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Scientist Suggests We Explore 'Universe is a VR Simulation' Theory

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-would-we-do-if-he's-right dept.

Sci-Fi 1144

holy_calamity writes "A New Zealand physicist has written a paper saying that physicists should seriously explore the possibility the universe is a giant virtual reality simulation. He says that the existence of quantum phenomena could be due to the underlying digital nature of the simulation and also claims his VR hypothesis can explain relativity, the big bang and more. It should be possible to perform experiments to prove the hypothesis too. He reasons that if reality was to do something that information processing cannot, then it cannot be virtual."

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1637 called, they want their idea back. (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911216)

In a word: Crap.

Philosophers have been pondering this nonsense for centuries, and have gotten nowhere...It's an argumentative blackhole, a solipsim. It's not testable...his "testable" experiments are like the sort of thing you see an idiot do to try and demonstrate that they have free will (e.g. "See? I just punched myself in the face, no way would anyone make me do that, so I must have free will!") If our reality is virtual, then all data is suspect, and it would be impossible to trust any sort of experimental data. Even if you come up with a clever test that would pierce the illusion, one would have to assume whoever maintains the illusion would simply fix it so that didn't work a second time. Nothing would be repeatable.

It's just not a useful avenue for speculation. This guy brings nothing new to the table except the kinda crap the ID people bring..."Hey, if the universe was a simulation, it would explain why everything tastes like chicken!" Just because there is no currently workable theory for some occurrence, there is no reason to invent a wild explanation that just makes it go away.

Without some compelling proof (which he lacks) this is nothing more than a conversational topic over a bag of weed.

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (2, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911246)

Yeah, you could explain *anything* by saying "it's this way because it's programmed to be this way". It's the same convenience of saying there is a God (sure I believe in God myself so I'm not slagging beliefs, but this guy is just saying in a different way that he thinks that some superior beings made the universe).

Re: it's programmed to be this way (5, Insightful)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911496)

Actually, I don't think that's a valid point.

Just because you believe some programmer in a 'higher' level of reality created this one, doesn't mean you don't believe he did it with rules that we see as the Laws of Nature. You can still investigate those Laws and try to figure them out.

This is different from the ID crowd, who apparently feel that 'God did it' means you actively refuse to even think about the rules.

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (4, Informative)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911666)

A notable difference being that this scientist [massey.ac.nz] is proposing means by which one could potentially distinguish between a "simulation reality" and a "real reality". That is, he is presenting a theory that makes falsifiable predictions. In his abstract [arxiv.org] he puts it as:

It is suggested that whether the world is an objective reality or a virtual reality is a matter for science to resolve.
He also readily admits that the idea is "strange" but says that it is still worthy of investigation:

This article argues that the idea that our physical world is a virtual reality, which is normally a topic of science fiction, religion or philosophy, should be considered as a possible theory of physics. Whether this is true or not, the reader is asked to keep an open mind, as one has to at least consider a theory to reject it. ... The paper asks if a world that behaves just like the world we live in could arise from a VR simulation, and whether physical data from this world supports (or denies) this possibility. The first considers if VR theory is logically possible, and the second if it explains known facts better than other theories.
Now having said all that, I'm not convinced that his idea is really sound. Fundamentally he is arguing that if our reality is the result of information processing, then there will be effects that cannot be computed/simulated within our reality. He says:

a VR processor cannot logically exist within the virtual reality its processing creates. It is logically impossible for a processor to create itself because the virtual world creation could not start if a processor did not initially exist outside it.
I'm not sure I understand or agree with this. The reality we see appears to arise because of the 'laws of physics' acting on certain 'initial conditions.' Simulating the entire universe would require precise knowledge of those initial conditions (location of every particle at the big bang) but it is possible (but as yet unproven) that the laws of physics are quite simple and computable and could be simulated by a (quantum) computer within our universe. I think this would hold whether reality is real or virtual (you can simulate a universe inside reality; and a computer can simulate itself).

