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.
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.
1. LDA #BS
2. GOTO 1
Where can I get the cheat codes?
In particular, it's proof we're living in a type of simulation called a cartoon. A very, very sad and depressing cartoon.
Thank you. It’s downright sad; I suppose almost every advance in science was dismissed at the time as total garbage, navel gazing, etc., by some, who were poorly educated, and by some who had no such excuse — until it produced something those skeptics found personally useful or beneficial... Just a tragic lack of intellectual curiosity and flexibility, if you ask me.
LOL, it, the universe, is just crazy enough that might be true. Thanks for the original, and very amusing, thought. Cheers!
Academics looking for an alternate God/creationist theory.
The ACLU is missing in action as usual.
This is because of the same corrupt "entertainment" industry that insists only liberal activists are eligible for "spoken word" Grammies (Michelle Obama is up for 2 this year, just as her husband "won" them in 2006 and 2008).
Chart success is determined by a mix of tracked sales in big box stores combined with heavy radio airplay in certain tracked markets.
Regional hits don't exist in the "real" charts anymore. You may see some talented names on the "South Ecuadorean Traditional Neo-Funk Accoustic Blues" chart but the subcategories are so sliced and diced as to become irrelevant (it's all about milking them for ad revenue in Billboard).
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.By a weird coincidence, the first "Matrix" movie had come out a few years earlier -- all part of the simulation, as it turns out.