depends on previous state but not previous states 13 billion years ago.
You are arguing that somewhere between the present and 13 billion years ago, the universe was not deterministic.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 8:20 pm

Computer programs predict the flights of spacecrafts.
The first space shuttle launch aborted at T-13 seconds. For reasons of safety the shuttle had 5 main computers. 4 to calculate using identical programs and one to compare the results. At T-13 the 5th computer detected that the 4 other computers were not in agreement and aborted the launch.
We now know that identical computers do not deliver identical results.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 8:21 pm

“Bell’s Theorem establishes that there is no hidden variable to tell us which path will be chosen to the future. Thus, our common sense belief that there is only one possible future which is determined by the present and physical laws is false. Therefore the future cannot be determined, except of the basis of probabilities.”
Bell’s theorem describes the behavior of subatomic particles. People and planets are not subatomic particles. Astronomers don’t compute the probability the earth will revolve around the sun this year. Maybe it won’t if a giant comet hit it.
Sorry I’m not interested in philosophical debate. Suffice it to say some phenomena are deterministic, others are not. If you want to believe it’s just one or the other, so be it.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 8:22 pm

I’m referring to Boltzmann’s formulation of the 2nd law. If you’re thinking of Clausius or Kelvin’s formulation, I see why you disagree.
I’m afraid you misunderstood Godel’s theorems. The fact that you’re saying Edward Nelson proved Peano arithmetic to be inconsistent is actually the proof that Godel’s theorems do not apply to Peano arithmetic. The theorems apply to logical systems whose completeness and/or consistency are unprovable. BTW majority of mathematicians accept Gentzen’s proof that Peano’s axioms are consistent. But that’s beside the point.
I do not dismiss relativity theory. It is correct. I merely pointed out that it’s deterministic.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 8:44 pm

Bell’s theorem describes the behavior of subatomic particles. People and planets are not subatomic particles.
As demonstrated earlier, your “free will” cannot be distinguished from the actions of a particle. The orbits of the planets are computationally intractable outside of quantum mechanics due to the n-body problem. The exception is the restricted n-body problem, when the planets all lie in the same plane.
Philosophy deals with “Why” something happens. Thus a PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy in her chosen field. Much more interesting and practical are the other 4 W’s. Who, What, When, Where. “Why” can never be answered fully. It is cloaked in the infinity of the universe. Zen provides as good an answer to “Why” as does Science.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 8:54 pm

I do not dismiss relativity theory.
Relativity was a giant step forward, combining the work of Newton and Maxwell. The great challenge ahead is to combine Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.

Nancy Green
March 13, 2014 9:00 pm

People and planets are not subatomic particles.
On the contrary, people and planets are all composed of subatomic particles. These provide the illusion of determinism, because of the law of large numbers. While the odds are good that a single particle might wink in or out of existence, the odds are vanishingly small that all the particles that make up planet earth will do this at the same time. QM tells us it is not impossible. Simply very long odds.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 9:34 pm

I agree with you Nancy. The odds are vanishingly small. That’s why we ignore it. You don’t have to worry that all the atoms in your body will quantum tunnel to a parallel universe.
The present state depends on immediate previous state. Shooting the last snooker ball depends only on the last positions of the two balls. It doesn’t matter how you shot all previous balls. Different snooker games will end the same way so long as the last ball positions are the same.
The computers did the celestial mechanics calculations. The astronauts did the flying with the aid of computers. They already have main frame computers in 1960s. Of course that didn’t prevent engineers with slide rules from doing what they love to do. Sir, contrary to your impression, I really don’t care if fire engines are red or green so long as they can put out fires.

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 10:29 pm

Re: free will?
The following is a conclusion from modern information theory. The firing of one of Nancy’s neurons is not conditional upon the firing of those neurons which make synapses with its dendrites. It is conditional upon the PATTERNS of firing of these neurons. That firing is conditional upon patterns of firing is what makes it possible for Nancy to learn. In learning, her brain updates the descriptions of those patterns which produce firing.
Learning provides Nancy with information about the unobserved outcomes of events given the observed conditions that preceed them. By placing her physical self in that condition which predicts the outcome which she desires, Nancy exhibits “free will.”
Were the firing of each of her brain’s neurons to be conditional upon the firing of those neurons that make synapses with its dendrites, Nancy could not exhibit free will. However this proposition is false.

