Uncertainty in classical systems (with a local, non-stochastic, non-chaotic origin)

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Decisions made by two (or more) independent players in a dynamical system can result in an indeterminable, yet non-stochastic, outcome. The mechanism can be presented as a thought experiment in which two pilots attempt to steer a spacecraft but, in stabilizing its pitch and yaw, lose all knowledge of its forward motion. It is useful to think of this pilots’ dilemma as a classical analogue of Schrödinger’s ‘cat in a box’ thought experiment. In both, the outcome of a life or death scenario is indeterminate until it is directly observed, but in place of the probabilistic radioactive source in Schrödinger’s problem, the discontinuous action of the pilots’ decisions create the classical indeterminacy. We discuss the wider implications of the phenomenon, such as predicting indeterminate scenarios in optimal transport or other network problems. The behaviour only becomes apparent when a system’s dynamics is sufficiently taken into account.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2020

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Mathematics Research Group


  • dynamics
  • indeterminacy
  • discontinuity
  • singularity
  • decision
  • switch
  • uncertainty


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