A much more lucid and convincing discussion of these ideas is presented by Max Tegmark in his paper "The Mathematical Universe" (preprint available here [arxiv.org]). In it, he discusses this idea of whether we could detect being inside a virtual reality and provides arguments for why there may be no meaningful difference between a "simulation of reality" and "reality itself". His overall argument, that the universe may be fundamentally mathematical, is quite interesting, and again he provides some means by which we could determine to what extent his arguments actually apply to our universe. Worth a read.

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (4, Interesting)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911320)

So how would we be able to tell if our universe was a simulation? Whitworth says that if reality was to do something that information processing cannot, then it cannot be virtual. But he falls short of suggesting what this might be.

This is the failure of reconciling the metaphysical with the physical. I agree with you completely. There is no way for us to remove ourselves from the universe at large to observe it. Whitworth is not a scientist when he speaks of this. He is a philosopher exploring metaphysics and ontology.

I can come up with a number of theories about reality myself, and without being able to experiment on them they are just as valid. Therefore I propose that the universe we experience is really just the eye of an aether system. Once you get beyond the aether, it really is turtles all the way down. That's just as valid, without relevant experimentation, as the universe being a vr sim. Metaphysics is cool and all, but just don't call it science or its practitioners scientists.

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (5, Insightful)

Raindance (680694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911336)

I completely disagree. The calculus on the simulation argument is surprisingly solid when you think about it (Bostrom, for instance, has some pretty good arguments for it). You say, "It's just not a useful avenue for speculation. This guy brings nothing new to the table except the kinda crap the ID people bring." Did you read the paper? This guy Whitworth says some interesting stuff... personally I think the most interesting part of his paper is near the end, where he compares "Virtual Property" with "Physical Outcome".

Diversity of effort in science is good. This guy has a diverse approach to trying to understand the universe. He also says some interesting things and is looking for predictive qualities in his theory. That's good.

The problem is that we know nearly nothing about what simulations "have to be" or "cannot be" in the case of a system advanced enough to simulate our universe. So he might have a long road ahead of him. But it's an approach worth pursuing, if damn difficult to do so.

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911368)

> Philosophers have been pondering this nonsense for centuries, and have gotten nowhere...

Maybe you're listening to the wrong Philosophers...

not quite a paradox but.. (3, Informative)

jessiej (1019654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911400)

If "the universe is a giant virtual reality simulation", then this virtual reality must have been created somewhere, let's call it "the real universe".. but wait, what if that real universe is just a virtual reality simulation.. and on and on and on..

just an old idea with a simple scifi twist

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (2, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911514)

It's just not a useful avenue for speculation. This guy brings nothing new to the table except the kinda crap the ID people bring..."Hey, if the universe was a simulation, it would explain why everything tastes like chicken!" Just because there is no currently workable theory for some occurrence, there is no reason to invent a wild explanation that just makes it go away.

I would not be surprised at all to learn that reality is a simulation. Many of my brethren seem to be bots, executing fairly simple scripts and never really introspecting.

They were probably put here, by me or whoever, to make the game more interesting. (We'd have to temporarily forget that it was a game in order to keep it fun.) Indeed, any sufficiently advanced intelligence is going to achieve such a level of safety, comfort, and (eventually) immortality, that they will then need to invest a simulated world in which they can once again experience peril, uncertainty, risk, and death.

I disagree (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911520)

I believe it is testable. All computers ultimately reduce to the Turing Machine. This includes neural networks and at least some classes of quantum computer. (Heresy, I know. Terrible. Now go find a medium-rare steak to burn me on.) However, not all problems reduce to computable problems. If there is a non-computable system that exists in the real world, then it cannot be the product of a simulation, no matter how advanced the computer is.

Do such problems exist? Well, chaos theory is full of them. You cannot have a system that is truly chaotic and computable at the same time - the two are mutually exclusive. Both are deterministic, but only one is predictable.

Re:I disagree (1)

VE3MTM (635378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911628)

How do you know this simulator would be a Turing machine? Our computers can be reduced to this model, but they're also presumably within some greater computer.

Thus the pointlessness of this whole debate.

Re:I disagree (0, Troll)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911698)

All deterministic systems are completely computable. All chaotic systems are deterministic. That's what I think right now. Is there an example of a deterministic/chaotic system which is not computable that would cause me to change my mind?

