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  • Member since: 1/2/2010
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A prospective thread. Saving here so that I don't have to re-type it, should I decide to post it:

Something I've been thinking about recently: is it possible for one action to be able to cause multiple seperate (and contradicting) outcomes?

For instance, when you flip a coin, it is commonly held that you have a 50 percent of getting a heads, and a 50 percent chance of getting a tails. Now, out of all the coin flips, that might be close to the truth.

But consider just one coin flip:
1. You place a coin heads up on your right thumb.
2. You flip it, and it turns 15 times before
3. You catch it again with your right hand.
4. You place it on the back of your left hand (essentially flipping again). It is, of course, heads up.

Let's use a hypothetical time machine to prove a point. Now that we know the outcome, let's go back to the end of step four, before you take your hand away and reveal the coin. What is the chance of getting heads? 100 percent, right? Because the coin is already heads up.

So go back to step 3. Still, 100 percent of getting heads. The conditions are exactly (and I mean exactly) the same as when you "first" caught the coin. So nothing different can happen.

But now things get interesting. If we go back to step 2, does the coin still flip 15 times? When you consider all the factors that will influence the coin's flippage (amount of force transfered from thumb, wind, gravity, friction, etc), will anything be different? Theoretically, if the events preceding step 2 are exactly the same (which they are), then step 2 should procede exactly like it did the first time. It's like rewinding a DVD: the information on the DVD is still the same, so it will show the same video.

So of course, the question is: How far back do you have to go before there isn't a 100% chance of getting a heads on that particular flip?

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