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Physicists Devise Test For Whether the Universe Is a Simulation

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the computer-end-program dept.

The Matrix 529

olsmeister writes "Ever wonder if the universe is really a simulation? Well, physicists do too. Recently, a group of physicists have devised a way that could conceivably figure out one way or the other whether that is the case. There is a paper describing their work on arXiv. Some other physicists propose that the universe is actually a giant hologram with all the action actually occurring on a two-dimensional boundary region."

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529 comments

What if they are right? (4, Funny)

drwho (4190) | about 2 years ago | (#41643045)

What will we do then? When will Zaphod eat the cake?

Re:What if they are right? (4, Funny)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 2 years ago | (#41643061)

What do you do with unruly programs? The answer to that question is your answer.

Re:What if they are right? (5, Funny)

malacandrian (2145016) | about 2 years ago | (#41643387)

Declare them too expensive to replace, and build entire corporations that rely on them?

Re:What if they are right? (3, Insightful)

aurashift (2037038) | about 2 years ago | (#41643555)

Can we just check to see if the virtual machine drivers are already installed in this universe?

I find that having a good understanding of computers and technology really helps when trying to understanding the universe. There's a lot of comparisons to be made and metaphors to facilitate understanding.

For instance, say the universe was was a car...

Re:What if they are right? (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#41643637)

It's a car. Now what? Are we there yet?

Re:What if they are right? (2)

geminidomino (614729) | about 2 years ago | (#41643751)

Don't make me turn this universe around. I *will* do it!

Re:What if they are right? (3, Interesting)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about 2 years ago | (#41643109)

What will we do then?

Try to communicate with our creators, duh. Maybe they will even let us out of our high-tech ant colony.

Re:What if they are right? (4, Interesting)

hack slash (1064002) | about 2 years ago | (#41643137)

What if we are the creators and are simply 'jacked in', is death the way we 'unplug'?

Re:What if they are right? (5, Interesting)

SuperMooCow (2739821) | about 2 years ago | (#41643391)

For all we know, we're all criminals and have been sentenced to a new life to give us a second chance at redemption. Maybe "going to heaven for being a good person" means we keep living once unplugged and "going to hell" means a real death sentence at the time we get unplugged from this virtual reality.

And let me add that some people are failing miserably at saving themselves.

Re:What if they are right? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643707)

"going to hell" means a real death sentence at the time we get unplugged from this virtual reality.

But that's alright because then you get to go to hell and be unplugged from that virtual reality.

The problem is infinite regression. Simply put, it's turtles all the way down. [amazon.com]

Philosophy vs. Physics (5, Insightful)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 2 years ago | (#41643319)

I think we really are skirting the boundary between physics and philosophy. I suppose the fact that actual experiments are being proposed pushes the holographic universe idea and the simulation idea towards being actual physics. However, I still have categorizing the holographic universe hypothesis as real physics. By real physics, I mean experimental physics, where we base our ideas about the physical world on what we actually observe.

Deception (2)

sanman2 (928866) | about 2 years ago | (#41643429)

What if the "simulation" is simply programmed to deceive this test?
Then what do you do?

Re:Deception (5, Insightful)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 2 years ago | (#41643527)

What if the "simulation" is simply programmed to deceive this test? Then what do you do?

If no test is possible, then it is not physics but only philosophy.

Scientists perform experiments that are constrained by the laws of nature.

Philosophers perform experiments that are constrained by the laws of logic.

Re:Deception (5, Insightful)

Xtifr (1323) | about 2 years ago | (#41643753)

There's a difference between "programmed to deceive this test" and "programmed to deceive all tests". This is a test for a particular type of simulation, and will verify or falsify whether we're in that type, but other types, which may or may not have occurred to us, may or may not have other tests that can be performed. So failure to detect a simulation here will not only not prove we're not in a simulation, but will not prove that the hypothesis is unscientific.

On the other hand, success at proving we're in a simulation would certainly be a fascinating result! :)

There is no boundary (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643717)

Though this often earns the ire of physicists who have not studied their history, the fact is: physics is a specialized and well-developed branch of philosophy.