Re:I disagree (5, Insightful)

roggg (1184871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911702)

I believe it is testable. All computers ultimately reduce to the Turing Machine. This includes neural networks and at least some classes of quantum computer. (Heresy, I know. Terrible. Now go find a medium-rare steak to burn me on.) However, not all problems reduce to computable problems. If there is a non-computable system that exists in the real world, then it cannot be the product of a simulation, no matter how advanced the computer is.
The problem with this is that computers, computability, Turing, and the entire field of theoretical computer science are fabrications made possible by the rules of the simulation we are running inside of. No correspondence to uber-reality is assumed or implied. You cant prove anything from inside the box.

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911574)

DeCarte answered this already and it goes way beyond 'I think therefore I am', but most people don't actually read his work, just quote that one phrase and think it's the end. Same mistake people make of Kant, forgetting about the entire maxums.

Just your friendly AC expecting to be found at the bottom of the pile...

oblig alpha centauri (2, Funny)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911614)

We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?

Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7
Activity Recorded M.Y. 2302.22467
TERMINATION OF SPECIMEN ADVISED

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (2, Interesting)

Ours (596171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911650)

I'd go beyond saying that thing wouldn't be repeatable. If you discover a bug in the "simulation", then why not fix it and then "rewind" back to the time just before this guy found the bug. That way in our time-line we never saw the bug. In that same mater, if this was a simulation, retroactively delete this guy before he was conceived,and all of the sudden he never existed or wrote any theories. The only way a simulation scenario would be found is if the simulation allowed for it (simulation QA, ancestor philosophical/psychological research, The Sims 40'000).

Re:1637 called, they want their idea back. (3, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911692)

Even if you come up with a clever test that would pierce the illusion, one would have to assume whoever maintains the illusion would simply fix it so that didn't work a second time.

Not necessarily. As a developer, when you run a bunch of testcases, if you find a bug, you don't halt everything in the debugger and fix the bug immediately, you just wait until it's all over, fix the bug, and re-start the test run. If this guy's theory is correct, then I would assume that any such flaws would persist until the end of our universe and then get fixed for the next one.

Personally, when I first read about the double-slit experiment, it reminded me of short-circuiting in if statements, so I can see the appeal of this line of thought. But I think it's silly to purposefully investigate it rather than simply wait and see what we can deduct from the ToE, if and when we figure it out.

Just because there is no currently workable theory for some occurrence, there is no reason to invent a wild explanation that just makes it go away.

Without some compelling proof (which he lacks) this is nothing more than a conversational topic over a bag of weed.

Er, that's exactly how science is supposed to work. You don't have a theory for some occurrence, so you invent an explanation, you don't have proof, so you perform experiments to get evidence.

One thing I never understood about the Matrix (1)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911220)

If you're going to trap people in a VR sim, why would you put them in a virtual world that has a sufficiently advanced level of technology to understand what VR is?

Re:One thing I never understood about the Matrix (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911376)

Just because we know what it is that doesn't mean we could recognize it from the inside. Our current VR tech sucks. Anyways, maybe the simulation is reset every 6000+ years.

Re:One thing I never understood about the Matrix (1, Redundant)

lekikui (1000144) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911382)

Potential answer: It's a consequence of any sufficiently advanced virtual reality.

That is, any virtual reality system that simulates a reality in sufficient detail will necessarily have the potential of giving rise to this level of technology.

Anyway, I don't think the whole thing is particularly scientific, but it's interesting to speculate about.

Before we explore this theory... (5, Funny)

carpe_noctem (457178) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911222)

Before I can explore this theory, I need to re-pack the bong...

*cough*

Ok, ready!

Re:Before we explore this theory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911570)

Indeed. This is a theory most of us have probably thought of in some way or another, and inevitably, you always reach the same conclusions: If this is a VR simulation, or in some other way not the "real world", how can you prove it? All you know is the simulation, and if its truly a simulation, then we are based upon its core rules along with every other particle, so again, how can you define what how things should act? And, no matter what, the biggest conclusion one can reach: So what if this is not the "real world"? Does it really make living any less real to us? The answer is always no (unless your are a crackpot). In this end, if our world is fake, it does not matter, because its real to us, and so, this theory is totally worthless. Unless you want to rearrange the galactic clusters to spell "Please don't turn off this simulation", how is this theory in any way important?

