A team of physicists claim that they have evidence that the universe is a computer simulation, according to an article on Technology Review. The hypothesis that was being investigated is “that the observed universe is a numerical simulation performed on a cubic space-time lattice or grid.” If intelligence keeps evolving and expanding (as it indisputably has on this planet), then eventually it would develop the technology to create other universes.
I’ve only read the abstract of the paper, and it is clearly beyond my expertise. However what interests me about the paper is that it returns the discussion “intelligent design”. The term is loaded of course, and enough to get steam coming from many a scientist’s ears. However the discussion is often focussed upon biological evolution. The anthropic principle – essentially that the universe is just too darned neatly suited to the existence of life like ours for it to be pure coincidence – is another important facet of the discussion. Physicists Beane et al appear to be tantalisingly close to treading the same territory. The investigation surely invites a return to discussions of (and terms like) “creator”, “God” and “gods”.
But where does it all begin? From where did the first intelligence (call it God if you will) arise?
It is intriguing to me that only when the discourse is centred on the computer/machine metaphor that discussions of first causes (the greater origins or meaning of all things) are generally entertained in mainstream science. And it is normally only via geometric abstraction and mathematical extrapolation that truth claims are considered. I wonder how their paper would be received if the scientists had begun with a different metaphor – say, that the universe is a great mind, or a great organism? Would anyone in science pay much attention? And the physicists had used introspection as their prime way of knowing? For millennia mystics have related profound insights into the nature of mind and cosmos. Yet the knowledge is only available through a relaxed, receptive attitude where the mind falls into quiet presence. It is only then that the chattering verbiage of the neocortex dissipates, and the illusion of boundary begins to fall. In contrast, the distance between knower and known is still vast in modern science, and the mechanistic paradigm is still with us.
Perhaps if the right and left brains could meet in a place where introspection and verbal/linguistic abstraction worked in harmony, we would have a powerful new science that was not afraid to embrace its deepest nature.
Here is the article on Technology Review:
Physicists say they may have evidence that the universe is a computer simulation.
How? They made a computer simulation of the universe. And it looks sort of like us.
A long-proposed thought experiment, put forward by both philosophers and popular culture, points out that any civilisation of sufficient size and intelligence would eventually create a simulation universe if such a thing were possible.
And since there would therefore be many more simulations (within simulations, within simulations) than real universes, it is therefore more likely than not that our world is artificial.
Now a team of researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany led by Silas Beane say they have evidence this may be true.
In a paper named ‘Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation’, they point out that current simulations of the universe – which do exist, but which are extremely weak and small – naturally put limits on physical laws.
Technology Review explains that “the problem with all simulations is that the laws of physics, which appear continuous, have to be superimposed onto a discrete three dimensional lattice which advances in steps of time.”
What that basically means is that by just being a simulation, the computer would put limits on, for instance, the energy that particles can have within the program.
These limits would be experienced by those living within the sim – and as it turns out, something which looks just like these limits do in fact exist.
For instance, something known as the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin, or GZK cut off, is an apparent boundary of the energy that cosmic ray particles can have. This is caused by interaction with cosmic background radiation. But Beane and co’s paper argues that the pattern of this rule mirrors what you might expect from a computer simulation.
Naturally, at this point the science becomes pretty tricky to wade through – and we would advise you read the paper itself to try and get the full detail of the idea.
But the basic impression is an intriguing one.
Like a prisoner in a pitch-black cell, we may never be able to see the ‘walls’ of our prison — but through physics we may be able to reach out and touch them.