Unbeknownst to many successful physicists, physics is still replete with metaphysical assumptions, established-but-unprovable positions on classical philosophical problems, and analytical methods built firmly upon a foundation of formal logic. Physics is philosophy through-and-through.

This particular branch of philosophy gets special attention for the direct, highly visible, and wonderfully practical applications of what one learns from its methods. Because of this, people who have not been sufficiently educated in philosophy proper tend to imagine that the two are largely unrelated, and further that the other intellectual elsewheres of philosophy are so much hot air. This is unfortunate, as it winds up imposing unperceived limits on the capabilities of practicing scientists...but the situation has remained workable nonetheless.

Ah, and while I am going around stomping on feet with facts....

The world was discovered. The language we use to model it, mathematics, was invented in response to that discovery. Some interesting logical implications of that language were subsequently discovered. But this does not mean that "mathematics" itself was discovered. It was not. It was invented. Study your history and you can trace its invention and gradual refinement over the course of history.

And also man actually walked on the moon...it wasn't the most colossally-impossible-to-maintain lie in human history.

The vikings discovered America first.

Consciousness is a real phenomenon but the soul is a very high-level abstraction mistaken as a concrete reality.

It's okay to be gay.

K, I'm done.

I hate those types of physicists (5, Funny)

hack slash (1064002) | about 2 years ago | (#41643053)

They never pass the joint around :(

Re:I hate those types of physicists (3, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#41643289)

I suspect they're too busy with their D&D game to think about sharing.

Re:I hate those types of physicists (5, Insightful)

Teckla (630646) | about 2 years ago | (#41643407)

They never pass the joint around :(

Ha, like any other physicists are any more sane!

Current popular thinking among physicists is that the universe itself does not know the exact location and momentum of fundamental matter.

The Copenhagen interpretation [wikipedia.org] of quantum mechanics tells us that the universe has a true random component. No, not pseudo-random. True random.

The many-words interpretation [wikipedia.org] of quantum mechanics tells us there are obscene numbers of universes that exist, because the universe creates perfect copies of itself every time a quantum decision is made, except for the quantum decision itself being different in each copy. And those universes split, and those do, and those do...

Various tests tell us photons are waves. No, particles. No, both! And electrons too! And more!

Go read up on quantum entanglement [wikipedia.org] if you have not yet believed in enough impossible things before breakfast yet.

Chuckle at the simulation argument all you want, but it's just as sane and likely as these other crazy, wild things. No, scratch that. The simulation argument is far more sane.

Physicists aren't smoking dope...they're all tripping on LSD!

Re:I hate those types of physicists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643473)

Why can't I get a government grant??

this universe is nothing but fractal (2)

Faisal Rehman (2424374) | about 2 years ago | (#41643071)

we are living in a big fractal and we are part of it.

Re:this universe is nothing but fractal (2)

hack slash (1064002) | about 2 years ago | (#41643255)

So if we zoom in far enough into what atoms are made of we'll see another universe?

A bit like that old Guinness advert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6deYNEFi1lc [youtube.com]

Re:this universe is nothing but fractal (3, Funny)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 2 years ago | (#41643737)

No, we'll see turtles.

What would the difference be? (2)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 2 years ago | (#41643075)

What is the definition of reality? If you are simulated, you are still a "real" simulation.

There is no spoon...

Re:What would the difference be? (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41643571)

If you are simulated, you are still a "real" simulation.

No, the "reality" in which the simulation runs is itself simulated.