A question... (5, Funny)

Mr. Bad Example (31092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911226)

Do they give out Nobel prizes in the "Dude, I Am So Fucking High Right Now" category?

Yes, and this guy won! (4, Interesting)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911508)

The thing about all this is (preps Karma Shield) Who cares?

Ahhh good shield...
Uh oh detecting anomolies... Captain we need to reroute power from the phasers & the warp drives to the shield deflectors.
Make it so.
Ahhh it worked. Good job!

K now that my Karma is safe... Please understand what I mean.

Philosophical, unprovable arguements are by nature not worth more than discussion, and can not by nature lead to any outcome other than heated debate, War, or in this guys situation, a bad case of the munchies. I totally agree that this is like a conversation over a bowl of weed after watching the Matrix.

Personally, I believe in God because of certain situations in my life where I should have died or been seriously injured but was preppared by a "voice." But if god is just a program to inject thoughts in my head that save my life, then my belief in God is still valid, because from my perspective that program IS GOD.

Secondly if this is a VR sim, than there must be some Reality sufficiently advanced to where we could get replicated in RL from our VR selves after we proved our worth here! (another reason to be good!)

Re:A question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911612)

it would be in ig nobel [improb.com] category

Re:A question... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911724)

Do they give out Nobel prizes in the "Dude, I Am So Fucking High Right Now" category?
It would seem so [nobelprize.org]

Vacation (4, Funny)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911228)

I propose that we, the /. community, establish a vacation fund for New Zealand physicists.

It is a simulation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911322)

This whole line of study should be stopped now!!!! Don't you know that once the creators of the reality determine we are self aware they will flip the sw....

DOH! Bart!

C'Mon Homer, I was just playin'!

bad idea (5, Funny)

syrinx (106469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911238)

Seems to me that if the universe is a simulation, then the obvious ending condition would be "when the residents figure out they're in a simulation". The creator of the simulation could be stretching his noodly appendages out towards the 'killall -9 universe' keys right now, now that this guy has gone and blabbed about it to everyone.

Re:bad idea (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911310)

Not, necessarily -- don't some people today "realize" (believe strongly enough) they are in a simulation?

He is proposing something similar to what I proposed in this post [slashdot.org], but I suggested testing it, not by finding some natural process inherently incomputable, but by "overloading the system" by increasing our observations to the point that it cannot keep up with the computations necessary, and has to take a "short cut" that violates known laws of physics. Though in fairness, instead of taking shortcuts, it could just end the simulation.

We would probably want to find some natural process we can predict with extreme accuracy, but only through extensive calculations. Then, run trillions of them, but only predict-and-then-check-on a few.

Re:bad idea (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911370)

If the simulation ran at half the speed, would we notice? Probably not. So all we'd do is slow down the simulation, but then never notice the slow down.

Re:bad idea (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911532)

True. It depends on the creators' tolerance for slower results. If they have avatars, they probably wouldn't like it.

Re:bad idea (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911622)

Impossible. Quantum mechanics already make that short cut by doing laze programming. They only resolve states that are observed.

Re:bad idea (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911352)

NAGIX: That should get the relay working again. All right, Earthlings, if you'll step over this way we'll erase your memories and get you back to Earth. Oh, excuse me. This is Nagix. Uh huh. Oh no. Oh no, really? And it's, it's for sure? All right, I'll break the news to everyone. No, no I, I understand. Thanks. Well, you kids can go back to Earth if you want, but I'm afraid it won't be there for long. The show's been cancelled.

KYLE: What?? Who cancelled us?

NAGIX: The universal network heads. They say the Earthlings have become aware of the show, so it won't be funny anymore.

STAN: Oh shit, did we do that?
ahh southpark.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911378)


The creator of the simulation could be stretching his noodly appendages out towards the 'killall -9 universe' keys right now, now that this guy has gone and blabbed about it to everyone.


