Probability and Reality

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

As studying probability right now, I am forced to view uncertainty in a structured and well-calculated way. But the idea that using probability to tell an expected story of the future is at the center still. Basically, we want to be well-prepared for where we are heading for, though without much secure feeling attached to it. So, prestigious colleges published their acceptance rate, which is data revealing probability, to inform ambitious high school graduates what is the real chance of “getting into” their gates; Top-rated employers maintain a similar acceptance data for internal use; standardized tests have score distribution tables to let the test-takers see their possible placement. Probability is used so extensively and exhaustively to tell stories for individuals about their chances of achieving success. Then, once the outcome is arrived, we no longer bother ourselves with probability. We are now facing what is called “reality”.

It might happen to us all that in certain times, hallucinations takes precedence of reality. This means that just for a short instant, mentally we set ourselves in the realm of possibilities that do not truly occur. But usually, as young adults we blame ourselves harshly for not being able to confront what have already happened. We consider it to be a right reaction to let reality takes the weight of probability which previously tells the whole prospects of the story. It happens all in a sudden—at the point when reality is revealed, and probability loses all of its meanings. This abruptness of loss of meaning never raises people’s attention until we become confused by the quantum mechanics and we further apply its principles to macro-level objects and concepts.

The phenomenon of quantum superposition, which denotes that all possible states of a particle coexist, fascinates people. Probability here is used to represent parallel universe for every possible position of the particle, and we are now under a superposition of universe. Also, the very word “meaning” is redefined in this circumstance. As the concept of “absolute existence” is discarded in such a multi-universe model, we define “meaning” only at the time when we conduct measurement. So, in most other times, we don’t carry a particular meaning, whether success or failure. We are defined only when experiments are purported to measure the particular state of our existence. The “meaning” then defines “reality”, which is affected by those uncertainty relations and limitations of observations. Only observable data collected at the moment of taking measurement contributes to the set of reality.

It is actually pretty frightful to think about quantum superposition running in the macro-world as described in All the myriad ways. We are basically experiencing a loss of meaning and a disorder of mirror images when probability implies co-existence instead of picking one from several options.

Yijing S.


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