Skip to comments.Do we live in a computer simulation? UW researchers say idea can be tested
Posted on 12/11/2012 8:54:00 AM PST by LibWhacker
A decade ago, a British philosopher put forth the notion that the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation run by our descendants. While that seems far-fetched, perhaps even incomprehensible, a team of physicists at the University of Washington has come up with a potential test to see if the idea holds water.
The concept that current humanity could possibly be living in a computer simulation comes from a 2003 paper published in Philosophical Quarterly by Nick Bostrom, a philosophy professor at the University of Oxford. In the paper, he argued that at least one of three possibilities is true:
He also held that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.
A graphical representation of two theoretical views of our universe:
The conical (red) surface shows the relationship between energy and momentum in special relativity, a fundamental theory concerning space and time developed by Albert Einstein, and is the expected result if our universe is not a simulation. The flat (blue) surface illustrates the relationship between energy and momentum that would be expected if the universe is a simulation with an underlying cubic lattice
With current limitations and trends in computing, it will be decades before researchers will be able to run even primitive simulations of the universe. But the UW team has suggested tests that can be performed now, or in the near future, that are sensitive to constraints imposed on future simulations by limited resources.
Currently, supercomputers using a technique called lattice quantum chromodynamics and starting from the fundamental physical laws that govern the universe can simulate only a very small portion of the universe, on the scale of one 100-trillionth of a meter, a little larger than the nucleus of an atom, said Martin Savage, a UW physics professor.
Eventually, more powerful simulations will be able to model on the scale of a molecule, then a cell and even a human being. But it will take many generations of growth in computing power to be able to simulate a large enough chunk of the universe to understand the constraints on physical processes that would indicate we are living in a computer model.
However, Savage said, there are signatures of resource constraints in present-day simulations that are likely to exist as well in simulations in the distant future, including the imprint of an underlying lattice if one is used to model the space-time continuum.
The supercomputers performing lattice quantum chromodynamics calculations essentially divide space-time into a four-dimensional grid. That allows researchers to examine what is called the strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature and the one that binds subatomic particles called quarks and gluons together into neutrons and protons at the core of atoms.
If you make the simulations big enough, something like our universe should emerge, Savage said. Then it would be a matter of looking for a signature in our universe that has an analog in the current small-scale simulations.
Savage and colleagues Silas Beane of the University of New Hampshire, who collaborated while at the UWs Institute for Nuclear Theory, and Zohreh Davoudi, a UW physics graduate student, suggest that the signature could show up as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays.
In a paper they have posted on arXiv, an online archive for preprints of scientific papers in a number of fields, including physics, they say that the highest-energy cosmic rays would not travel along the edges of the lattice in the model but would travel diagonally, and they would not interact equally in all directions as they otherwise would be expected to do.
This is the first testable signature of such an idea, Savage said.
If such a concept turned out to be reality, it would raise other possibilities as well. For example, Davoudi suggests that if our universe is a simulation, then those running it could be running other simulations as well, essentially creating other universes parallel to our own.
Then the question is, Can you communicate with those other universes if they are running on the same platform? she said.
Oh come on - this problem has already been solved.
yeesh! what a bunch of elitist navel gazing claptrap!
We currently inhabit a nasty piece of malware called the Obama Presidency.
Humans will go to great lengths to deny that there is a God, and that they are NOT him.
An interesting science-fiction story theme, but no, we are not a “computer simulation” - we are going through all this in real time and on hard physical surfaces.
Otherwise, why does it hurt so damned much when I scrape my shin?
Pay no attention to this article! Now, get back to work providing entertainment for me.
Just HOW much of OUR TAX $$s did THEY SPEND coming up with THIS BULLSHIT!
Funny how this comes out around the time pot became legal in this state.
Didn’t Washington just legalize weed. These researchers must of got a hold of some real good stuff.
Can we do something then about the Liberal virus?
I agree 10000000000000%. I proudly proclaim my love for GOD and HIS SON JESUS.
No, that’s the “universe is an atom in a greater being’s fingernail” theory.
Meh, I enjoy these kinds of mental exercises.
Very well put!
They are now claiming the “post-humans” are god.
Anything but the real God.
This theory may explain the rise of the Oregon Duck football team and the fall of my beloved Huskies. Something is testing my patience, and those of my fellow Dawg fans, as to how much more humilation we must endure! Especially the 18 pt come from behind loss to the Cougs!
Solid matter is mostly empty space, so that's something of a technical question actually, lol.
We are absolutely 1000% living in a computer simulation, no if ands or buts about it.
1. Obama gets reelected.
2. The Maroon 5 song “Payphone” is actually a hit song.
3. M. Night Shyamalan still has a career.
4. Hillary Clinton is considered smart.
5. Nancy Pelosi keeps getting reelected.
6. Ted Kennedy kept getting reelected, even after Chappaquiddick!
7. Country music today is incredibly considered country music.
8. Saturday night live and it’s movies are considered comedy.
9. Adam Sandler has a career.
10. Keith Richards is alive.