Silliness (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643083)

This is fairly silly. They're assuming that the energy of a particle is actually represented in space-time, when it could just as easily be represented in a non-dimensional coordinate space, using equal length linkages. Then finding the energy is simply a matter of counting the number of links, and the number of links increases with correspondingly shorter length scales. In other words, there would be no meaningful limit to the resolution, and the particles could be represented in an effectively infinite resolution framework WHILE using a finite amount of data to describe it. Note: We should recall that the resolution of a detector is limited by it's own structure. Attempting to find the "pixelation point" of a structure in a linkage space requires the detector to approach the same length scale. That is obviously not possible when probing length scales below the typical subatomic level.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-10-real-physicists-method-universe-simulation.html#jCp

Re:Silliness (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643101)

This is fairly silly. They're assuming that the energy of a particle is actually represented in space-time, when it could just as easily be represented in a non-dimensional coordinate space, using equal length linkages. Then finding the energy is simply a matter of counting the number of links, and the number of links increases with correspondingly shorter length scales. In other words, there would be no meaningful limit to the resolution, and the particles could be represented in an effectively infinite resolution framework WHILE using a finite amount of data to describe it. Note: We should recall that the resolution of a detector is limited by it's own structure. Attempting to find the "pixelation point" of a structure in a linkage space requires the detector to approach the same length scale. That is obviously not possible when probing length scales below the typical subatomic level.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-10-real-physicists-method-universe-simulation.html#jCp

IMO the universe follows dodecahedron symmetry at the largest deterministic scale (i.e. the largest scale, which still exhibits some regularity), because such a geometry follows from the geometry of most compact particle packing - so it's the subtlest geometry, which someone may experience in otherwise random particle field. Such an explanation is solely geometrical one and it doesn't imply, that the hexagonal lattice must be used for the simulation of the Universe. The scientists don't recognize the miracles, only unexplained-yet phenomena. We shouldn't expect, the science will ever collaborate with believers in the proof of the existence of God - just because of the whole definition of scientific method. The subject of science is not proof of God - but exactly the opposite : the finding of the natural and logical explanation of every unexplained yet observable reality.

Re:Silliness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643329)

The subject of science is not proof of God - but exactly the opposite : the finding of the natural and logical explanation of every unexplained yet observable reality.

But if God is there, then science will eventually prove that too. Science isn't picky that way.

It's way simple (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41643095)

Just wait for some dude to offer you a red pill and a blue pill, and swallow the red pill. If you just get diarrhea, the universe is real. Simple!

Politically incorrect anthropocentrism detected! (1)

snikulin (889460) | about 2 years ago | (#41643217)

It's assuming we do matter.
But what if the whole purpose of the simulation was to learn more about reproductive cycle of some rare moth?
Or worse, it's a novelty toy in Junior's room (err, Universe).
Even more worse: a cheaply made crib mobile for a newborn baby deity.
Important point: when my kids have grown up enough to reach such a mobile, it lasted mere hours.

Re:Politically incorrect anthropocentrism detected (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 2 years ago | (#41643317)

"Important point: when my kids have grown up enough to reach such a mobile, it lasted mere hours."

Thanks, that's what we needed to know. <CLICK>

More seriously, Arthur C. Clark explored this idea in "The Nine Billion Names of God" in the 1950s.

Re:It's way simple (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41643603)

No, I'm waiting to meet the contact person. Assuming our simulation is not advanced beyond that yet (because, after all, we haven't yet created our own Simulacron). And in the mean time, I watch out for people mysteriously disappearing.

In other news (5, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41643113)

Recently, a group of physicists have devised a way that could conceivably figure out one way or the other whether that is the case.

In other news, the group of higher-dimensional physicists who are running this universe a simulation figured out a way to falsify the results of the test.

Re:In other news (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41643117)

As a simulation. Damn you Slashdot!

Re:In other news (2)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about 2 years ago | (#41643195)

.... Wouldnt interfering with the simulation kinda make the whole point of running a simulation moot? For all we know they might not even be aware of emergent intelligence in their simulation and watching for all together different things.

Re:In other news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643449)

Any simulation of this scale would have had an enormous amount of thought put into it. There is no reason to think that the diffeq solver could not adaptively change its simulation step size so as to get valid results for arbitrary energy (at the expense of simulation time, of course). Considering how small a fraction of the universe we are, the computer power required to "get the physics exactly right"" for our puny little experimental volumes is laughably irrelevant (I originally said "tiny" but this was gross overstatement). There is no reason to think that we could infer this about our universe.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643647)

.... Wouldnt interfering with the simulation kinda make the whole point of running a simulation moot?

