Seeing Through Probability

  • Fri Mar 15th, 2019 3:01pm
  • Life

By Chiggers Stokes

Special to The Forks Forum

We all use probability in our daily lives to decide a reasonable course of action and to make sense out of a world that is chock full of confusing and contradicting messages. We know that airplanes occasionally crash, killing all on board. But your chance of dying in a commercial plane crash is currently one in 11 million, whereas your chance of dying of car crash are about one in 5,000. Studying the picture with this column, one might reasonably conclude that this is a staged photo and not an imminent crime scene. In fact the picture was taken on my first sojourn through the Bailey Range in Olympic National Park. Opportunity for risk is one of the allures of the American wilderness, like a random generator which usually spits out happy results. But for the unlucky, or unthinking, a wilderness experience can be as deadly theater as our Nation’s highways.

Not only is probability, and the risks that abide therein, a spice in our life, it is an essential ingredient. Atomic structure depends completely on laws of probability. The shell of an atom is none other than a probability field, its opacity defined by the high probability of the electron(s) appearing and disappearing in that zone. But what became evident to quantum physicist early on in the 20th Century is that occasionally particles, such as electrons and protons, behave without regard to any conventional laws of physics.

For over 100 years, modern science has known of such “ghosts.” In quantum physics, the ability of matter, or pieces of it, inexplicably materializing on the other side of a barrier is called “tunneling.” Given the enormous number of particles that comprise one chiggers stokes, it is entirely likely that individual subatomic pieces of me will twinkle in and out of a remote location from me. That such an event would occur on a molecular scale, is far more remote. Equations exist to predict the probability of, say, bread and fish appearing in empty baskets, which you can find by an Internet Search of “Quantum Tunneling.” But the scientific view remains, possible, but highly unlikely.

A more everyday example of quantum tunneling is the phenomenon growing out of the creation of light. Photons are born as gamma rays in the intense fusion reaction of a proton colliding with another proton in the thick material plasma of the sun. In the high-intensity particle collision, helium is born of hydrogen and deadly gamma rays are released which are made into safe light photons upon leaving the sun’s corona. But the miracle of light is not so much in the de-fanging of gamma rays and transmutation into the building block of vision…The miracle is that it happens at all. Even in the thick, dense, heavy plasma of the sun, the space between particles is so enormous that for two protons to collide, even in a billion years, there must be violation of the laws of probability. It is exactly as if the cosmos says, “Let there be light.”

The phenomenon of LIFE and the evolution to the Human Experience – how could such a longshot occur without some Cosmic Consciousness laying hands on the dice? In Bill Bryson’s book A Short History of Everything, the chance of life is equated to a slot machine with so many windows it would run out of a casino and take up several parking lots. Life is an extreme non-probability and just as unlikely is the pitch of the big bang, with laws of weak and strong nuclear force, gravitation and an electromagnetic realm – where such as life and human consciousness can develop. Atheists and non-believers of Creative Force have a simple and durable response to “It couldn’t happen without Divine intervention.” Their argument is, “Well it DID happen…otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to argue about HOW it happened.”

Further, all scientific evidence points to a universe that was born out of a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago and will expand like an exploding firework until it fizzles…the latest theory in just 5 billion more years. Is this all there is? One universe that is born and fizzles and then nothing, no more, forever? The alternative is the Multiverse theory and if there is more than one universe, the next step is Infinity. A ten followed by 123 zeros is the number of possible combinations of all the particles in the universe. On our way to Infinity, we will cross that number and a mathematical probability of one that we will encounter a universe arranged precisely as this one is at this moment…Not to say it will happen. Just to say, it is most likely.

In 2016, I was a cancer patient, facing a metastasized condition with cancer flashing through my lymphatic system. I faced new therapy that put a more positive spin on my survival. “What are my chances,” I asked my doctor. She replied, “You have a 50 percent chance of surviving this cancer for 5 years.” That was better odds than I had heard for a couple years. Today, cancer is invisible in me.

A story I have shared with Forks Forum readers before is of an accident that befell me as I traversed Mt Ferry across the very skyline shown in this picture. A long piece of shale caught my boot and stood on end with my stride, pushing me off balance with my heavy pack. I tumbled off the skyline and into a bouncing fall to what I assumed would be my death. One rock spire stood out on that cliff and, as I approached freefall, against all probability I smashed into it. I landed back first upon my pack which acted like an airbag. I dislocated my shoulder and rent a gaping wound in my left buttock, but was able to climb up and walk out. I tried to calculate the probability of such a fortuitous turn of events. It was another instance of drawing a Royal Flush with no discards or throwing sevens on a pair of dice 10 times in a row.

In my life experiences, I have come to believe that Probability is to be acknowledged and respected. But in my belief system, Probability may be trumped by forces of Cosmic Intervention and the capricious Goddess of Irony.