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.
Because a chain reaction of physical events results in the release of chemicals which tell your brain you are in pain. And you believe them.;-)
Help! I’ve fallen into a for/next loop and I can’t get up!
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.They should go get some climate “scientists” to help them out—apparently they have no problem writing computer models for huge, chaotic systems that still yield extremely accurate results for decades in the future!
This is what I like to call the God/Satan Conundrum.
The earth is a chessboard and God and Satan are playing chess. This has been going on since the beginning of time.
We are at a point in the game where Satan’s last move was in 2008. Everything that has occured since 2008 is the result of Satan’s move.
God may not make a move for 10 years, 50 years, next week. We just do not know.
I have been writing “Chessboard Earth” for 10 years. This is actually the second game God and Satan are playing. The first game was a draw and it resulted in the destruction of life on the planet.
A graphical representation of a human stimulation scenario...
Those are excellent examples.
Obama gives FREE STUFF!!!
the left already believes it is a computer matrix.
How in the hell can these PhrauxDs ignore that any supra-entity capable of running a sim on such a scale wouldn’t account for the sentient interpretation of any gamma flux or any other outliers in such a scenario?
Many posters here agree with me. Now I know I’m still sane.
Many posters here agree with me. Now I know I’m still sane.
Just to dabble a bit in some contemporary physics - quantum gravity does hint that time and space may be discrete - which would appear at least to point the same granular effect as does that of a computer simulation.
As if that wasn’t enough, look up the Beckenstein bound and do a bit more reading - interesting stuff related to the above.
If it’s a simulation then what happens when the computer reboots?
If you simulate a piece of the universe you need to have computer memory bigger than the number of elementary particles in that chunk of the universe.
In your computer memory you must also keep track of the position and velocity of every elementary particle [which you can not do as proven by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle]
You also must keep track of your computer and each and every one of its elementary particles and their position and velocity.
So you would have to have a computer that is bigger than itself and bigger than its corner of the universe (in which it is contained).
Logical contradiction. The scientist is an a$$.
this is nothing more than the old debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. navel gazing.
You don’t have to track particles, you only have to track interactions. No video game tracks particles, they track the objects being interacted with at the lowest level they NEED to but never one bit more. And when you realize just how little people actually pay attention to details you see just how little one have to keep track of. Even though I’m striking individual keys to type this I’m not really paying attention to them, I’m slapping the keyboard and stuff is coming out, and even when I’m paying attention to the individual keys what goes on beneath it I don’t care about. So if my keyboard was part of a simulation right now the guts of it could be completely ignored by the software, all that matters is the keys are there, and hitting them has the expected results (movement, sound, stuff showing up on my screen), everything else can be black box until I do something (turn it upside down, hit it really hard, decide I’m really bored and take it apart) to interact with it. And of course meanwhile I’m not doing anything at home or with my car, so unless somebody else is interacting with them they can be ignored.
Play one of the Sims games, it’s especially instructive if you play on a machine that’s just barely up to spec. You’ll see that while they have a huge world what’s actually in memory is just the part you’re interacting with right now plus a little for anticipation. Make a big move and watch the memory cycle. You only have to have the front of the curtain in memory.
Anything thought provoking is “total garbage” to the peasants and their pedestrian minds. I recall an article in the Saturday WSJ about the power of negative (!) thinking that offended the religionists of Norman Vincent Peale here. Why be offended instead of being amused?!
I don't get how people work themselves into a frothing rage of hatred against people they've never met just for proposing a theory which is over their heads.
The ultimate programmer is God, and he is watching what we are doing in the world he created.
Yes, and I think He is PI$$ED OFF.
Time for Ctl-Alt-Delete
Why put off till tomorrow that which can be done today?
OMG!!! You are right! And the examples you gave are unmistakable signs of a piss poor QA department!
N-n-no we do-do-don't.
If you are simulating A universe, rather than THE universe, then you can make up any "physical laws" that you want.
For all we know, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle was created by a software programmer as a simplifying mechanism for the simulated universe he was creating and in which we exist.
The above comments only make sense, of course, if it is possible to be AWARE while existing inside somebody's computer simulation.
After that stutter, you might want to seek professional help...
See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Unified_Theory
The final proof will be that the question, when found, will be answerable by "42".
Have you fed your mice today?
>>After that stutter, you might want to seek professional help...
You mean a better programmer?
Our universe is an upside down chinese hat on a trampoline - that you can shape with your thoughts!
QA just finds the bugs, if product management doesn’t want to fix em that ain’t our fault.