Chapter 2: Coin Toss


Did you hear someone say something, asked Jäger?

No, I didn’t hear anything. Can we move on to the next door please?

Jäger began to enter the home while Gottlieb reluctantly followed. They saw a frail old man sitting in a very old rocking chair with red velour cushions. He had a red plaid blanket covering his legs with the fire blazing. There were two very old victorian arm chairs placed in front of him with a table in between the chairs. Two cups of tea were placed on the table between the chairs. One was warm and the other iced. The warm cup was placed next to Jäger’s chair and the iced cup next to Gottlieb’s chair. The old man invited the to sit down. “I’ve poured you some nice tea.”

The two young men looked at one another. They didn’t drink tea or coffee. This was always an awkward moment when someone offered them coffee or tea. In a calm gentle voice, the old man reassured them that they could drink this tea. The old man anticipated their concerns and said, “it’s jasmine and chamomile with a touch of acacia honey. It’s my own special blend. You can drink this.”

Elder Gottlieb was sweating. He enjoyed his iced tea, while Elder Jäger was feeling quite comfortable and enjoyed his warm cup of tea. Elder Jäger was mesmerized by the large stone fireplace and crackling fire. It was the smell of sweet cherry wood. Most of the furniture in the room was also made of cherry wood. Before the two young men could speak, the old man asked a very odd question. This is the same question that he asks all of his visitors.

“If you toss a coin a thousand times, how often will it come up heads?”

Adams, Scott. God’s Debris a Thought Experiment. Andrews McMeel, 2013. 

Gottlieb looked over at Jäger as if to say, I told you this was a bad idea. This crazy old man doesn’t want to hear our message. He has an agenda of his own with wacky questions like that one.

Jäger, not knowing much about statistics answered first. I’ll guess fifty percent.

The old man looked over at Gottlieb and asked, “and you Mr. Gottlieb?”

Gottlieb smugly responded, “The question is not properly stated. There is insufficient information.”

Good, how should the question be stated?”

What is the likelihood that heads will come up … let’s say 500 times … if we flip it 1000 times? Unless the question is asked correctly, I cannot answer the question.”

Jäger, looking a bit confused asked, “Huh? Is 50% the right answer? I don’t get it.”

Gottlieb is correct.

“The question has no why. Every other question has an answer to why. Only probability is inexplicable.”

Adams, Scott. God’s Debris a Thought Experiment. Andrews McMeel, 2013. 

Jäger decided to seize on this opportunity to ask some of his own questions. “I agree that every other question has an answer to why. Why are we here? Where …?”

Before Jäger could complete his three questions, the old man cut him off. “Let’s start with that first question. Why are you here in my home?, asked the old man.”

That wasn’t what I meant.”

Looking over at Gottlieb, the old man asked, “Mr. Gottlieb, why are you here in my home?”

We knocked on about a 100 doors today and I decided to go home but Elder Jäger felt impressed that we needed to knock a few more doors. I followed his lead.”

So you didn’t have much of a choice?

Sure, I made a choice to follow Elder Jäger who made a choice to knock on a few more doors. We both made choices.

Quickly the old man returned the the principle of probability. Isn’t knocking on doors all day, a bit like flipping a coin? Sometimes you are invited in and other times you are not. Aren’t you just playing with probability?

The answer stopped Elder Gottlieb in his tracks. Maybe the old man was right. All we have to do is knock enough doors and probability will predict how often someone will let us in.

This time, the old man redirected the question to Elder Jäger. “Mr. Jäger, why are you here?”

Elder Jäger was eager to teach his message but didn’t want to offend the old man and responded, “I felt something, like a nudge, that motivated me to knock on a few more doors rather than go home. I made a decision based on that feeling. The next door we knocked on was yours.”

You took a chance based on a feeling that you couldn’t see nor touch?

I do sometimes feel something. I get goosebumps, or my vision becomes a bit distorted, and sometimes I feel warmth like this fire place and this tea.

Now it was Elder Gottlieb’s turn to jump in. Elder Gottlieb was a physics student at Princeton University before coming out on his mission. He completed two years of his undergraduate studies before deciding to take a break from his studies and serve a mission for his church. His father is a well-published Professor of theoretical physics at Princeton. While Elder Gottlieb’s father was not fully supportive of his son leaving his educational pursuits for a religious mission, he also didn’t believe in interfering with objects in motion. “Are you familiar with the principles of classical and quantum physics?”

Yes, I am. Please continue Mr. Gottlieb.

Elder Jäger was in motion and I was the opposing force trying to slow down his motion. A new external force was exerted on Elder Jäger that continued his motion forward. Classical physics.

The old man was pleased with his answer. “Good, you have explained why Mr. Jäger is here. Now, why are you here Mr. Gottlieb?”

The probability of being here in your home changed when Elder Jäger’s direction of motion changed. By following Elder Jäger’s vector path, I increased the probability of arriving here in your home. This is the core principle of Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics.”

Mr. Gottlieb, you have potential.

CONTINUE TO NEXT CHAPTER

REFERENCES

  1. Adams, Scott. God’s Debris a Thought Experiment. Andrews McMeel, 2013

 

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