For all we know they might not even be aware of emergent intelligence in their simulation and watching for all together different things.

Think state saves in emulators. As well as really good logging and backups. If a problem is detected, go back in the logs until you find a safe place to correct the issue, restart from there with the fix in place, and hey presto, the universe in the state save doesn't know any different. Simulation's integrity remains.

Unless that's NOT the case, in which case the middle managers would demand the universe be ended and restarted to get a good result. So, sleep well tonight!

Re:In other news (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#41643239)

In the words of the aliens from Contact, "It's the way we've been doing it for billions of years."

Hence they will have long since closed off detection of clever loopholes in previous myriad simulations.

Speed of light (5, Interesting)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41643119)

Wouldn't one of the interesting consequences of the Universe being a 'hologram mapped on a two-dimensional boundary region' be that we could then postulate the reason for the speed of light? Speed of light could be then some upper boundary on the most primitive matrix transformation, sort of like the maximum GHz that the Universe is running at (assuming that the matrix itself is a memory map and that there is a gigantic number of processors that can access and modify memory simultaneously), or maybe the speed of light is then a manner, in which race conditions and dead locks are prevented? Sort of like in a bad system, where you know an atomic transaction takes 1ms, so you force a wait condition on the memory it access for 2ms, so you know for sure that the transaction committed.

At the same time, if that is the case, then going above and beyond speed of light could cause transactional failure and that could mean some form of memory corruption and destruction of the matrix or space time distortion and destruction :) But then if we didn't care about transactionality we could somehow breach the speed of light, but only by going outside of the memory boundaries of the simulation, crossing into the instruction stack and overwriting that constant!

I just gave myself a mental highfive on the level of crazy.

Re:Speed of light (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643167)

Careful, you might crash the Universe. :)

Re:Speed of light (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643179)

That would explain why the speed of light seems to have gotten faster when compared to older texts. Hardware upgrades.

Re:Speed of light (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 2 years ago | (#41643485)

We are inside the simulation. The only way we could go outside the memory boundaries of the simulation is if there is a bug.

Re:Speed of light (3, Insightful)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41643519)

Not necessarily a bug, it could be just a way the memory is used, with data and instructions not being properly separated, then maybe you could access instructions by overwriting memory, and normal buffer overflow, but it doesn't have to be a bug, just lack of security features.

Re:Speed of light (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41643627)

A lack of security features is a bug.

Re:Speed of light (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41643661)

I just gave myself a mental highfive on the level of crazy.

If this is a simulation, then any break in the simulation would simply result in them restoring from an earlier backup. The universe could have been destroyed thousands of times over due to data corruption, but we'd never know it. There may be no way from within the system to tell this has happened. You're also forgetting error correction; Any civilization advanced enough to simulate something as complex as the Universe has probably figured out how to detect anomalies in the system and normalize them, possibly without requiring a system restart.

But space expands faster than lightspeed (1)

shoor (33382) | about 2 years ago | (#41643767)

I keep reading how space is (or will someday) be expanding faster than the speed of light, and the visible universe will shrink.

God and Science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643127)

The common factor between science and religion: faith.

Nobody knows whether the Big Bang was actually a real event, it is assumed (by some) as true. Why? Because of cause&effect. The Universe is seen as spreading, therefore, it is assumed that 13.7 billion years ago it originated as a singular point. Is this true? Nobody knows. You either believe it, or you don't. You have faith that the Big Bang occured, or not. The religious believe that at some point in time God created the world. Is this true? Nobody knows. Some believe it, some don't. Those that do have faith in God, those that do not don't.

The question has always been "If there is a God, who invented God?" Now it rounds up to "If this universe is only a simulation, where did the real universe come from?"

Re:God and Science (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643209)

We can observe the cosmic background radiation. We predicted it even before we detected it. Nice try, godboy, but there's no sky Santa no matter how hard you wish.