Nah. More like: 'init 6' "OK. that universe is a do-over"

Re:bad idea (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911658)

'Seems to me that if the universe is a simulation, then the obvious ending condition would be "when the residents figure out they're in a simulation".'

In Iain M. Banks The Algebraist some factions of the main accepted religion came to the same conclusion. The question then came to what percentage of the residents would have to figure it out? Was it enough that there was one single doubter to prevent the simulation from ending?

As you can see, that argument is a very fertile ground for engaging in excessive religious zealotry.

there is a scientific explanation for this (3, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911242)

it's called paranoid schizophrenia

Re:there is a scientific explanation for this (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911342)

Is that your opinion as a psychologist, or an idiot?

that's my opinion as an awesome hilarious dude (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911638)

and if you think that depiction of myself requires as much venom as your response to my previous dumb joke, you should try to understand that bizarre alien concept some of us know as "humor"

Hrm (1, Interesting)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911264)

This wanders into dangerous territory for science that gives our critics in the religious community stronger footing with which to criticize science I believe. Aren't the phenomena we observe in the universe around us supposed to be able to build solutions and models of understanding from the ground up instead of from the top down as proposed ideas such as this one attempt to convey? Also this seems like it may be an A is B but B is not A fallacy, potentially. But I suppose in a quantum universe this explanation may really be just as viable as any other.

Re:Hrm (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911324)

One of the strengths of science is that there are always people asking weird questions.

Granted, this one is a bit over the edge, but if you force people to bend to the orthodoxy in all things, then your science has become a religion. Either the current theory can withstand a dissenting voice, or the current theory sucks, and needs to be replaced.

Matrix (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911274)

If that study is right that means they will soon reboot the matrix and we will all restart from scratch again.
Great, when I was just about to buy my house ...

On another topic, is that another trick from the Intelligent Design crowd ?

Re:Matrix (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911474)

Well, if they are about to hit reset, I say buy that house. And that $YOUR_FAVORITE_SPORTS_CAR_OR_HYBRID. And a supercomputer. Maybe integrate that supercomputer with the car, if you have time.

Places to look for evidence (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911294)

The possibility is there. To me, the logical places to look are in the very small and the very large, coincidentally the two areas where our current understanding of science breaks down. I'm not advocating simulation theory, but I'm saying that our best bet is probably to continue investigating the areas we're already investigating. If there are inconsistencies, we'll find them eventually. The LHC seems like a good tool to start probing the basic fabric of reality.

Thats easy! (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911304)

So how would we be able to tell if our universe was a simulation? Whitworth says that if reality was to do something that information processing cannot, then it cannot be virtual. But he falls short of suggesting what this might be.

The thing it could be is Duke Nuke'm Forever getting released.

So, God is a geek. (1)

Thomasje (709120) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911308)

This is just another spin on Creationism. God built a computer and we're in it.
Yawn! Nothing to see here, move along.

Re:So, God is a geek. (2, Funny)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911462)

But if God is not a supernatural being, but merely a 5-dimensional mortal adolescent with a penchant for programming 4d universes in his spare time, is it still a religion?

Re:So, God is a geek. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911596)

Oh Lord Cody, who doth live in his parents 5 dimensional basement, bless us with thine all night coding to improve the system. Drinketh this day thy daily bawls, and forgive us our accesses, as we forgive those who access against us.

Re:So, God is a geek. (1)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911726)

Yes it is, and a religion that suddenly makes a lot more sense than the current ones, too.

Not creationism (1)

Tony (765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911672)

This is just another spin on Creationism.

Unlike Creationism, there is both a rational explanation (an hypothesis) and a test to disprove the hypothesis.

The hypothesis goes like this: if intelligent life were to evolve in a universe, and it were to survive for any significant length of time (say, millions of years of civilization), then it will eventually create a simulation of the universe itself. This makes it entirely possible that we exist in the simulation, rather than being in the "physical" universe.

Unfortunately, there is a similar hypothesis that suggests the universe itself is real, but is nothing more than a giant quantum computer. (It is possible to calculate the entire processing power of the universe [edge.org], to within an order or two of magnitude.) This suggests the universe is incapable of doing something impossible using information theory. This is the viewpoint held by very brilliant men like Ray Kurzweil and Seth Lloyd.

