Is our universe really a giant computer simulation?

I thought this quite pertinent for a discussion on this blog; copied from Slashdot:

Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the NYT that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world.

According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used. This may strike you as very unlikely writes Frenkel but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years — on a tiny scale, the size of an atomic nucleus. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens.

“Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not,” writes Frenkel. “If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones.

Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.” The question now becomes is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis and the answer surprisingly is yes. In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation,” the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF).

Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints. The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies — certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries. If so, this would indicate that we might — just might — ourselves be in someone else”s computer simulation.

Breaking the law

A few days ago:

Jonatan (9): “Daddy, if one of the physical laws of the universe is broken, does it mean that all the laws get broken?

Me: “What do you think?

Jonatan: “I think they all get broken.

A most intriguing question.

Of all the philosophers I know of, Jonatan is one of the most thought provoking. When he was 5 he asked me “Daddy, do you believe in reality?”

The perfect match: HP-41 and your telescope

Got a neat little program for you: SCOPE.

The abstract from the page:

This program calculates values for telescopes and oculars. You start the program, add a telescope and then as many oculars as you want. You can then view several values for the telescope as well as the details for each ocular when used with this telescope. You can also save the data set (telescope and oculars) to an XM file or retrieve a file saved earlier. You may add new oculars as needed to a retrieved file and save it anew.

Before you start jumping with joy, take it for a ride and tell me what you think. Miss anything in there? Want it to do some other things? Like make a cup of coffee for you? Just slip me a note and will see what I can do.

Feel free to ask


When the traffic gets high, when posts get more than 500 or even a 1000 comments, I am bound to miss questions from my readers.

I want to answer your questions, and to ensure you are not left without an answer, I propose you ask any questions you may have to me as comments to this blog post.

Just add your question as a comment here and I will get back to you with an answer. Ask anything – from my views on life, IT, Scientology, my favorite HP calculator, music, art, preferences in any part of life or whatever else you may have on your mind. Do not hold back. I am not shy.

This post is not an arena for long discussions – or I may again miss some questions buried in long threads. Interesting topics may instead earn separate blog posts.

A bunch of rules for happy living

  1. Get up in the morning
  2. if you feel like it.
  3. Get enough sleep.
  4. Sleep with the right person.
  5. Eat
  6. drink
  7. but not too much of either.
  8. Don’t get drunk all the time.
  9. Play
  10. but not only with yourself.
  11. Laugh your ass off
  12. often
  13. Go bat-shit crazy
  14. now and then
  15. or often.
  16. Challenge the status quo.
  17. Challenge yourself.
  18. Drop the arrogance.
  19. Care.
  20. Get enough sex
  21. but not all the time.
  22. Eat chocolate.
  23. Get a telescope.
  24. Get an HP-41 calculator.
  25. Play with it.
  26. Listen to music.
  27. Get carried away.
  28. Exercise your free will.
  29. Be a rebel.
  30. Make trouble.
  31. Avoid permanent damage.
  32. Swim naked.
  33. Tumble in the snow.
  34. Tell wild fairy tales to the kids.
  35. Lose yourself in their games.
  36. Cry during movies.
  37. Love
  38. lots.
  39. Feel
  40. a lot.
  41. And disregard rules.
  42. Make your own understanding of Life, the Universe and Everything

The hunch and the key

I have a hunch. That the ultimate truth, the secrets of existence, the answers to Life, Universe and Everything is in fact in front of us. Right there, or here, hidden in plain view. For everyone to see and for everyone to understand. That there is perhaps no secret and that the understanding of it all is up for grabs for any and all.

My hunch is further that it would only require a certain attitude, a willingness or idea of what to look for or how to really see what is here, there and all around – the ultimate understanding of it all. I believe the X-factor, the key, the “it” is right there on the table in front of you and me – a metaphor for within our grasp at every moment. My quest is to find that key.