Dr. Strangelove
March 13, 2014 9:53 pm

BTW the argument that “the odds are vanishingly small” is also speculative. Real experiments on the famous Schrodinger’s cat paradox revealed that big objects don’t behave like subatomic particles (I’m not surprised). An electron can be in a state of superposition but a cat can never be simultaneously dead and alive (again I’m not surprised)

March 13, 2014 10:08 pm

“Free will is inconsistent with determinism”
Absolutely. Free will is an emergent property of neurons. It cannot be determined by our paltry current understanding.
But is it a quantum property? There is always this issue of scale. Quantum=nano. None of us would argue that the microwaves bouncing off the oxygen molecules telling us the models are out to lunch exist only because we perceive them. Quantum is largely irrelevant at earth scale and human life timeframes. This may be a problem applying quantum/chaos to computer models and climate.
If we were to live our lives by quantum theory, we would all be Post Modern narcissistic nihilists.

March 14, 2014 3:10 am

The universe is completely deterministic. You can calculate any state and the position of any element at any time, past present, or future. All you need are the complete set of governing principles for the universe, which we don’t quite have just yet, and the initial condition, which we haven’t managed to identify so far.
Once we get those details ironed out, the remaining problem is computational speed. For example, if you want to calculate where, say, a photon will next be, you have to work out the solution faster than the photon can get there. Once you’ve solved the problem of computational speed, it’s all really very easy.
Oh wait… I almost forgot… you also have to have a way of identifying everything in the universe. You don’t want to announce you’ve calculated the next position for Fred the Photon when it was actually Alice the Photon that was zipping by. Alice would not be amused.
Meanwhile, we just do a lot of guesstimating.
(Wonderful essay, Nancy Green. Thank you.)

March 14, 2014 4:44 am

From a generalist approach to the subject of global environmental perturbations (human and non humanly driven) I understand that our environment has mechanisms of resilience that get activated at local and global scale. Are we aware of those mechanisms? Temperature in our atmosphere can increase due to a number of factors. Greenhouse gases and solar radiation among others. Just playing, the human body uses temperature to react against pathogens. It rises from its balance state giving fever symptoms and this increase triggers the release of water as sweat to absorb the heat through evaporation. Consequently the human body loses water that needs to be replaced. So, in our global ecosystem, there is a debate about if there has been an increase in heat or temperature. Which would be the mechanisms of resilience in our global environment working to absorb or release those increases in heat or temperature (I would go with water as the heat/energy carrier and the weather systems as the physical mechanics to redistribute and release heat/energy. Like stirring a spoon to cold down your soup).
Now, I feel it is very important to understand the mechanisms of resilience at global scale. Which are they? Are they working properly? I don´t think the mechanisms of resilience against increases in temperature due to solar radiation are the same as increases in temperature due to greenhouse gases. Should not reflect such events the ionic charge of the atmosphere? And, would not they be more localised in time (start to finish) than constant heating from inside? (honestly curious) .
So, models can only work with non sporadic events opposite to solar radiation. So, from an anthropogenic point of view, “What about if the global ecosystem has mechanisms of resilience to absorb increases in temperature that makes our correlations weak in time?? Are these mechanisms of resilience being incorporated in our predictive models? The most provably repercussion from activating mechanisms of resilience would be to see cyclic patterns of change. Meaning, e.g. temperature raises, weather patterns would increase performance releasing energy until the atmosphere recovers to a point where to start again. However, the point of starting again might be each time different since the global ecosystem would adapt to the pressure of dominant increasing patterns of temperature. So each time the cycle would start at a higher temperature, inducing an adaptation to the biota to new conditions until the system would adapt to not feeling the perturbation or… the mechanism of resilience does not give a continuous predictable process. One mechanism activates another mechanism due to synergistic effects and so on. So, with each new mechanism activated a new model to be defined. I am not sure about if this is contemplated.
I believe that resilience is playing a mayor role not only in our environment and our understanding when modelling changes in our ecosystem but also in the mindset applied in the debate.
From an environmental point of view I understand that any ecosystem has a limited capacity to absorb perturbations. So, from an hypothetical approach to the subject on human impact versus environmental change I would like to see a case scenario study giving answer to three questions: Could human development have an impact in the ecosystem at global scale? What would have to do humans to alter the ecosystem at global scale? Which part of the ecosystem (soil, atmosphere, light and heat (from our sun), water or living organisms) would reflect primary the impact from human perturbation? In case the answer is “yes” to the first question, how much of the answer for the second and third questions matches with actual facts?

