Predicting Uncertainty




It’s impossible to know what might have been.  It’s just as impossible to know what lies ahead.  I just finished reading a biography of Albert Einstein (Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson, 2007).  It struck me that Einstein wanted to believe in a universe that could be predicted, if only we knew the hidden laws.  He thus believed in predestination, insisting that “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”  He wanted to believe in strict cause and effect.

In this regard, Einstein ran up against, and spent the latter part of his life, trying to refute the implications of his own 1905 paper on the “photoelectric effect” which won the Nobel Prize in 1922.  He relied on the work of Max Planck, who in 1900 had come up with an equation that described the curve of radiation wavelengths at each temperature.  This required the use of a constant (now called Planck’s constant) that accounted for the sudden shift in wavelengths of light emitted by metal at different temperatures.  Planck believed these “quanta” were not properties of the light itself, but of the interaction between matter and light.  It was Einstein who suggested these “quanta” were properties of the light itself.  Thus he and Planck laid the foundations for quantum mechanics, but neither was comfortable with the fact that their ideas undermined the Newtonian concepts of strict causality and certainty they cherished.

Based on these beginnings, the rising physicists of “quantum mechanics,” like Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, recognizing that light demonstrated the dualistic qualities of particles or waves, refuted age old ideas of an objective reality, existing apart from the observer.  They began to think in terms of probabilities.  Heisenberg developed his “uncertainty principle” in 1927.  This asserted that it is impossible to know the exact position and momentum of a particle, such as an electron, at the same time.  Knowing the precise location precludes certain knowledge of the momentum, and vice versa.

Quantum mechanics expanded the world of physics far beyond Isaac Newton’s absolute, objective universe, based on observable laws. But throughout his life, Albert Einstein resisted the vagueness of non-absolutes, even though he made his own contributions to quantum physics.  Einstein’s stubborn desire for predictability, which is the ostensible goal of science, for some people, could not adapt to the uncertainty of probabilities.  As another early quantum physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, might explain, the wave function of probabilities exists until an actual event is observed, at which point the probability wave collapses and the probability of the event’s occurrence becomes 100%.  Linked with this is the idea that the observer cannot be objective but must be considered a participant in the event.


That the observer necessarily affects the experiment is an integral component of quantum physics, but the principle has more general implications, too.  Books like The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975), or The Dancing Wu Li Masters (Gary Zukav, 1979), describe how modern physics parallels the beliefs of Oriental mystics.  As noted in The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the Chinese term for “physics” is “wu li,” which means “patterns of organic energy.”  This relates to the pervasive quality of “qi,” sometimes described as “life force,” or “vital energy,” which is said to pervade the cosmos, including all matter and non-matter.  The idea of ‘qi” is ignored in Western thinking, as if life exists apart from science or medicine.


Western science presumes to disconnect life from the mechanical universe we imagine, but this is a relatively modern development.  Astronomy grew out of astrology and chemistry grew from alchemy, ancient belief systems that gave life to the heavens and to earthly minerals.  The search for cosmic laws or the language of the gods is as old as man’s awareness of the sun, moon, the planets and constellations, and their mysterious cycles.  All these have been used to make predictions.  The seer, the fortune teller, the prognosticator–these are as powerful as ever.  Modern superstition confers blessings on the predictors of weather, stock market, politics, or football games, as well as on the climate changers and the Apocalyptic soothsayers of the twenty-first century.

From a quantum mechanics point of view, however, it might be said that nothing can be predicted with certainty.  We only can assess probabilities and can’t know all the contingencies that affect events.  There is no objective reality, no ultimate outcome, no absolute end-point.  Time is endless.  There is only process, and no one knows where it will lead.  The possibilities are infinite.


17 thoughts on “Predicting Uncertainty

  1. Sha'Tara

    Lots of question arise from this article. Let me open my comment with a quote from Frank Herbert: “Answers are a perilous grip on the universe. They can appear sensible yet explain nothing.” So much of “science” is actuarial – satisfying the need to know and the need to be in control. Western physics in particular but very much global now, is anchored to the ruling patriarchy. This patriarchy is anti-life and the inventor of “death” as a punishment for wrong doing. This isn’t something that is disappearing from our science in general, quite the opposite. The patriarchy invented predatory capitalism in order to enslave this world to its monetary Ponzi scheme through debt. Science and technology are part of this enslaving process, tools used to guarantee certain results and to dummy-down populations. People who escape religion turn to science, not their own self-empowerment, for something to trust, to believe in. Science needs to give these new converts certainty. Patriarchs like Einstein understood this (though he tried to have his cake and eat it too) and he came to the realization that quantum physics was really a whole new way of looking at the world, or at least a new way from the perspective of the patriarchy and male god suzerainty or over-lordship. This new way was in fact the revealing of the feminine principle of life which is in absolutely everything but as a free and ever-unpredictable flow of energy. It couldn’t be quantified. Letting that cat out of the bag was the death-knell of the patriarchy, and that cat wasn’t going back in the bag.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      I tend to agree with you and hope you are “right,” but in a non-absolute world, “right” and “wrong” become relative.