There is, as far as I can tell, no fundamental way to distinguish between these two possibilities. Me, I lean more towards the "computational universe" concept, rather than the simulation. The simulation would necessarily be slower than the universe itself (as the universe has only a limited amount of computational capacity), and so any significant simulation would by necessity be slower than the universe, probably by trillions of times. This makes it unlikely to be useful.

(Actually, I can see a case in which the universe is simulated in very broad terms unless there are observational entities nearby. This would rather fit with quantum mechanics. So, perhaps it wouldn't necessarily be significantly slower than the universe itself.)

Intelligent design version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911326)

Creationist suggests our God was created by a second God.

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (3, Insightful)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911328)


We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?

- Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7 (Subject termination advised)

Re:Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (2, Interesting)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911710)

Man's unfailing capacity to believe what he prefers to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible has always astounded me. We long for a caring Universe which will save us from our childish mistakes, and in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary we will pin all our hopes on the slimmest of doubts. God has not been proven not to exist, therefore he must exist.

Academician Prokhor Zakharov
"For I Have Tasted The Fruit"

Proving that... (3, Insightful)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911354)

is like trying to prove that there is no gravity, everything just continually expands at the same rate until they collide. You can't provide outside neutral observation, anything you try to observe it with will be part of the experiment. This isn't Physics it's philosophy. Sorry sir, but your cat is dead.

Re:Proving that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911624)

Not possible:gravity on the surface wouldn't depend on the mass
but on the radius of the object. Worse the law of gravitation would be in
r not in 1/r^2.

It's a VR Simulation Test (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911380)

The VR Simulation is a giant test and we are all the test takers. Now we have incontravertable evidence of Prior Art to get the Test.com patent thrown out!

the Off switch (2, Funny)

WibbleOnMars (1129233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911390)

To extend the hypothesis:

The entity[ies] running the simulation created it to find out whether their creations could work out that they're in a simulation. As soon as we come up with a definite proof, they will have achieved the goals of the simulation, and will shut it down.

Possibly.

Or they might just replace it with something even more baffling.

Re:the Off switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911620)

Or they might just replace it with something even more baffling.
Some speculate that this may have already happened.

It will never work.. (2, Funny)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911410)

Why?
Space is big, you may think it is a log way to the Chemists but that is just peanuts compared to space.
And just how we simulate the computer running the simulation of the universe in the simulated universe?
The price of RAM will go through the roof.

OH NOZ! (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911430)

Wasn't this a twilight zone episode? I liked that one. Anyway, how the hell can they speculate on what would happen if everything was a simulation if they have no idea what kind of system is running it. If some intelligent beings somewhere made a simulation that was the entire solar system at the very least, they'd probably make it good enough to make NOTHING happen when quantum events happen. Instead of photons traveling backwards at faster than the speed of light like a funhouse mirror (as seen on Slashdot!) they'd just have nothing happen. Seems a heck of a lot simpler to me. The whole measuring an event causes it to happen thing sounds like a good way to save on CPU resources in the VR computer though lol.

The proposal is flawed. (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911436)

It assumes that the Virtual Reality simulation is buggy.

Re:The proposal is flawed. (1)

spike1 (675478) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911602)

And if the simulation really IS buggy...
The last thing people should be doing is trying to poke holes in it.
Sorry... But...

I don't want to end my life as a hexadeximal digit in a core dump or kernel panic.
(originally said blue screen of death, but, windows? running the UNIVERSE? We wouldn't've lasted to the formation of the first proton)

But if we live inside the simulation... (1)

giminy (94188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911454)

...if we live in the simulation, I doubt we'd be able to find out. We'd have to find the simulation's Godel statement...inside the simulation...and that would be impossible.

That is all.
Reid

Occam's Razor (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911456)

Occam's Razor already negates the need for testing if the universe is real or not: Because there is no proof to the contrary, and assuming that the universe is real has all of the same assumptions and results as assuming it is not, and has no change on the math involved, the universe must be real, because they are equally capable of explaining what goes on in the universe, and one requires fewer assumptions.

