• Question: Is it possible to predict the future?

    Asked by aileenjcat to Colin, John, Kevin, Shikha, Triona on 13 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Colin Johnston

      Colin Johnston answered on 13 Nov 2014:

      Yes and no.

      Some things in the Universe are almost completely predictable. Planets, comets, moons all follow orbits which are completely understood. We can predict where planets will be millions of years from now. People have known this for thousands of years. Scholars in Greece were predicting eclipses of the moon about 500BC and Chinese astronomers could completely accurately predict solar eclipses by 206AD.

      Planetary movements are easily predicted because they follow a small set of simple rules. This is unusual in science, most of nature follows multiple rules at once and are too complex to accurately predict. That’s why weather forecasts sometimes get it wrong.

      We can make educated guesses about what humans will do or discover in the future but they are guesses. People in 1900 would predict that in the year 2000 there might be flying machines, but miss out predicting TV, computers, antibiotics.

      Personally I prefer the future being a mystery!

    • Photo: Shikha Sharma

      Shikha Sharma answered on 15 Nov 2014:

      Hi Alieenjcat,
      I will agree with Colin…So, answer is Yes and No. It depends on whether we have a scientific way to predict future. For example, we can predict how our universe will be after 1000 million years; When Sun will burn all its fuel and die; How long earth will be suitable to support life; When next lunar eclipse will occur etc. etc. Because we know the fundamental physical laws which govern the universe. Using mathematical model derived from these laws we can predict future incidents of universe.

      There are more things we can predict based on historical data, trends & patterns, mathematics e.g. how will be the economic condition of the world and various countries in next 12 months; What will be climatic conditions of various part Ireland in next 7 days; What will happen to my heart if my cholesterol level goes up; What will be the financial condition of a company say Microsoft in next one year.

      However, It is difficult to tell when a person will die if he has good health condition; When I child is going to buy a big house or a limousine when he will grow up. Some people predicts that and many believe. However, these are not scientific predictions. But last thing, even scientific prediction has chance to fail. 🙂

    • Photo: Kevin Motherway

      Kevin Motherway answered on 19 Nov 2014:

      If you can work out the formula of how things work and you know all the initial conditions (or the position and state of all the variables in that formula) the you should be able to calculate things and predict the future. Chaos theory is all about how even being slightly out in the initial conditions can throw the results wildly off. That exactly the challenge weather forecasters face. Most forecasters can’t forecast beyond 8 days, as even a slight variation in the initial conditions means that anything past 8 days is utter nonsense. So don’t believe all the stories about “worst winter in 100 years forecast!”