      That’s what intrigues me about the concept of qi, which implies that the entire universe is alive and balanced , with complementary (rather than opposed) forces in dynamic equilibrium and stimulating each other.

      Our paternalistic traditions and beliefs, which include “science,” are based on this skewed model that assumes absolutism, based on a Supreme Being or “objective reality.” Dynasties like the Chinese or Egyptian ones based their claims to power on presumed descent from the sun, with the moon a “lesser light.” However, as Pink Floyd says, the moon eclipses the sun.

      We could not have life as we know it on earth without the sun, but I wonder if the moon may be necessary, too.

      1. Sha'Tara

        Without the moon’s influence on literally all of Earth’s nature, this planet would be as dead as Mars. When your waters go stagnant they die and when the waters die, life dies. Did you know that Earth’s “moon” is much too big to be a real moon, that it is actually a proto-planet once called Klingu that circled a behemoth planet called Tiamat? Small (normal sized) moons cannot do what Earth’s moon does. People ‘revere’ the sun as they do their one male God but the sun is the fuel, the moon is the thermostat that controls the furnace.

      2. katharineotto Post author

        I didn’t know about the moon’s history but have heard the Earth-moon dyad is like a double-planet with a common center of gravity. You make a good case for the moon’s importance to life, one I’ve never heard before. Thermostat? A refreshing thought.

        I’d like to know more about Klingu, and where is this behemoth planet Tiamat?

      3. Sha'Tara

        First, a correction on my typo: it’s Kingu, not Klingu (Klingu would be a more suitable name for the Kligons’ home world!) This, in part according to Sumerian pre-diluvian records: billions of years ago our solar system looked quite different than it does today. Tiamat, a watery “super” planet “ruled” this system. Her consort and protector was a large proto-planet called Kingu. As a living entity she represented the female goddess aspect of power. The Patriarchy (the Altarians call it/them the Time Lords) wanted a male ruler and chose the sun. Tiamat, who was also Lucifer’s new home (after she was cast out of the Time Lords’ domain) was to be executed, literally. A rogue planet was sent into the system to strike at Tiamat. The shock split the planet and caused irreparable damage but it took a second attack several thousand years later to finish off Tiamat. Where is Tiamat? Approximately half of her is what is knowed as the asteroid belt. The other half? Well, you’re standing on it: Earth. As for Earth’s moon, Kingu was “demoted” from planet to moon status but allowed to remain with Earth as her companion and balancer. Much of the life on Tiamat was destroyed in the attacks. Some of her waters remained with Earth, and some of the life from those survived. For example, there were both,”mermaids” and “unicorns” on Tiamat and for a long time some of these survived in the restrictive atmosphere of their new world, hence why we know about these creatures which were written about in man’s mythologies. Some of these remembrances I got from my Teachers, of course. Some I picked out of selective readings, particularly in Zecharia Sitchin’s extensive work he called the Earth Chronicles. That is barely a thumbnail sketch of course.

      4. katharineotto Post author

        I wasn’t familiar with Sitchin so googled him. His ideas sounded familiar from my reading of David Icke’s “Tales from the Time Loop.” Sure enough, Sitchin’s books are listed in the bibliography.

        While I liked “Tales” and thought its premises interesting, my overall impression was that David Icke’s summary seemed kind of fatalistic and not what I choose to believe. He seems to conclude that we mere mortals are doomed to be the slaves of these genetically gifted semi-aliens who have not evolved beyond domination-and-control social paradigms.

        Although I have not come up with a better way, I’m skeptical of any one or any group that presumes superiority, no matter what their genes tell them.

