Cosmology News

And the “computer sim universe” is still running in the background too, it seems

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On the screen behind the endless bubbles and froths of universes, shadowed by the parallel dark universe, friends point out this claim for the universe as a giant computer sim: recently reported that physicist Martin Savage thinks this might actually be the case, and that the idea is testable:

Savage and colleagues […] suggest that the [simulator] signature could show up as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays. In a paper they have posted on arXiv, […] 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 [under Einstein’s theory of relativity]. “This is the first testable signature of such an idea,” Savage said.

This is how US News describes the proposed test:

[A] few creative researchers from the University of Washington believe they’ve developed a way to test the [Matrix or Lattice] theory [of the universe]. […]


By studying the highest-energy cosmic rays known in the universe to see if they travel in straight lines along the edges of the space-time continuum (which would likely mean that we’re not in a simulation), or if they cheat a bit and cut across it diagonally (a “signature” limitation in the energy of these cosmic rays that would tell us we’re actually living in a highly complex, but still resource-constrained, simulation).

In other words, the Matrix may be moving from a speculative idea in philosophy to a testable idea in physics. Here’s how Ray Villard puts it at Discovery News: … More.

Sure it’s testable, if the sim lets us. A fundamental rule of reasoning seems to get lost here: We start by assuming that the world around us is reality. Otherwise, we can go anywhere, everywhere and nowhere. Oh wait, there’s a word for that nowadays – cosmology.

8 Replies to “And the “computer sim universe” is still running in the background too, it seems

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Scott Aaronson, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, had this to say about the ‘universe is a computer’ hype:

    Quantum Computing Promises New Insights, Not Just Supermachines – Scott Aaronson – December 2011
    Excerpt: And yet, even though useful quantum computers might still be decades away, many of their payoffs are already arriving. For example, the mere possibility of quantum computers has all but overthrown a conception of the universe that scientists like Stephen Wolfram have championed. That conception holds that, as in the “Matrix” movies, the universe itself is basically a giant computer, twiddling an array of 1’s and 0’s in essentially the same way any desktop PC does.
    Quantum computing has challenged that vision by showing that if “the universe is a computer,” then even at a hard-nosed theoretical level, it’s a vastly more powerful kind of computer than any yet constructed by humankind. Indeed, the only ways to evade that conclusion seem even crazier than quantum computing itself: One would have to overturn quantum mechanics, or else find a fast way to simulate quantum mechanics using today’s computers.

    And certainly, from what is already known from Quantum Electrodynamics, this hypothetical computer that supposedly generates the universe (MATRIX style) is certainly far, far, more powerful than any computer that I can envision:

    “It always bothers me that in spite of all this local business, what goes on in a tiny, no matter how tiny, region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time, according to laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out. Now how can all that be going on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to figure out what one stinky tiny bit of space-time is going to do?
    – Richard Feynman – was one of the founding fathers of QED (Quantum Electrodynamics)
    Quote taken from 6:45 minute mark of following video:
    Richard Feynman: Mathematicians versus Physicists – video

    I don’t know about Feynman, but as for myself, being a Christian Theist, I find it rather comforting to know that it takes an ‘infinite amount of logic to figure out what one stinky tiny bit of space-time is going to do’:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    of note: ‘the Word’ in John1:1 is translated from ‘Logos’ in Greek. Logos is the root word from which we derive our modern word logic

    Also of related note, Dr. Craig points out a rather simple, but fatal, flaw in the ‘universe is a computer simulation’ argument:

    Is God No Better Than A Special Computer? – William Lane Craig – video

    Here is another quote of interest from Scott Aaronson as to recent findings in Quantum Mechanics

    Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables – Scott Aaronson
    Excerpt: “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: How Bird Wings Work (Compared to Airplane Wings) – video

  3. 3
    Barb says:

    People who watched The Matrix trilogy and came away thinking it was anything but a science fiction film should not be taken seriously.

  4. 4
    MrMosis says:

    In regard to:

    we’re actually living in a highly complex, but still resource-constrained, simulation

    I think some people read to much into the matrix analogy. The point, so far as I know, is that the “physical” universe is at root more informational in nature than it is actually “physical”.

    The signatures that lead towards this conclusion (that our physical reality is fundamentally informational and relational, out of which our experience emerges) does not in any way warrant drawing the conclusion that the “apparatus” upon which the information exists and is computed is at all like the devices which we use to compute, nor that what does the computing is in any sense “resource-constrained”.

    The more reasonable takeaway IMHO is that if you are going to produce a coherent, congruent, consistent reality within which your created beings can live, move, and have their being, this would be the way you do it: A rigorously calculated reality of regularity. I see no reason to consider that it could or should be done in any other way. (Change a few constants and I can even envision a world not so…. depraved.)

    The simulation and matrix analogies are for illustrative purposes. To wonder about the processor architecture used in the computer is taking it too far. To consider that the “simulation” even runs on any sort of computing “hardware” is also reading too much into the analogy. The notion of the simulation-universe is about the informational roots and underpinnings as opposed to what maintains and processes the information in toto, transcendent-like.

    At any rate, I welcome the inquiry. I just do not expect there to be discovered any unambiguous data suggesting that the “simulator” is in any sense resource constrained. I hope they know what they are doing- what may appear to be a constraint on the simulator may in fact be a constraint of the coherence boundaries as determined/actualized by the execution of the software, or a constraint of the software package itself irrespective of what is being simulated within a given “locale”.

  5. 5
    wentzelitis says:

    I’ve been a lurker for a while but I had to register now to ask this question. Doesn’t the simulation theory imply that there is a designer? Doesn’t simulation theory promote ID? So why do people in favor of ID seem to not like the idea? (despite whatever evidence or lack of evidence it actually has)

  6. 6
    fmarotta says:

    It is interesting to me that there are scientists that take the notion of the universe as a simulation to be credible. Consider this: if the universe is a simulation, then it is intelligently designed.

    So I am surprised that this notion isn’t rejected outright for that alone.

  7. 7
    snelldl says:

    fmarotta #5: exactly!

  8. 8
    EDTA says:

    The irony that this would immediately settle the question of whether we are intelligently designed would be delectable.

    As far as speculations about the nature or limitations of the “hardware”, I don’t consider that relevant. If it is the moral aspect that is important to our Creator, then what difference would it make how “real” or virtual we might be? Perhaps it’s not necessary to simulate an entire universe of 10^80 particles. It might only be necessary to simulate us as observers plus our immediate sensory surroundings. Anything we are not immediately observing does not need to be as tightly simulated. When we “sleep”, virtually no processing need take place, for instance. (Brains in a vat, anyone?)

    But I figured out what bothers me about this idea: If God is really running us as a simulation then perhaps he didn’t actually create the vast universe we now think he did. That surely would be a let-down and detract from the glory due him. It would be form of deception I suppose.

    Having said that, a couple of decades ago I would have laughed at this matrix-like proposal. Surely this world is the tangible one, and heaven is the ethereal one! But if this world is really to pass away quickly, to be replaced by a permanent heavenly home, then how solid can this realm be? Perhaps, like the earth in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, our current world is actually the more ephemeral of the two.

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