As a side note: HEY PHYSICISTS! YOUR JOB IS TO BUILD MODELS THAT ACCURATELY REPRODUCE THE RESULTS REALITY DOES. NOT TO DEBATE WHY THE MODELS WORK!

Or to rephrase that. Science is about the how, not the why. If you want to learn about the why that's what religion and philosophy is for. Science is concerned with things that can be quantified, and modeled, and it is the process of testing models of how the universe works against how it actually works. So all of this quantum stuff... Light behaves this way, it does not mean light IS this way, just that the math saying it behaves that way is currently the most accurate in terms of results.

Further, if the universe was a simulation there would be no random numbers, only pseudo-random numbers. Quantum physicists have to work with statistics and effectively random numbers: that is to say, with our current view of the universe, we can know every detail of every thing in the while universe, and still not be able to predict the future, or extrapolate the past with a high degree of accuracy. Old style physics allow the universe to be a simulation because all processes are reversible, and can be tracked back, but it requires a 'prime mover'. Current physics everything moves. there is no need for a prime mover, because movement occurs randomly.

'course I'm just an undergrad...

The Matrioshka Paradox (1)

johnthorensen (539527) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911480)

The problem with this theory is that it doesn't really solve any of the 'big questions'. You immediately run into what I call 'The Matrioshka Paradox'. It's like this - let's say that we choose to explain the universe as we know as VR (leave off the 'simulation', it's redundant). Then, it must by definition exist inside another universe. If we choose VR as our explanation for 'something inside of seemingly nothing' (a Universe), then this argument would apply equally to the parent universe. Recursion abounds. This paradox gets in the way of pretty much every line of human thought that attempts to explain existence. njo77918011btqrahgnu

mathimatical basis for this... (5, Insightful)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911510)

This idea is not new...mathematicians have been exploring this for years now, and the "theory" is based on these three ideas and how "true" they may be;

1. the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a posthuman stage.
2. any post-human civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof).
3. we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become post-humans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.


It all breaks down to probability...if any "post-human" species with enough computer power to model our universe down to the quantum level decides to run Sim-like models, there would almost assuredly be many many simulations run. Now, it might require a computer the size of a small planet to run the estimated 10^42 ops/second that modeling our universe may require, but it is not totally unbelievable that 200-500 years from now we, as a species, will harness this type of computer power.

The real problem is...who cares? Even if it were possible to discover this "truth" what difference would it make in our lives?

Re:mathimatical basis for this... (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911722)

It is impossible to run a full simulation of the universe you are in, since it would automatically multiply the complexity of the universe infinitely (a simulation inside a simulation, etc).

Basically yo simulate the entire universe you need a computer the size of the entire universe (assuming the universe is a computer).

Good for him (2, Insightful)

roggg (1184871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911512)

I don't know why people are hating on him. I think it's great that an IT guy has found an outlet for his creative side. Not sure when NS started publishing sci-fi, but it sounds interesting nonetheless.

It can be virtual even then (1)

SashaM (520334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911534)

He reasons that if reality was to do something that information processing cannot, then it cannot be virtual.

All it would mean is that the outside ("real") reality has processing capabilities qualitatively different (and superiour to) from the ones our reality, and are thus able to simulate it.

Is is the silly season? (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911538)

Page 14 of the paper lists a bunch of features of the universe and the corresponding reason why they follow from the universe as VR hypothesis. It's pretty clear that given *any* state of affairs in a hypothetical universe he could come up with a story about how it follows from a simulation. "There is a universal speed limit c", that must be because there's a limit on processing speed. "Some effects seem to go faster than c", that must be because a computer could have random access to any part of the simulation. After Empedocles,it was a common notion that the universe was made of 4 elements. He'd fit that into his model by explaining that there are precisely two bits to represent the content of each point of space. Unless this guy comes up with constraints on the possible laws of physics that we can test, this paper is no better than a conversation between two very stoned hippies. "Hey man, I have this really far out idea...".

Not to turn this into a religious debate, but... (5, Insightful)

VE3MTM (635378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911560)

You can't disprove this theory for the same reasons you can't "prove" that God doesn't exist with ontological arguments. There's no way to prove that we're not living in a simulation, because for every test you come up with, some weeny can say, "well, of course you get that result, it's part of the simulation!"