      5. Sha'Tara

        Hi Katharine, I gave up on David Icke long ago but Sitchin was an archeologist and he did actual scientific research and translation from Sumerian tablet records. Contrary to false Darwinist theories we are not creatures evolved from the muck and mire of the planet. That would take hundreds of millions of years which our short-lived civilizations do not allow for. The math is wrong, they know it, but something was desperately needed by the mind controllers to replace the waning power of organized religion: enter Darwinism. The Sumerian records are our best source of knowledge on how mankind came about. The species was invented to be slaves for the alien “gods” known to the Sumerians as the Anunnaki. All of mankind’s oldest “mythology” is based on stories from the days of alien conquest and the beginnings of mankind, and mankind’s eventual rebellion against the dreadful rule of the aliens. Mankind is NOT a naturally evolved species, hence why in each civilization it inevitably pulls away from natural relationship with the Earth and into anti-Earthian life lifestyles. According to “the Teachers” the last earth-based civilization of mankind, this one, is about to terminate within the next 5-6 hundred years, to be replaced by a new civilization of space-faring, star seeking humans who will leave this world completely and permanently. A race of mutants is going to replace the current (doomed) species and these mutants will be full empathetic humans. I was given a glimpse into the transitional phase prior to our departure for the stars – about a thousand years into the future, Earth time. It’s mind boggling and exciting. People exist and interact with or without bodies, so physical space is not as critical. The lowest intelligence of that time far exceeds anything current geniuses can demonstrate. How do “we” leave? In a nutshell, 12 cities are chosen to become self-supporting arks. These cities, once everybody is “on board” and has adapted to living thus, will be lifted off the planet at approximately the same time to re-join in space outside this solar system and form a wheel-world. From that stage, what comes next is not known. Choices will have to be made, decisions taken. I already know I have chosen to be involved and instrumental in participating in the “lift off” but as a wandering avatar, I will leave once the wheel world is properly assembled and functional. As the High Aldwyn says in “Willow” – ‘Forget everything you know, or everything you think you know…’

      1. Sha'Tara

        Thank you. I often wonder if anyone “out there” feels those same “vibrations” about the life we are a part of but are endlessly denied access to until we choose to break out of the programming and fly solo.

  2. feistyfroggy

    I just watched a documentary in which Einstein’s formulas where solved by another scientist prior to WW II (?). Einstein was trying to disprove the existence of black holes, the other scientist was trying to prove their existence and ironically was able to do so by solving Einstein’s equations. It was rather eye opening.

  3. srogouski

    “In this regard, Einstein ran up against, and spent the latter part of his life, trying to refute the implications of his own 1905 paper on the “photoelectric effect” which won the Nobel Prize in 1922.”

    There’s a very Nietzchean quality to this.

  4. thetruthaboutmentalhealth

    Great post.. I love contemplating the bizarreness of quantum physics. One thing I don’t get though is, how do we get probability out of an understanding that nothing is predictable and that there is not objective observer? Would love to delve deeper into this..

  5. katharineotto Post author

    I’ve been contemplating this and have come to question the desire for answers. It’s unsettling to believe there may be no final answers, only more questions. It’s like living in a state of suspended animation. My view regarding probabilities is that we can know trends but not how they will play out over time, or in different peoples’ experiences. Even the relative significance of a trend is a matter of perspective, as it will affect different people differently. Free will provides the ability to make choices in context, such that you influence trends in accordance with your own values and beliefs. For instance, if you are concerned about the environment, you might make the symbolic effort of using re-usable shopping bags or reducing waste.

    The most exciting thing about quantum physics is its open-endedness. While traditionalists want absolutes, I thrive on order within chaos and look forward to riding into uncertain futures.

    1. Sha'Tara

      How do we move forward? According to the Teachers, we ask intelligent questions to discover that our answer lies within the question – that is, if we proceed as self-empowered individuals. The answer is in the question, what is your question? Einstein asked the question then refused to accept the logical answer but there is never any going back, is there. What we witness when we look into the quanta isn’t chaos at all: no such thing. It’s a different, much broader sort of order that our minds have yet to make room for. Quote: “While traditionalists want absolutes, I thrive on order within chaos and look forward to riding into uncertain futures.” That is the only kind of future there is and what a fitting comment!

      1. katharineotto Post author

        I’ve experienced the same realization: that by the time I formulate the question, I already know the answer. Solutions also lie within the problems, so identifying the root problem produces the solution.

        Maybe “chaos” was the wrong word. What appears to be chaos has its own order, as you suggest, but it’s a higher order than our minds have grasped so far.

      2. Sha'Tara

        Indeed, indeed. We’re speaking a common language here! I’m so glad to see that someone else understands how to solve a problem: get to the root of it and the solution presents itself. This exposes another problem and that is, too often no one likes the solution and chooses to skirt around it instead, hence the confusion, particularly in politics, and the lack of action that results in problems intensifying ‘exponentially’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s