Re:God and Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643585)

"We"? You and your gay lover predicted it? No, it was Monsignor Georges Lemaître. And where did the big bang come from? You don't have an answer. Don't feel bad, steady state proponents liked their theory because they didn't have to worry about what created the Universe, it was just always there.

Re:God and Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643393)

The real question, as in where the rubber meets the road, is how does one experience God? What are the direct personal experiences of those people who have tried the hardest? I have yet to meet somebody that has taken up the injunction (in order to see this, you must do this) seriously (years, not weeks or months) and not experienced a profound shift.

Re:God and Science (2)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | about 2 years ago | (#41643493)

But science expresses that faith quite differently. It does it's best to disprove whatever it 'believes' in. The religious equivalent of climbing the tallest building in town and breaking every commandment you can think of during a thunderstorm.

Religion on the other hand does it's best to not questing things that it's based on, while demanding that everyone lives in accordance with it's rules.

Re:God and Science (1)

will_die (586523) | about 2 years ago | (#41643581)

That is total BS, if you attempt to go against what is considered the group think then you will very much be attacked, blacklisted, etc. If by some chance you do prove yourself as correct then you might get hailed as a hero but until then watch out.

Don't break the sim!! (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 2 years ago | (#41643139)

Usually the way to find a limit is to run into. When that happens in a simulation the simulation usually fails. Sometimes spectacularly.

Just in case it is a sim, do we really want to try and break it?
So the bigger problem is how to find the limits without breaking the process.

Re:Don't break the sim!! (1)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41643163)

Well well well, Cypher, we meet again. Still enjoying the stake in blissful ignorance, I see?

Re:Don't break the sim!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643173)

M a y b e i t w i l l j u s t s l o w d o w n ! ! !

Not a simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643177)

As all players know, it is a massively multiplayer RPG

Re:Not a simulation (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 2 years ago | (#41643213)

And is not a MMORPG an environmental simulation ?

Re:Not a simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643765)

I am Jack's gold-farming grind...

Simulation (1)

skywire (469351) | about 2 years ago | (#41643193)

The word 'simulation' suggests something not real -- a model of reality. But even if the physics of our universe were shown to be discrete at the lowest level, that would prove not that it is a simulation, but only that it might be a simulation. It could simply be reality, which is more likely.

Re:Simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643257)

which is more likely.

... less likely.

There are many, many ways the universe can be a simulation, but only one way it can be a non-simulation. Unless it is shown that a universe simulation cannot exist, it is more likely we are living in a simulation than not.

Re:Simulation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643461)

That is not the way probability works. Probability is not always equal to 1/x where x is the possible numbers of outcomes. There is no reason to assume that all the outcomes are equally likely and there is no reason to assume they are not. As there is almost no information, no probability can really be assigned, they are all just guesses.

For example, what is the probability of me picking a 9? Since there is almost no information about that, it is hard to say and any number will really just be a guess. what you are doing is saying, what is the probability of not rolling a 9 on a nonahedron and going "AHA 88.89." But there is no reason to assume the die is fair. It could be an irregular nonahedron, weighted, etc. Same with the probability of the universe being a simulation: no info, its just a guess.

Re:Simulation (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41643649)

Why can't there more than one way how it can be a non-simulation?

Genetic Algorithms (4, Informative)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 2 years ago | (#41643211)

One thing genetic algorithms, when applied to entities in simulations, always seem to find are the flaws in the simulation. Those flaws are exploited to increase their "fitness" measure. Example, if your fitness measure is how far the thing moves over a period of time but your simulation doesnt have absolutely perfect conservation of energy , the GA will always find a way to exploit that lack of perfect conservation of energy (by smashing into walls, etc..)

Re:Genetic Algorithms (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 2 years ago | (#41643459)

I don't know why 'they' don't use GA more to create incredibly hard materials or discover a super conductor. Yes, they'd have to formulate a system to tabulate the elements and the properties of how it's treated. But once the fitness function is sorted, and a degree of parallelism is in place (to test 100s or even 1000s of test material chunks at a time), we're onto a winner.

