Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The odds of it all

  1. Mar 18, 2004 #1
    I have heard before that the odds of the universe occurring, with the level of order in it, by random chance is something like one times ten to the negative fiftieth power. Have any of you heard anything on the subject?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2004 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    How would you calculate such a thing?

    You may be thinking of The Drake Equation, which discusses the probability of finding life elsewhere in the universe. The trouble with it though, is most of the terms can't be pinned down to even the closest order of magnitude. So depending on what values you put in, it may imply we're it, or it may imply there are hundreds of thousands in our galaxy alone.
  4. Mar 23, 2004 #3
    I think Juxt is referring to the odds of the universe coming into being in such a way as to allow for life (the exact properties of subatomic particles, the cosmological constant, and so on).

    The problem with this view is that we have only a sample of one. With that you can't really form a statistical measurement.

    Secondly, people who don't understand the laws of spontaneous emmergence of self regulating complex systems often look at things like life and other complex systems and can see no way of them comming about by random means. They make very uninformed and outdated analogies along the lines of rags left in a bowl turning into mice and so on. One example is the often misunderstood "odds" of DNA forming. These alleged odds usually do not take into account the forces and properties of the atoms making up the DNA molecule or the selective nature of them. In doing so, they treat the particles making up DNA as though they were random stand-alone particles that just "happened" to fall together as though they were billiar balls which happen to form a smiley face on the table.

    In a similar fashion, there may be selective mechanisms that cause the properties of a forming universe to veer towards the values we see in ours, which we are currently unaware of. To jump to the conclusion of a magical entity which is unseen who created the universe because of this question introduces far more unanswerable questions than it seeks to solve. It also violates the principle of parsimony by introducing a volume of extraneous unprovable ascertions.

    Another possibility, is that our four dimensional universe is only a single "bubble" in a vast bubbling brew of multidimensional universes. If this is the case, then the odds of at least one of those infinite universes bearing life are near 100%. Another version is the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics experimental results. It hypothesizes that there might be an infinite series of parallel universes in which all things that are statistically possible are occuring in one of them. This case would also lead to near inevitability of life.

    And another matter to point out is that our definition of life tends to be very narrow. The fact is that life is merely a complex self sustaining system, which happens to be chemical in nature and exist in a 4-dimensional framework. But self sustaining complex systems are fairly easy to pop up randomly, even in bizarre abstract methematical models. This means that even in a universe where chemical life were not possible, even in one where there are perhaps 7 accessible dimensions and the nature and perception of such a realm is even beyond our imagination, it would still be possible for self emmerging complex systems of SOME sort to come into being. If these complex systems were complex enough to sort and process data of any note, then they would soon be observing how supposedly "fine tuned" their universe was to their existence.

    All in all, there are far too many unansered questions about such a thing for anyone to have the answer to, or even allege the "obviousness" of any one possibility. The fact that those who argue that the universe is "unlikely" tend to be those with a religious agenda further casts a shadow on their reasoning.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook