Is randomness necessary to our physical cosmology?

Take for example, radiactive decay. We assume it to be a random process. If we discovered that it does occur predictably in response to some newly discovered phenomenom, would that bring our current physics model into total disarray, or just be added as one more variable to be factored in?

Would anything of substance change in our understanding of physics if we discovered that there is no such thing as randomness? Is there any proof of randomness? Is it even possible to prove the existence of randomness?

It would screw up carbon dating, which assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in an object is solely a function of the object’s age.

No, it shouldn’t. Just as our understanding of oxidation didn’t mess up our ability to cook with fire. Just because we now know that Carbon decays when the mass of phu-takuons exceeds the vacuum7 pressure on its gamma-trekions, that doesn’t mean we can no longer use its average decay rate to date things.

For more information on this very interesting question, look up “hidden variables”. This was the idea (much favored by Einstein, among others) that the apparent randomness in quantum mechanics was an illusion, and that there were physical variables governing these processes that we just couldn’t observe (whether because of our technological limitations, or inherently). For instance, an atom of carbon-14 might have some sort of “clock” inside of it, and when the clock wound down to 0, the atom would decay. The current time on that clock would then be a hidden variable.

Unfortunately, there are some serious problems with hidden variable models. Bell found that, for some experiments, any physical model dependant on local hidden variables would produce results different from those predicted by quantum mechanics, and when the experiments are actually performed, the results match QM, not hidden variables. The results can still be explained using nonlocal hidden variables (that is to say, they can “communicate” with each other faster than light), but many physicists find such models distasteful, since then you have to invoke some sort of censorship to keep the FTL communication from being used in a non-hidden way.

Although not as good as being the first one to think of it, I say that a good second place is thinking of something first thought by Albert Freaking Einstein.

Searching for “hidden variables” turns out a good list of relevant results. Thanks for the tip.

Still, thoughts on this are more than welcome. We have no shortage of people with the ability to make tricky stuff accessible to ignorants like me.