Maybe this is happening, but I've never heard of it.

Re:Genetic Algorithms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643535)

Ok, so we haven't found a flaw. All life is genetic algorithms...

Headline is a little misleading (5, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#41643221)

The test can (maybe) figure out of one of the consequences that would result from our universe being a simulation does, in fact, exist, provided, of course, our theories about how the universe and simulations work are actually accurate. Or in other words, it might show that it is possible that the universe is a simulation. Even if we show that the consequence exists (the consequence is that energy particles have a limit, the theory being that a simulation would have an upper limit on what it is able to simulate, kind of similar to how your computer has an upper limit on what it can fit into it's RAM), we still won't know that it is actually the result of the universe being a simulation, or some other unknown cause, and even if we don't find an upper limit, it could mean either our methods are too limited to find it or that the simulation isn't limited in the way that we think.

Really, while the research is itself fascinating, it isn't some kind of definitive test. Such tests are phenomenally rare in physics, perhaps even non-existent (it's always possible to create another theory that fits the observations).

As a side note, saying the universe isn't "real" is almost self-contradictory, as we define existence and reality precisely by our observations of the universe itself. A holographic universe would be no less real for being holographic, if only because we would literally have no other possible meaning for the word "real" (the simulation that occurs in The Matrix movie is of a completely different nature from the holographic principle). I'd also somewhat object to even using the word "simulation" in the first place, as that implies it is a simulation of something, when we really have absolutely no reason to suspect that is indeed the case (holographic universes can be modeled by simulation cases, hence the use of the term).

Disclaimer: IANAP yet, but I'm studying in the field.

Re:Headline is a little misleading (1)

youn (1516637) | about 2 years ago | (#41643465)

quick! somebody at HQ patch the universe DRM of the universe or the little tiny simulons on the terra grid might jailbreak the universe and run unauthorized code... that might affect the stability of the universe and they may created pirated planets... which would result in a loss for the RIAA (Galactic RIAA)

Re:Headline is a little misleading (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41643675)

Actually what I think the experiment would prove is a discrete space. Which is necessarily true in simulations (at least the type we can do in our computers), but has also be conjectured to be true for our universe independent of any simulation hypothesis.

That explains why... (5, Funny)

ixtapolapoquetl (622233) | about 2 years ago | (#41643235)

When I ran into a wall yesterday, I thought I briefly saw a black wall with yellow lines...

Wait, wouldn't that make every crime... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41643237)

...a cybercrime? It's almost as if the parliaments around the world already knew, what with the tightening cybercrime laws and stuff. Mmm, I smell conspiracy.

Re:Wait, wouldn't that make every crime... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643431)

Will we see a new patent hell of "obvious stuff" but done "in a simulation"?

Half a test. (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41643243)

"we assume that our universe is an early numerical simulation with unimproved Wilson fermion discretization and investigate potentially-observable consequences."

If I read that right, they mean that their analysis can only conclude either that the universe is a simulation, or that it is either not a simulation or a simulation too accurate to tell via their method. It can't actually prove that the universe is *not* a simulation.

Looks like no need for elaborate and expensive equipment though - just a way to measure the energy of cosmic rays - so why not give it a try?

Debugger time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643253)

I want just one all night hacking session and a quick recompile.

Economics not physics (2)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | about 2 years ago | (#41643261)

I always thought a good method of testing if we are a simulation is to attack its economics by slowing down the simulation to a crawl.

Math is universal regardless of your position in the simulation hierarchy. If we perform an experiment in our simulation that would require inordinate amounts of compute power on the simulator's part to maintain the simulation (say something like an NP problem that the simulator would need to solve), that would reduce the economic utility of the simulator to its operator. There are two possible outcomes to the experiment if we are indeed simulations: the simulator cuts corners on the solution and we learn we are in a simulator; or the simulation ends.

As to what puzzle we could pose the universe. I don't know, I'm not a physicist.