It's bad science. Hell, it's not science.

Worth the trouble? (1)

Lord Ikon (1131411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911568)

If someone or something has the knowledge and ability to create our entire universe inside of a computer simulation, wouldn't it be just as easy for them to just create the universe as it is (not in a simulation) and save themselves a step?

low reading comprehension please help (1)

xmousex (661995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911578)

"Gravity slows time: An atomic clock on a tall building "ticks" faster than one on the ground."

"...in 1962 one of two synchronized atomic clocks was flown in an airplane for several days while the other stayed stationary on the ground. The result was, as Einstein predicted, less time passed for the clock on the plane."

These two statements contradict each other, or I don't know how to read, which is it? Also, is there some way I can get more work done by moving my office to a tall tower, or to an underground lair? Thank you.

Re:low reading comprehension please help (1)

Lord Ikon (1131411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911716)

The two statements do not contradict, if you're on an airplane then you're moving faster than if you were on the ground.

If you're in a tall building, then you're moving faster than if you were on the ground, because you're further from the center of the Earth.

In both listed scenarios you're moving faster than if you were on the ground, and hence both will result in your clocks going faster if you're on the ground.

I don't see what this has to do with gravity however. I thought the difference in time was based solely on your reletive speeds.

What exactly would point to a VR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911594)

the world is an information simulation running on a three-dimensional space-time screen

How do we know the world isn't a real 3d-brane in an n-dimensional space. I see not a single example that points to an "information simulation" vs reality.

Nothing to see here, move along (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911634)

Read the paper, and it doesn't say anything new. There's no math, no proposed experimental tests, and no really new thinking about the subject.

There's still much frustration in fundamental physics, though. For over half a century, physicists have been trying to come up with a model that has fewer arbitrary assumptions at the bottom. Preferably one that makes some experimentally testable predictions. We still don't know where the fundamental constants come from. Maybe it's just many-worlds and the anthropic principle - we're living in one of the few forks that works.

The simulation idea might be verifiable if the simulation cheated. If the simulation had something like level-of-detail processing, so that far less is really being simulated than appears to be going on, that might be detectable by experiment. This was best explored in SF in Simulacron-3 [wikipedia.org], in 1954. But we're not seeing that.

In fact, we're seeing more of the opposite. The universe seems to have too much gratuitous fine detail. There's much more going on at the subatomic level than seems to be necessary. The universe is bigger than it needs to be. If we're in a simulation, it's not resource-constrained.

learn to take care of environment like it's real (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911636)

it is. the 'problems' we have as presented by the 'mainstream' mediahhaha, are homeowners, banks, energy consumption/waste, & now declining employment. none of this connects to the billions per day of maintaining the 'wars', & fudging the weather?

we know there's been a huge cost of life & limb. the rest of it must be 'on the house'.

of course there's some notion that numerous billionerrors are profiting handsomely, no mention of that debacle either.

talk about being bushwhacked, & kept in the dark?

if thinking about such things frustrates you, you might consider signing up for fuddle's patentdead anti-frustration devise, or just continue following the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn. anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile;

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [yahoo.com]

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A [nytimes.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

The only real proof would be... (2, Insightful)

m4cph1sto (1110711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911642)

... glitches in the system. Like one morning we wake up and gravity repels, and a BSoD message is written across the sky in clouds. Only then would I be convinced that our universe is in fact a digital simulation.

To all you knee-jerk nay-sayers... (1)

spungo (729241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911644)

...just because the observable universe may concur with some hypothetical VR simulation, does not mean that the universe is a VR simulation -- what this research may yet provide is an alternative perpective of nature. I don't see anything wrong with that premise -- if it works, use it. If you don't like it, come up with your own testable hypothesis.

speed of light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911654)

c = clock

WRONG ! We are in a Movie! (1)

Foo2rama (755806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21911688)

This theory is wrong everyone knows you are all just stars in the movie of my life![br][br][br] Too bad the budget sucks or there would have been a better leading lady...

Deep Thought. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21911730)

What IS six times nine, anyway?
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