David in Texas
March 14, 2014 10:31 am

Nancy Green says, “If you live in a deterministic universe then the prior state of the universe determines where you will eat lunch.”
Agreed, which makes the deterministic universe idea uncomfortable.
However, if you live in probabilistic universe, you have no choice either. The place you eat is decided by some grand dice roll, which is an equally uncomforting idea.
A probabilistic universe is equally inconsistent with free will.

March 14, 2014 9:05 pm

“A probabilistic universe is equally inconsistent with free will.”
Very cool. Probabilistic determinism, but emergent properties are wildly improbable. How would you set the odds that consciousness would emerge from neurons when they first evolved in metazoans?
Improbability is the freedom Nancy is talking about. She yearns to find it in chaos, but it clearly arises spontaneously in nature.

Nancy Green
March 15, 2014 5:07 pm

A probabilistic universe is equally inconsistent with free will.
In a deterministic universe there is only 1 future for a given present. There is nothing to choose, because your choice itself is fully determined by physical laws and initial state. What you think is free will is simply an illusion, because your actions are fully determined by your past.
In a probabilistic universe there are many futures possible for a given present. The option exists to choose one of them, in a fashion similar to “Lets make a deal”. You can choose door 1, 2 or 3. But you don’t get to see what is behind the door until after you make your choice.

Nancy Green
March 15, 2014 11:13 pm

Another way to think about it is “the future is written”. In a deterministic universe this statement is true, because the future would be fully determined by the present. In a probabilistic universe, the future is not written until you arrive. Until that point it is simply one possibility out of many.

David in Texas
March 16, 2014 1:39 pm

Thank you for the expansion on your ideas. I am learning from you. What I think now is that you believe the following:
1) A probabilistic universe allows for free will, where as deterministic universe world does not.
2) The double-slit (or some other) experiment proves that we live in probabilistic universe.
I would like to ask you to expand on this, not because I believe either is untrue, but because I truly don’t understand the proof. For the record, I also believe that we have free will, and I don’t argue that we don’t live in probabilistic universe. I am simply an agnostic on the latter.
If you have a proof, I can learn from it and would be grateful if you would share it with me. I have an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s in geophysics, so I should be able to follow your explanation. I am teachable.
There is no need to read further. Here after, I just explain why I am agnostic on the concept of probabilistic universe and why a probabilistic universe does not necessary imply free will.
You write: “In a probabilistic universe there are many futures possible for a given present. The option exists to choose one of them…”. The first sentence, of course, I agree with, but I don’t see any “option”. I assume that you are not saying that we can, through force of will, choose which slot the photon passes through. If that is in our power, one could just as easily, through force of will, alter predetermined outcomes. Either ability is a supernatural power. Why would someone prefer one over the other as an explanation of free will?
Your essay suggests that the macroscopic world we live in is determined by microscopic events. This is a proposition that I would agree with. Hence, not only do microscopic events determine the options that are available to us; they must also determine our decisions. Gymnosperm described my argument as “Probabilistic determinism”. At first, I thought no, but speaking only to the free will issue, yes, one is just swapping one form of determinism for another. If our decision process is determined on a probabilistic microscopic scale, then the dice determine our decisions and our future.
If you can clear up my confusion on that matter, I would be greatly appreciative.
With regards to the issue of the proof of a probabilistic universe, let’s consider the double-slit experiment. At first, flooding the double-slits with light results in a very reproducible diffraction pattern. However, reducing the light intensity and examining closely, we see photons passing through one slot or another in an unpredictable matter. We conclude that an identical experiment yields different results.
However, is it really identical? Let’s look at the “point source”. It consists of millions of atoms/molecules. The probability that any two photos were emitted from the same atom is extremely small.
OK, I’ll do thought experiment with you to resolve the problem. We shall assume that we can isolate a hydrogen atom at zero degrees K (to eliminate thermal motion) and further, we can get the atom to emit photos one after another without disturbing its position. Now from symmetry we can reason that it is equally likely to emit a photon with any trajectory. Therefore, we will only look at photons with identical trajectories, would they pass through the same slot? I’m guessing here, but I would have to say, yes. But now, you say, wait, it is that the atom emits in all direction with equal probability which proves a probabilistic universe.
OK, then I’ll revert to analogy to illustrate my thinking, not to prove a point. This is similar to me arguing that when I miss a golf shot that proves a probabilistic universe. (I think that I’ll use that the next time I miss a putt. Those little windmills ruin my game.)
Back to proof, that we cannot control or predict which trajectory a photon takes, does not prove that is not responding to some physical law in a reproducible manner. I freely admit that is a possibility, but where is the proof?