Quantum Mechanics cannot be simulated ... (4, Insightful)

quax (19371) | about 2 years ago | (#41643263)

... efficiently on a classic Turing machine. This has been established since Feynman originally proposed it [wavewatching.net] . So I simply don't understand the premise of this research. Not that this is hasn't come up before with SUSY string theorists [wavewatching.net] .

It simply flies into the face of what these days is known about computational complexity [stanford.edu] .

Apparently some physicists are completely ignoring this branch of theoretical computer science.

Now if the question was that the universe might be a quantum computing simulation that'll make more sense, as these can also efficiently simulate field theories [wavewatching.net] .

But my understanding is that this is not what they are investigating here.

Re:Quantum Mechanics cannot be simulated ... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41643741)

The simulation does not have to be efficient. The computer in the outer world which simulates our universe is much larger than our universe itself (or it could not simulate it). Maybe for that world it's a very small computer, and the whole universe is just a homework project, while serious researchers simulate far more complex universes on far larger computers.

Very, very bad idea (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#41643321)

Once we have knowledge that we are running inside a simulation the simulation will be spoiled, and thus those running it will terminate the simulation since it will have become aware of its true nature.

Re:Very, very bad idea (1)

PhB95 (442518) | about 2 years ago | (#41643531)

Surely they will hesitate to stop a simulation running since that long, even if àç_àçààààààà

Process 2544213588 (user God) successfully stopped

csh%

Re:Very, very bad idea (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41643621)

I agree. Either our creators.God does not exist and just assuming that they do not exist is the best option.
Or they do exists, and just assuming that they do not exist is the best option.

While it would be nice to have a proof that they do not exist, if we instead prove they they do exist it would be potentially catastrophic.

Re:Very, very bad idea (2)

Nationless (2123580) | about 2 years ago | (#41643735)

Unless that was the original intention? And then to study what happens after that. Maybe they're researching the effect of a simulation becoming aware of it's own simulation?

Maybe they'll change the rules when it happens? Maybe there will be no more hunger parameters, maybe there will be no more boobs. Who knows?

That's what science is for, asking questions: Even if they are incredibly far fetched and borderline scamming for funds.

Personally I can think of dozens of better fields to spend time and money on, but that's the beauty of the human mind. Some people will dig around in places you think are absurd and if they DO find something you might benefit from it.

Only works if the simulation is very primitive (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41643333)

Trying to search for overflows of values only works if the simulation in question uses a simple discrete representation of them. Overflow wouldn't really occur if the simulation uses normalized numbers like we do with floats.

yes it is a simulation, but we're running it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643355)

Humans cannot directly perceive reality.
Our sense organs encode data samples as neural pulse rates.
We construct a model of reality (our own personal simulation) using our encoded sense inputs and similarly encoded memories.
As within, so without.
In fact, all of mathematics, and therefore physics, are subsets of the types of equations our wet neural computers are capable of posing and solving.
A fruitful area of investigation, IMHO, would be to study the computational space of human neural networks.
That would define the outer boundaries of our ability to know.
The authors of this paper are half right - the universe IS a simulation, but each of us are running it!
zaza rulz
buddda_dust @ Yahoo . com

 

Greetings, Programs! (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 2 years ago | (#41643367)

Where's my lightcycle?

Watch out for 2 black cats: 'A déjà-vu i (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | about 2 years ago | (#41643371)

...in The Matrix: It happens when T.H.E.Y. change something.' ;-)

is a glitch... in this Slashdot: still can't count (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | about 2 years ago | (#41643457)

HTML entities, and hence cuts headlines short.

No. (1)

bytesex (112972) | about 2 years ago | (#41643377)

Because 'assuming that the universe is really a simulation' is being paranoid (and thoroughly so). And paranoia is a function of our biology. Something to do with predators, you should look it up.

There is no spoon? (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about 2 years ago | (#41643395)

So, to disprove the simulation theory, are they looking for the spoon?

"Grouping theory" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643411)

A little theory I had about simulated universes was "Grouping Theory." (not a theory, but I did come up with it as a kid when I never knew the difference between theory and conjecture, quiet pedant!)
The idea is pretty simple: intelligent nodes are grouped in close proximity to simplify calculations.
I've noticed it throughout my entire life that lots of things tends to happen at once as opposed to the opposite, discrete non-related events.

Even in the middle of the night, it is never ONE car on the road, it is always 2 or more of them. Or even a car and some person outside walking.
Perception of time when alone also seems to be much slower or much faster, never normal.
Only when around others does your perception seem to stick to a common time, regardless of your activity with respect to them or the world.

That "pull" that brings you somewhere, without knowing what it is.
That feeling when you know someone is watching you from behind and it actually ends up being true.
That chance of walking in to someone you were thinking of.
Millions of other similar things.
Some of these things are way too high to be put down to pure chance alone. (but still possible, even if extremely unlikely)

I wonder if something like this is just actually pure coincidence, or something that could be tested in some way.
An trillion number series of 1s can still be a random occurrence, even if it doesn't appear to be random. Not useful for most things we use random numbers for.
Of course, to test something like this, you would need 100% monitoring of a large chunk of people in an area. Yep, not happnin', privacy nuts would throw 10 kinds of fits at you.

I hope I don't get disappeared by the Operator.

A great idea would be... (1)

Vexler (127353) | about 2 years ago | (#41643419)

...to spin a top as our collective totem. If the top never stops, then it's a simulation/dream.

Does it matter if it is? (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#41643425)

What difference could it possibly make if the universe were a simulation? Would it even actually change anything?

Note to the physicists (2)

SuperMooCow (2739821) | about 2 years ago | (#41643435)

If you see a couple of white mice in your laboratory, do not step on them!

They are there to monitor their experiment!

Divide by Zero (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41643455)

... And see if it crashes.

The only cases I can imagine that would test this theory would involve trying to destroy the universe.

Had same insight back in the 1960's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643463)

"Some other physicists propose that the universe is actually a giant hologram with all the action actually occurring on a two-dimensional boundary region."

I had this same insight about 6 hours after ingesting a little round pill that someone called orange barrel. This news is really giving me a flashback!

And what if this test crashes the simulatiion (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41643495)

How can we know if this theoretical simulation is not just going to crash when we test its upper limits, or maybe the watchers will get upset and shut us down?

Simple Test (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643559)

I've already conducted my own test, which has determined this is not a simulation. You too can conduct the test... just say "Computer, end program."

I hope the physicists don't take ideas from movies (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#41643595)

I hope the physicists don't take ideas from movies

Is the Source Code a simulation or a parallel univ (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#41643615)

Is the Source Code (movie) a simulation or a parallel universe?

The Evolution of Ducks (-1, Offtopic)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#41643617)

Homosexuality, including same-sex marriage, is not an enlightened idea. The Romans practised homosexuality. Surely, after 2000 years, our level of intelligence should have evolved somewhat, so that we can truly pride ourselves of being cleverer than our forebears

If homosexuality spreads, it can cause human evolution to come to a standstill. It could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder, and say, ducks, could take over the world. Ducks always nest in pairs and if we allow same-sex marriage, then ducks will have evolved further than we have. We will be in danger of all being equal, with ducks more equal than us.

We should learn from history and not be stuck with copying ancient behaviour. The government has no right to bring us back to the stone age. I don't want my children to have to compete with ducks. I wan them to evolve further than I have. Any self-respecting human would aim for that too.

None of this really bears any weight for me, because I do not believe in evolution. However the powers that be believe in evolution, and have made many decisions based on it. They should be consistent: If you believe in evolution, you can't be in favour of homosexuality, or the ducks will get you in the end.

Re:The Evolution of Ducks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643757)

If you believe in evolution, you can't be in favour of homosexuality, or the ducks will get you in the end.

Even assuming that this makes any sense, I'll just point out that the 2003 Ig Nobel prize in biology went to "C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck". I think you're pretty safe from the ducks.

NO i don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41643769)

Why would i think its a simulation , for if its a proper one , then you should not ever know....and if they come to some wanky conclusion it is , then i'm gonna go turn off the switch.

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