March 18, 2014 8:49 am

Re: free will
Free will is a property of entities that are “… guided by cyclical patterns of information flow known as feedback loops.” These are open systems (systems that exchange matter and energy with their environment) that “….maintain and develop structure by breaking down other structures in the process of metabolism, thus creating entropy – disorder – which is subsequently dissipated in the form of degraded waste products.” ( ). The system of which these entities are a part gains entropy but the entities themselves lose entropy. In doing so, they organize themselves.

March 20, 2014 7:16 pm

I agree with, but I don’t see any “option”.
In a deterministic universe there is only one future, as determined by current state and physical laws. You have no choice.
In a probabilistic universe there are many futures. The problem you are having is how to select one over the other. How does one make a choice of one future over the other?
I know of no way to do so. You cannot select which path the photon will choose. This is making you feel uncomfortable, because you cannot see the utility.
However, you are asking the wrong question. How can there be any choice if there is only 1 future? With infinite possible futures there is the potential for choice. However, that does not mean that choice is guaranteed.
A better way to think of this is in terms of opportunity. In the probabilistic future all things are possible. In the deterministic future, the future is already written.
While this does not guarantee that you have free will, the double slit experiment (along with Bell’s Theorem) holds forth the possibility that you do have free will. While the deterministic universe provides no opportunity for choice.
For those with a religious background, free will was one of God’s promises to mankind. So, in this respect it appears that religion and science complement each other. That is perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of quantum mechanics, to provide a first step to reconcile religion and science.

March 21, 2014 6:50 am

Alex says:
March 12, 2014 at 3:14 am
Momentum is not position. Without looking it up somewhere a photon is nowhere near the size of a slit. I am designing a spectrometer at the moment and 0.1 micron is not close to a photon’s size.

This may be answered already, didn’t get that far.
You must have forgot that photons come in different sizes, and they all exhibit this behavior. You can emit a photon from an antenna, and have an exact location for A, and an exact location for B. BTW you can also design your slit to an exact proportion of the wavelength you’re working with in this case.

Nancy Green
March 21, 2014 7:29 am

Momentum is not position.
Phase space combines position, momentum and time.

David in Texas
March 21, 2014 8:48 am

ferdberple says:
However, you are asking the wrong question. How can there be any choice if there is only 1 future?
Thank you for your response.
I will answer your question. There can be no choice (no free will) if there is only one future.
I am not arguing that we live in a deterministic universe. (I am an agnostic on that.) I am trying to understand two premises:
1) The double-slit experiment proves that we live in probabilistic universe.
2) A probabilistic universe implies that we have free will.
I am not trying to “win” an argument. I am just trying to understand. I believe the following is what you are saying in syllogistic form:
Major premise: We live in a probabilistic universe.
Minor premise: All futures are possible.
Conclusion: Therefore, we have (the possibility of) free will.
The above is what I believe that you are saying. Here is what I am hearing:
Major premise: We live in a universe where chance decides the outcome of all events.
Minor premise: All futures are possible.
Conclusion: Therefore, we can choose the outcome of some events.
Hence, I believe that this is faulty syllogism. The conclusion violates the major premise.
OK, where am I going astray? Is the syllogism in fact valid? Have I misstated the premises? Have misstated the conclusion?
The subject fascinates me and if you can clear up my confusion, I would be grateful.

Reply to  David in Texas
March 21, 2014 8:54 am

If you want to pull the curtain back from the wizard, I suggest Wheelers Delayed Choice Experiment.

March 21, 2014 8:57 am

if you can clear up my confusion

No offense meant, but good luck with that!
To quote Morpheus “Welcome to the real world.”

March 21, 2014 11:14 am

Computers which utilize quantum effects in the semiconductors, do not routinely produce different answers to the same program

Semiconductor devices use quantum effects, but not quantum states. For example Programmable devices use quantum tunneling of a charge across an insulator, but doesn’t use the quantum state of a device. Spintronics and Quantum computers are exploring this space, but are far from everyday electronics, yet.

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